How to Get a Dishwasher to Clean Better

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For the cleanest dishes, learn how to properly load your dishwasher.
For the cleanest dishes, learn how to properly load your dishwasher. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

If you're thinking of getting a new dishwasher because yours doesn't clean your dishes the way it should ... wait! Before you go shopping, review some tips on how to get your dishwasher to clean better. You might find a simple solution, and save a lot of money, too.

Pay attention to how you load your dishwasher. Notice where the spray heads are. If there is only one set of spray heads and it's on the bottom, the water has to pass through the bottom rack to clean whatever's in the top rack. If you load the bottom rack with large pots and pans, you risk blocking the water from getting to the top rack. Put large pots and pans in the top rack, or run the dishwasher without anything in the top.

Refer to the user manual for instructions on how to load your particular machine. In general, glasses, cups, plastic cups and containers, and smaller dishes go in the top rack, while plates, bowls and flatware go in the bottom rack.

Understand that any dishwasher cleans best with hot water. It does not use large amounts of water, so a good portion of the initial fill-up is water from the pipes, which may not be hot, especially in the winter. Run the water in the sink until it's hot -- then turn on the dishwasher. Also, check the hot water heater temperature setting. It should be set at 120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, but not higher.

Consult the owner's manual to see if your newer dishwasher requires a rinse aid. If so, check the compartment often to be sure there is always rinse aid in it.

Switch to a more expensive dishwasher soap if you've been using a generic or store brand. Sometimes the more effective product just costs more.

Clean the trap regularly. It's at the floor of the dishwasher ... sometimes it comes out so you can clean it in the sink, but sometimes you'll just need to wipe out all the food bits and gunk with a paper towel.

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