“You need to rinse that before it goes into the dishwasher.” I’m sure you have probably heard that before, but is it actually true? Well, the answer might surprise you. The fact is, your dishwasher is perfectly capable of doing its job on its own. That doesn’t mean you should leave chunks of food on your plate and throw it in the dishwasher.   You do need to scrape off any leftover food before loading the dishes, but once that’s done, your dishwasher can handle the rest.

The debate over clean vs. dirty dishes in the dishwasher has probably been around as long as the appliances themselves. The next time you find yourself discussing which method of doing the dishes is best, remember these reasons why pre-rinsing is unnecessary.

1. Dishwashers are designed for dirty dishes

Huh, who would have thought?!  This sounds like common sense, but many homeowners don’t realize that their dishwashers are actually designed to handle dirty dishes. According to Consumer Reports, most new dishwashers made in the last five years are equipped with sensors that allow them to determine how dirty the dishes inside them are.  The appliances can adjust the length and temperature of the cycle as needed. If you pre-rinse your dishes, you can possibly “trick” these sensors into thinking the dishes are cleaner than they actually are, which could result in bits of food being stuck to your plates, bowls and silverware.

2. Pre-rinsing affects your detergent

Pre-rinsing your dishes may actually prevent your dishwashing detergent from doing its job… and nobody wants that. Detergent manufacturers note that their products contain enzymes that are designed to bind with food during the cleaning process. If dishes are rinsed before they are loaded into the dishwasher, there is nothing for these enzymes to bind to, and the detergent loses its effectiveness.

3. Rinsing wastes water and energy

If appliance performance isn’t enough to convince you that pre-rinsing your dishes isn’t necessary, maybe the environmental impact will. Consumer Reports notes that running your kitchen faucet uses 1.7 to 6 gallons of water per minute. According to Good Housekeeping, most dishwashers use only 3 to 5 gallons of water per load…what???!!! And the really crazy thing, people who hand wash their dishes may use a staggering 27 gallons of water.

On top of wasting water, pre-rinsing dishes requires extra energy, which may mean a higher electric bill.

4. How to get your dishes as clean as possible

If you don’t pre-rinse your dishes, how do you ensure they’re as clean as they can possibly be? The first step is properly loading your dishwasher. If you don’t how to do this, consult your owner’s manual to determine the best way to load dishes.  The manual will show you (with pictures!) the best way to load your dishes.  However, general guidelines include putting glasses, small bowls and cups in the top rack, loading silverware with the handles down and placing plates and serving pieces in the bottom rack. Take care to ensure that larger items are loaded toward the sides and back of your dishwasher so they don’t block the appliance’s spray arms.

Of course, you should also ensure your dishwasher is in proper working order. If it uses a filter system, clean the filter regularly. You should also keep the inside of the appliance as clean and free of food and debris as possible.

If you think something is wrong with your dishwasher, consult a repair man.  A service call is cheaper than replacing your dishwasher.