Amy Lorentzen, Associated Press, Published April 12 2013
Tips for making a dishwasher, drain work betterYour dishwasher, sink drain and garbage disposal do the major dirty work in your kitchen, and you can keep them smelling fresh and running efficiently with a few easy steps.
“Dishwashers and drains battle kitchen waste and activity daily, which can take a toll on the appearance and performance if not cleaned correctly,” said Chris Salatino with Kenmore Major Appliances.
Electric dishwashers have a filtration system that requires regular cleaning, especially if you don’t scrape or pre-rinse dishes.
“The maintenance on a dishwasher depends on how you treat it,” says John DeSilvia, host of DIY Network’s “Rescue My Renovation.”
If you’re not a pre-rinser, he recommends cleaning the filter once a month. Just look at the bottom of your dishwasher, find and remove your filter, then scrub away debris with a soft brush. Rinse and reinstall.
If in doubt, check your owner’s manual on how to find and remove the filter. The interior of your dishwasher may also appear filmy at times. To get rid of that buildup, Salatino advises waiting until the washer has finished a cycle and cooled. Then make a paste with powdered detergent or use liquid detergent on a damp sponge to wipe away mineral deposits. Follow up by running a normal cycle.
There also are commercial cleaners marketed especially for mineral buildup in dishwashers.
Consumer Reports recommends replacing worn or rusted dish racks, and using care when loading dishes and silverware so you don’t damage spray arms. Inspect the arms to make sure they aren’t clogged with debris, which could affect water pressure. Use pipe cleaners to dislodge blockages.
Phosphates, which help control water hardness, were eliminated from dishwater detergents a few years ago over pollution concerns. Since then, some consumers have complained that dishes don’t seem as clean.
Lucinda Ottusch, with Whirlpool’s Institute of Kitchen Science, says one mistake people make is buying cheap detergent. She says the all-in-one packets by name-brand companies really do help your dishwasher perform best.
She also recommends a rinse aid, which promotes drying by allowing the water to sheet off dishes.
If you’ve got a smelly drain, there’s probably bacteria growing in it.
To eliminate the problem, start by mixing a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar. Pour the mixture down the drain, let it sit for 15 minutes or more, then run the disposal and rinse with hot water.
To clean disposal blades, freeze white vinegar in ice cube trays and let the disposal grind away at them. The ice will help dislodge stuck-on debris, and the vinegar freshens the unit.
If there’s still an odor, try pouring in half a cup of bleach, but not if you have a septic system. You may need to go buy a live enzyme product that eats away bacteria, or a corrosive cleaner meant to unclog drains.
The crunching and gnashing of your disposal may make you leery of touching it, but there are ways you can keep it running well without calling a professional.
DeSilvia says to always run cold water before, during and after using the disposal.
“Never use hot water with your garbage disposal,” he says. “It breaks down food, causing it to liquify and accumulate around your pipes.”
It’s best to scrape large pieces of food into the trash can, then let the disposal take care of smaller scraps. Don’t put potato peels, shellfish, coffee grounds or other fibrous foods into the disposal. They’re clog-makers.
DeSilvia reminds homeowners never to put their hand in the disposal. If it won’t grind, use the reset button, usually a black or red button on the bottom of the unit. Make sure the outlet the disposal is plugged into is working.
If the disposal seems jammed, use the Allan wrench or similar hand-crank tool that comes with the unit to give it a push start. If you can’t find yours, many hardware stores carry them.
“Most service calls can be avoided by simply resetting your disposal,” DeSilvia says. “Press the button and you are good to go. Just saved yourself $300 bucks for a service call.”