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19 dishwasher dos and don't for this holiday season

Get ready for the mountains of dirty dishes the holidays will bring with these tips.

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Alina Bradford

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1 of 20 Chris Monroe/CNET

Have you ever taken dishes out of the dishwasher and audibly sighed? We've all been there. Here's some tricks to ensure that your dishes sparkle this holiday season.

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Load as you go

One easy way to take some of the hassle out of cleanup during the holidays is to put dishes in the washer as they become dirty instead of letting them pile up in the sink.

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Close that cup

Don't leave the detergent cup open when you start a load. It comes with a little door for a reason. If the door is left open, the detergent washes into the bottom of the appliance and goes down the drain without even touching your dishes. Then you end up with gunky spoons.

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4 of 20 Chris Monroe/CNET

Door problems

Door won't close? You may be using too much detergent. Be sure to check the label for the proper amount.  

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Too much is too much

Adding extra detergent to get dishes extra clean may seem tempting, but restrain yourself. That little extra won't make your dishes any cleaner and may leave a film on them. If your dishes aren't getting as clean as you like, it may be the placement of your dishes or the brand of detergent, not the amount.

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Don't go overboard

You may have seen that commercial where the lady puts a pan full of lasagna into a dishwasher and the pan comes out sparkling clean. In real life, everything in the dishwasher would be covered in little flecks of lasagna. Plus, the food trap would get clogged and the dishwasher would probably overflow.   

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Grab a spatula

Dishwashers may be able to clean an amazing amount of grime, but there is a limit to how much they can take. Scrape all plates and pans with a plastic spatula before putting them into your dishwasher just to be on the safe side.   

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Nix spots

If you have hard water, your dishes are going to be spottier than a dalmatian. Don't just wipe away the problem after every load, fix the problem. You don't need any more work after all that entertaining! Other than spot-free dishes, there's another reason to stop the problem.

Mix some borax with your detergent
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Prevent lime and hard water deposits

Ignoring hard water can do more than just leave spots on your dishes, it can also build up in the mechanisms of the dishwasher, leading to repairs. 

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A homemade solution

There are several ways to avoid build-up and spots. One way is by adding two teaspoons of Borax or baking soda to your regular dishwasher detergent once a month.  

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Supplement the load

You can also try adding a boosting agent or hard water spot remover. These products can be found on the same isle as dishwasher detergent.

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12 of 20 Chris Monroe/CNET

Overcrowding

If you are putting more than one plate in each slot or stacking cups, then you're overcrowding your dishes. Not only will they not wash properly, but they also may clang together and chip or break. Always give your items enough room so they don't touch.

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13 of 20 Alina Bradford/CNET

Avoid chips

Not only will plates and cups not wash properly when they are crowded, but also they may clang together and chip or break. Always give your items enough room so they don't touch.

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Remove hang-ups

No matter if it's pot handles, spoons, tongs or other items, don't let them hang below the bottom rack. The sprayer can get hung up on the item, which will not only lead to dirty dishes, but also may cause your dishwasher to break down.

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Put heavy stuff on bottom

Pots and pans should always go on the bottom rack. The bottom rack is sturdier and it's also closer to the jets, so the hardest to scrub items will get the best blasting. Also, wash cast iron by hand to avoid rust.

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16 of 20 Alina Bradford/ CNET

Don’t use dish soap

This may be common sense, but I've know people to try this, so I'm going to include using dishwashing liquid (or any other type of cleanser) in a dishwasher as a no-no. Only use cleansers that are meant for dishwashers. Dishwashing liquid will bubble up and overflow. Then you'll have dirty dishes and a flooded floor.

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Use salt

If you do ever face an overflow due to an overenthusiastic family member, just grab some salt. Any type will do. Sprinkle the salt over the suds and they will disappear like magic. Then, just sop up the water with your mop.

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Get hot

The best temperature for washing your dishes is 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.9 Celsius). If your dishwasher doesn't have a heating element, or you don't use the water heating option, check to make sure that your water heater is set to at least 120 degrees.

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Handwash wood

Don't use your dishwasher to clean wooden spoons and bowls. Water can make the item warp and mildew.

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Shorter isn't always better

Your new dishwasher may run for three hours on a normal load, but don't worry. Today's dishwashers may take longer, but they are designed to use less water and electricity than older dishwashers that could do a load much faster. So, don't try to make the load shorter or cut it off halfway through.

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