Getting to know your new dishwasher

Congratulations on purchasing a new dishwasher. Because most people haven't purchased a dishwasher in the last 5-10 years, it's important to realize that technology has come quite a long way. Today's dishwashers are quieter, more water and energy efficient, and offer more options than ever. To help you navigate all the changes in dishwasher technology, please read the user's manual, and take a moment to familiarize yourself by reading on.


There are many options for detergents. The three main types are powders, liquids, and pucks/packets. Many leading manufacturers recommend certain brands; for instance, Bosch, Whirlpool, and Maytag recommend Electrasol/Finish tablets with the "Powerball." Kenmore dishwashers come with a sample of Cascade. Generally, the puck/packet option is recommended because it eliminates guesswork, ensures overdoses, and usually includes the rinse-aid. As with anything, following the manufacturer's instructions is the most important step.

If you have a water softener or your dishwasher has one built-in, consider using a powder detergent, and use less than normal, according to the detergent manufacturer's instructions.

If you grew up doing dishes in the sink, and that behavior has evolved into pre-washing your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher, STOP IT! You're actually damaging your dishes by pre-washing. Dishwasher detergent will only work properly if there is food left on your dishes. Eliminating all food from dishes means the detergent will attack your dishes instead of the food that used to be all over them. This is what causes "etching," and it is irreversible. It is, however, preventable. Just scrape the food from your dishes. Don't pre-wash, just scrape and load.

If you don't like the idea of a dishwasher full of food-covered dishes waiting to be run for longer than a day, or are fearful of the dishes becoming smelly, just run the dishwasher every day. It is far more efficient to run a load of dishes every day than it is to wash dishes in the sink every day and run the dishwasher only when it gets completely full.

Never, ever, put the soap you use in the sink into your dishwasher. This kind of dish soap is designed for large amounts of stagnant water, and will create incredible amounts of suds in a dishwasher, which will damage your appliance's electronic controls, electrical connections, and create a mess in your kitchen. Only use detergents that are specified for use in automatic dishwashers (unless you're intent on killing your dishwasher, ruining your cabinetry and/or floors, or want to be in your own I Love Lucy skit).


Rinse-aid, such as Jet Dry, is a water sheeting agent that allows the water on your dishes and on the walls of the dishwasher tub to sheet off, leaving a clean, dry, water spot-free surface behind. Some detergents include the rinse-aid, meaning you don't have to remember to fill the dispenser. If you use these detergents, please don't fill the dispenser, as it will not improve performance.

If you choose to use a detergent that does not include rinse-aid, be sure to fill the dispenser, and refill it when empty. Failure to do so will result in substandard results and your dishes will be left with water spots on them. Your dishwasher will also retain moisture on the interior surfaces, which can foster bacterial/mildew growth. Today's dishwashers are designed to work with rinse-aids, which helps reduce energy use.

If you have especially soft water, or have a water softener (household or built into your dishwasher), do not use rinse-aid, as it will not improve performance.


Your new dishwasher has multiple cycles, and options that can be chosen to help clean certain loads better. A few important things to remember about the cycles on your dishwasher:
  • Use the appropriate cycle for the type of dishes being loaded. For example, if you are putting in dishes covered with food, do not choose "Rinse Only."
  • If you are washing dishes that are just dusty, like holiday dishes, use the "Rinse Only" cycle and do not use detergent. Detergents require food to work properly, and will harm dishes in the absence of food.
  • If you want to use the same cycle settings as the last load, almost every dishwasher will allow you to simply press "Start" to re-use the previous settings.
  • If your dishwasher has a sensor-based wash cycle, such as "Smart Wash" or "Adaptive Wash," use it. In general, it will save you energy and water, because it runs until the dishes are clean, and doesn't continue to wash after the dishes are clean. That means less re-cleaning and less water and energy wasted.


Most dishwashers have an option to heat the wash water. This should be used on every load that has detergent. The reason for this is that detergent must be at least 130 degrees to work properly. Failure to reach this temperature will result in poor wash performance.

If you have an "American" style dishwasher, the heated dry option will ensure spot-free dishes and silverware. "European" style dishwashers do not allow for heated drying, as their elements are concealed beneath the tub. For these dishwashers, be sure to follow loading instructions provided by the manufacturer, as that will ensure optimal evaporation and water run-off.

If your dishwasher has a Turbo-Zone, Power Scour, or ProScrub option, only use this option when there is something set in front of the jets, as using this option without something in front of the jets can result in sub-standard results.

Use the steam option, if you have it, when cleaning dishes with sticky foods, like oatmeal and egg, or when glasses have lipstick on them, as these tend to be difficult for normal cycles to eliminate. Steam will break these down and sanitize to boot.

If you have a sanitize cycle on your dishwasher, consider using it on loads that include baby bottles or other items that require sanitizing.

If your dishwasher offers a delay, consider using this to run the dishwasher a couple hours before showers will be taken, which can help homes with tank water heaters have longer, hotter showers. This can also be used to run the dishwasher at night, when utility/water costs may be lower.


A dishwasher made 10 years ago would finish a cycle of dishes in under an hour. Today's Energy Star-qualified dishwashers (about 90% of dishwashers qualify) will commonly take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 1/2 hours to complete a load. This is normal, and, for some dishwashers, the first run may take even longer, so the sensors can acclimate to your water.

The main cause of the time difference is efficiency. Advances in filtration, motors, and pumps have resulted in lower water consumption. At the same time, using less water means that it must run longer to achieve the same results. Never fear, though; lengthened wash cycles still use far less water and energy than shorter, more wasteful cycles.

Remember, your dishes will get clean in 1 second if they're held under Niagara Falls, but you'd also be using 100,000 gallons of water. As water use decreases, and water temperature stays the same, wash time must increase to compensate.

If cycle times seem longer than you would like, give it a few weeks. Usually, the only reason it seems to be too long is that we're suddenly aware of the time it's taking. It's like a new pair of shoes. We notice the differences from the old pair immediately, because it's not exactly like what we had been used to. When we've worn them for a while, though, we forget the way the old ones felt and enjoy the way the new shoes feel. Likewise, once the dishwasher has taken its place as a regular part of your kitchen, the difference in cycle times generally won't be noticeable.

And, if all else fails, stop watching the clock. Everything seems to take forever when we gauge its exact run-time, and goes faster when we don't pay it any attention. Like they say, a watched pot never boils.


About once a year, the lower washer arm assembly should be taken apart to allow access to the drain hose. This should be cleared of food/grease build-up, which ensures optimal draining. A leading cause of replacing dishwashers is failure to drain properly, and most often this build-up is the culprit.

Additionally, using a product like Dishwasher Magic every few months (more often if water is especially hard or there is odor present) will eliminate lime/scale/grease build-up and leave behind a fresh scent. Put Dishwasher Magic into the silverware basket upside-down with the outer cap removed (do not remove wax plug). Run a regular load with heated wash and no-heat dry. When the cycle ends, discard the empty container.

If your dishwasher has a triple filtration system with a removable filter, remove the filter and wash it every few months (more often if you have especially hard water). This will keep the dishwasher working efficiently and give you the best performance possible.

If any matter is found clogging a wash arm's jets, clear the clog to ensure optimal cleaning performance. Likewise, if any food, paper, or other debris is found within the dishwasher, dispose of it properly. Failure to do so may result in that debris being deposited on your dishes.

Call for service immediately if you think there is something wrong with your dishwasher. Delaying a service call can cost you in damage, time, and possibly even money if you wait until your warranty or protection agreement term ends. The longer you wait, the worse the problem usually gets, and the more problems are likely to sprout as a result.

The trained staff at the service center will first run you through some troubleshooting to determine if the problem is something simple that might be caused by user error or easily remedied, and if it's something that requires a technician, one will be sent as soon as possible to determine the cause and solution to the problem.