To rinse or not to rinse: Finally ending the age-old domestic dilemma on cleaning dirty dishes in the dishwasher

What do you do before you load your dirty dishes in the dishwasher?

HOUSTON – To rinse or not to rinse: What do you do before you load your dirty dishes in the dishwasher?

“I rinse my dishes and then wash them, and then sometimes put them in the dishwasher.”

Helen Romero

“I rinse my dishes,” another woman named Becky told consumer expert Amy Davis. “My husband makes fun of me every time that I do because he says, ‘Why are you cleaning them before you put them in the dishwasher?’”

What experts say

There are plenty of resources that say we should stop pre-rinsing. Consumer Reports found that the average household is wasting about 6,000 gallons of water a year rinsing for no reason. Researchers said dishwashers sold in the past five years have a sensor that checks how dirty the water is to determine how much water and how long a cycle is needed to get the dishes clean. If the sensor detects little or no debris, it gives the dishes a lighter wash. That could leave bits of stuck-on food.

Why consumers still do it

“I don’t run it every day, and I don’t want all that food stuck in there... sitting in there,” Becky said.

A lot of people rinse because they won't be starting the dishwasher until they fill it up the next day or so.

Our test

Using that theory, we tested day-old dishes. We poured spaghetti sauce in a dish and baked it. We let Velveeta cheese dip set in. We loaded all of the dishes in a dishwasher, along with a waterproof camera so you can see what happens. It took an hour and 15-minute cycle, but the dishwasher worked until our bowls were sparkling clean. There was no trace of that spaghetti sauce or the dried cheese dip.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.