How to correctly use your dishwasher so it saves both energy and money

Stock picture of a woman loading a dishwasher incorrectly. (Getty Images)
From not loading correctly to using the wrong detergent there are some dishwasher mistakes we're all making. (Getty Images) (Getty)

If you've ever lived without a dishwasher you'll know what a kitchen hero the appliance can be in terms of time-saving (so long washing up!).

But, did you realise that the humble dishwasher could also help you save energy and money, which will come as welcome news during these lean, cost of living crisis times.

Recent in-depth testing by Which? found that dishwashers are, on average, four times more water efficient than washing by hand per place setting, with the most water-efficient full-sized dishwasher using almost 10 times less water to wash the same amount of dishes as hand washing them.

The not for profit consumer champion also estimates that choosing an energy efficient full-sized dishwasher can save you £986 over its lifetime, and be better for the environment.

The trouble is if you're not using your machine properly it could actually be costing you more in energy bills.

From not loading it correctly, to wasting time (and water) pre-rinsing, turns out there are some universal errors many of us are making when we're utilising our kitchen best friend.

So the next time you're putting on a load, give some thought to these common dishwasher mistakes, the environment and your bank balance will thank you for it.

Read more: Money saving freezer tips from keeping it full to correctly storing food

Stock picture of a woman pre-rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. (Getty Images)
There really is no need to pre-rinse your plates before putting them in the dishwasher. (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Don't pre-wash your dishes

This is an age-old mistake that many people still make, but there really is no need no rinse off dishes that are going into the dishwasher, no matter how grimy they are.

"There is no need to pre-rinse before using your dishwasher," explains cleaning influencer Laura Mountford. "Instead you just need to scrape any leftover food into the bin."

As well as wasting water (according to Finish pre-rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher can waste around 1115 litres of water a year), there's another reason giving your items a clean pre-loading is a no, no.

"Rinsing plates beforehand will stop the dishwasher sensors from working correctly as they measure how much dirt is in the water after the initial cycle," Mountford continues.

"The detergent in dishwasher tablets also work bests when there are food particles so they can work their magic.

"Pre-rinsing your dishes not only wastes time, energy and money but it could actually prevent your dishwasher from washing the dishes as effectively as possible."

Read more: Are we washing our clothes too often?

Load your dishwasher correctly

Overfilling and placing items in the wrong location or at the wrong angle could prevent the dishwasher from washing your dishes as effectively, says Mountford.

She recommends putting large items and plates on the lower tray and then cups and utensils on the top tray. "Separate items so there is space between them to allow the jets to wash," she adds. "This includes separating the cutlery so that the water can reach all areas."

Mountford also suggests ensuring that nothing is obstructing the spray arms from rotating properly. "Cups and bowls should be placed vertically so that the water can drain off properly and they can dry."

Unloading it incorrectly

Just as there's a correct way to load your dishwasher there are some rules to unloading it too.

"Unload the dishwasher's bottom rack first," suggests Dean Davies, cleaning technician at Fantastic Services. "Top rack cups and bowls can sometimes pool water during a cycle. Moving them first will dump and splash water on the clean dishes below."

Use the right kind of detergents

Some dishwasher detergents contain harsh abrasives that can actually dull or wear away delicate glassware fairly quickly.

Davies recommends choosing a detergent that contains a rinse aid to ensure it cleans and dries well.

"Unlike hot air dryers, modern dishwashers dry with hot water," he explains. "Rinse aid helps the water slide off the tub and dishes, so it goes down the drain.

"Dishes end up with less water on them. It's likely that you're not using a rinse aid if you see spots on your glasses."

Fill your dishwasher

In the same way that sticking on your washing machine when it's half full wastes energy and money, so too does running a dishwasher with only a couple of dishes.

"In comparison with hand-washing in the sink, dishwashers are highly water-efficient, but to get maximum efficiency, you should wait until the dishwasher is completely loaded," suggests Davies.

"By running it half-empty, you are wasting energy and water. In addition, a full dishwasher will have better drying performance due to its greater thermal mass. When loads are partially full, dishes are also more likely to bang and bump into each other, increasing the risk of damage and breakage."

Know which temperature to use

If you're looking to save energy, eco-mode is there for a reason. While you might be put off by the fact that it can take longer, it actually means less water needs to be heated as it pumps round more times, with your dishes soaped for longer too.

A normal dishwasher setting is usually around 55ºC-65ºC, but the lower temperature of eco could generally use around 20% to 40% less energy (and ultimately help you save on cash), Which reportedly found. If you don't have the nifty button on yours, it could be worth considering investing in one that does.

Take advantage of off-peak tariffs

Certain energy providers offer lower electricity rates at certain times of day, so be mindful about when you run your dishwasher. This is made easier by appliances with delayed start or timer functions.

Sock picture of girls loading the dishwasher. (Getty Images)
There is a right and wrong way to load a dishwasher. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Don't put everything in

Tempting as it is to stick everything in the dishwasher, some items aren't actually compatible with our favourite kitchen appliance.

According to Mountford you should avoid putting cast iron and non-stick pans in the dishwasher as it will strip away the non-stick coating.

Ditto wooden spoons and chopping boards should be hand washed as the hot water in the machine can crack the wood and damage the coating.

When it comes to plastic items, unless marked as “dishwasher safe” Mountford advises not putting them in a dishwasher as they will be melted by the heat. "If they are dishwasher safe then pop them on the top shelf only," she adds.

Interestingly, adding sharp knives to the machine is another faux pas as the dishwasher will eventually make them blunt.

Read more: Scrubbing your oven with a dishwasher tablet tops best cleaning hacks list

Try a vinegar cycle

When it comes to giving your dishwasher a monthly refresh Mountford recommends filling a bowl with white vinegar and placing it on the top shelf of an empty dishwasher to run on a hot cycle.

"It is like giving your dishwasher a spa treatment as it will neutralise odours and break down and grime," she adds.

Another trick she suggests is hanging a tea towel over the dishwasher door as soon as the cycle finishes, which will speed up drying time.

You can also shine your silver cutlery by screwing up some foil and place at the bottom of the cutlery basket.

Stock picture of a dishwasher about to be unloaded. (Getty Images)
How you unload your dishwasher is important too. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Don't close the door immediately after use

Similar to your washing machine, your dishwasher has a wet environment and delicate rubber door seals.

"If you close the door tightly, your seals won't get a chance to dry out, which promotes mould growth and foul odours," explains Davies. He suggests opening the dishwasher as soon as it finishes to release the remaining moisture, which will help prolong the machine's life.

Read more: Woman shares time-saving life hack she uses when hanging out washing

Don't repeat the same cycle again and again

Use the heavy cycle if the food stains are tough, especially if the pots and pans are crusty. When you have friends over for drinks, the delicate cycle is perfect for glassware. Whenever you have a lot of not-too-dirty dishes to wash, don't be afraid to use the quick cycle.