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The Science of Your Dishwasher

Your dishwasher is somewhat of a modern marvel. For home chefs and busy families alike, the beauty of the dishwasher is how quickly and efficiently it cleans and how uncomplicated it is toDishwasher operate. Simply load the dishes, add the detergent, and after just a short time, Voila! Clean dishes. But has your inner kitchen geek ever wondered about the science behind those clean dishes? Miracles of physics and biology take dirty dishes caked with baked-on food debris from gunky to gleaming. Following is a look at the inner world of your dishwasher.

Getting Your Dishes Clean and Shiny

The basic job of dishwasher detergents is to get rid of the food debris and grime from the surface of dishes, glasses, pots, pans and silverware. It must also stop the dirt from re-depositing itself on these implements during the remaining cleaning cycle.

Dishwashing detergents use six main components to keep your dishes sparkling:

  • Alkalis, which control the pH of the detergent and help get rid of dirt
  • Builders, which handle minerals that make water hard and prevent lime scale deposits from forming
  • Bleaching systems, which oxidize certain types of food residue like tea and coffee stains, making them easier to wash away
  • Enzymes, which act as catalysts for the other cleaning agents
  • Protease, which helps get rid of stains (such as egg) that have a protein base
  • Amylase, which handles residue from starches like oatmeal and potato

Whether you use powder, gel or pods, all of these grime fighters are part of your dishwasher’s arsenal against dirty dishes. But it doesn’t stop there. Rinse agents make sure that your dishes aren’t just clean, but that they shine and sparkle as well as dry faster.

The two main ingredients that the rinse agents use are:

  • Non-ionic surfactants, which chemically change drops of water into a thin layer of water. This makes all your dishes, pans and glassware dry faster.
  • Polymers, which are responsible for shiny surfaces

The Science of Loading Your Dishwasher

Now that you know the physics of cleaning, you can learn how to properly load your dishwasher to make the best use of all those chemicals. Engineers and researchers at the University of Birmingham studied how water moves inside both empty and full dishwashers. Their findings tell us the best spots to place very dirty and more lightly soiled items to make best use of the cleaning mechanisms of your dishwasher. Their suggestions include the following.

  • Place your dishes in a circular pattern to make sure they get fully hit by the dishwasher’s jet spraying patterns.
  • Really dirty items, whether dishes or pans, get the full force of your dishwasher’s water jets if you place them just above the rotator arm and in the center of the top shelf.
  • Don’t cram the dishes together. This prevents water from spraying all the surface areas.

As you pull your gleaming plates and sparkling glassware out for another meal, give a nod of acknowledgment to the scientific know-how and chemical reactions in your dishwasher that make it all possible.

Your dishwasher’s cleaning mechanisms are highly effective and reliable, so if your dishes aren’t coming clean, the machine may need a little professional love and attention. Contact Complete Appliance Repair in northern Utah to schedule a maintenance inspection and repair service. Their experienced professional technicians will have your dishwasher running as good as new in no time.

Dishwasher Maintenance Hints

Like any other major appliance, you can extend the life and improve the performance of a dishwasher by taking good care of it. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help your dishwasher be all it can be without causing you un-necessary dishwasher repairs.

Periodic Inspection and Cleaning

It seems counterintuitive to clean the inside of a dishwasher, but it is necessary from time to complete appliance repair and service dishwasher repairtime, as well as to inspect the parts and pieces. With the dishwasher empty, inspect the spinning arms to see if they turn freely. Remove any debris from the filter in the bottom. Use a gentle cleaning solution (white vinegar and warm water works well) to clean around the door, including the gasket. Inspect the gasket for damage or separation. If there is mineral build-up inside the dishwasher, run one cleaning cycle with about one-fourth cup of white vinegar.

Pre-Scrape and Rinse Dishes

Be sure to rinse off your dishes before loading them if you want to achieve optimal dishwasher performance. Newer dishwashers are designed to use a smaller amount of water. As a result, having lots of food particles can easily clog the holes in the washer arms and potentially clog the filter and drainage hose. Some very high-end dishwashers have the equivalent to garbage disposers built-in; however, most dishwashers will become clogged when faced with food particles over time.

Use the Right Detergent, and the Right Amount

Never, ever use any product in the dishwasher that isn’t made specifically for dishwashers (well, except for maybe vinegar). Even a tiny bit of regular dish soap can cause the machine to overflow. If you have soft water, you need only ever use enough dishwasher detergent to fill half of the dispenser, and you don’t need to add detergent to the pre-soak dispenser unless your dishes are really soiled. With medium-hard water, fill the regular dispenser all the way but use only half the amount for pre-soak if your dishes are very soiled. Otherwise pre-soak detergent is not required. If your water is hard however, you must fill both containers for normally soiled dishes to come clean.

Should your dishwasher fail to perform properly despite following these simple tips, it may be time to have it looked at by a professional. Complete Appliance Repair and Service can inspect your machine and determine why it’s performing subpar. Before you know it, you’ll be back on the road to sparkling clean dishes!