How Dishwashers Work: Things You Should Know

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man holding the tray of plates and glass

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From being a young adult newly on your own to home-repair people in training, it's always important to know how dishwashers work. It's no broadway musical, but learning about how dishwashers work doesn't have to be a drag!

Learning about one of the handiest appliances in your kitchen only takes a few minutes, and you'll be glad you took the time.

How Dishwashers Work


A dishwasher's inner workings aren't as complex as they may seem -- unless you're a novice building one, of course.

It's a process of filling the bottom of the washer up with water and heating it to a certain temperature. Then it's a matter of adding soap and spraying the dishes down. After they're nice and cleaned, the rinsing begins. After the rinsing portion of the cycle, all that's left to do is drain the water. Some dishwashers even come with a drying option, which is always handy.

It's a simple process, and doing the dishes has never been easier than it is today. But how does the dishwasher know how to go through the motions?

Each part is unique in the way it operates, and the part that it plays in such an ordinary and mundane task is something we overlook too often. Time to give this machine the attention it deserves!

Water Your Questions?


person washing the fork

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We're sure your first question is, after starting a cycle, does the dishwasher fill all the way up with water? And the answer is no; it doesn't. Even though it's watertight, only the bottom portion of the washer fills with water. That is called the basin.

The intake valve, where water flows through, opens up to allow water pressure to fill the bottom of the dishwasher up. After filling the basin with water, the dishwasher heats the water up to around 130 to roughly 140 degrees. The water temperature is important, as hot water helps to kill germs.

There's always a source of heat in these types of machines, and in a dishwasher's case, it's a matter of creating heat from electricity. Most commonly with conductors!

The conductor allows electricity to flow through with little resistance, and the resistors control just how much electricity flows through. In short, a dishwasher's heating element is a metal bar below the washer. After this process, the dishwasher is able to set the temperature. Once the water is at the desired temperature, the cleaning can finally begin.

All Set To Jet


But hot water isn't enough to clean your dishes -- not on their own! The dishwasher, after heating the water, adds the dishwashing detergent. The now-hot and soapy water moves from the basin, via hoses, and the jets spray the dishes down, sort of like a sprinkler.

These jets do their best to hit the dishes from every angle to assure that everything inside gets as clean as possible. The high pressure that comes from these jets is how dishwashers work to achieve maximum cleanliness.

Hard Work And Draining


After the dishes have been sprayed clean with the soapy water, The dirty dishwater is drained back down through the basin. A pump inside the dishwasher makes sure the water drains. That is an important part to remember, as a common problem is standing water in the bottom of the washer.

After the dirty water's been drained, the dishwasher brings in more water, and the dishwasher prepares the rinse.

Rinsing


The same jets that used soapy water takes the new, clean water and use it to spray the dishes down again. That ensures that no soap is left on or in anything inside the dishwasher.

After the rinsing cycle, the water is once again drained back down through the basin. Once the dishwasher is drained, and the dishes are entirely through their rinsing, the machine moves on to the final, and optional, step.

Dry And Dry Again


An additional setting is to have your dishwasher dry your dishes for you, the heating element kicking up again to heat the air inside the dishwasher. That is a drying option that's more common among older models. While still remaining a handy feature, this takes up more energy. Which might defeat the entire purpose of many popular dishwashers.

Another drying method takes us back to the rinsing cycle. Some washers heat the water again, and after the scalding hot rinsing is over, the stainless steel interior attracts moisture away from the dishes. The only problem with that method is that it doesn't work as well with plastic.

One of our final, yet tired and true methods, is a fan. The fan helps circulate the air, helping the dishes dry faster. That is also a more energy-efficient method, as the heating element doesn't have to turn on for a second or third time. A similar method to the fan is the simple air dry, where the front of the dishwasher automatically pops open to allow the humidity to escape.

Using any of these drying cycles listed above will leave you rarely reaching for a dishtowel after the dishes finish their cleaning, and ready to be used again.

Dishing Out The Tips


layers of plates

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Now that you know how dishwashers work, you'll need to know how to keep it running right. We'll start our little tip list off with something all newbies should know. Do not use regular dishwashing soap in a dishwasher. Only use dishwashing detergent specifically made for these machines. Using regular will fill your home with more bubbles than you'll know what to do with.

Another is to try and conserve energy by only running your dishwasher once a day. While yes, this means more handwashing for you, it is also unavoidable. It's also a good idea to spray down the dishes with extra grime on them before putting them in the dishwasher.

There are also other things you can throw in your dishwasher aside from your dishes. Because how dishwashers work is sort of like a tiny shower for your dishware, rubber boots, and rubber dog toys. With everything your dishwasher washes, it should be pretty clean already, right?

Washing Your Washer


utensil organized

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Unfortunately, all that washing this little gizmo does isn't enough to keep it clean. You should clean your dishwasher once a month, and there are a few different ways to clean.

As mentioned earlier, standing water can be an issue in some dishwashers, and one factor that commonly contributes is gunk and food caught in the drain. All you have to do is remove your bottom rack and check the drain for any blockage.

Stains can also be a pain on the inside of dishwashers. A quick fix is to sprinkle roughly a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher, run it on a short cycle, and you'll be done.

The final and most bothersome snag you might encounter is a smell coming from your dishwasher. The quick fix to that is putting a cup of white vinegar in a container on the washer's top rack. After running that cup of vinegar through a hot cycle, your dishwasher will not only smell much better, but it will be free of any grease or grime that might have been hiding away.

No Need To Dish-Spair


While technology evolves around us at rapid speeds, we remain in a constant state of struggling to understand. And once we do, we feel much better about the gadgets we use every day. We hope this helped give you some insight on the ins and outs of this little portion of your kitchen.

Now that you know how dishwashers work, you're arming yourself with the knowledge you'll need if your dishwasher ever needs a little pick-me-up or a replacement part. However, if your dishwasher is really on the fritz, it might be best to call a professional. Either way, we wish you smooth sailing and clean dishes.

What's your favorite brand of dishwasher? Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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