Here are easy ways to extend the life and efficiency of dishwashers, which typically last eight to 15 years.
• Check the filters. The filters, which trap or catch excess food, are at the base (interior floor) of the dishwasher. ''Always make sure the filters are clean after every load,'' said Mike Kozlowski, director of product quality and support for Sears.
• Prevent rust. Examine the tines that hold dishes in place. Look for tines that are nicked or damaged under the rubber coating. Faulty tines could leave rust stains on dishes or break off and damage the pump.
You can fix the damaged tines with rack repair kits sold in the repair section of appliance stores or at major hardware stores. You can also purchase replacement dish racks.
• Inspect the spray arms, which are in the floor or ceiling of the appliance. A buildup of food or detergent can block holes in the arms, preventing the even distribution of water during the cleaning cycle.
• Remove large food particles from dishes, but let the dishwasher do the rest. For example, clear away the French fries, but don't worry about the dried ketchup stain on the plate, even if you run a load only once a day. This strategy will save water, energy and effort.
''Some people literally clean their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher,'' Kozlowski said.
Don't make that mistake.
• Speed the process. Cycles are often prolonged so that machines can fill up with hot water. For instance, the dishwasher will continue to run water until the water is hot enough to begin a new wash cycle. To conserve time and energy, Kozlowski recommends running hot water for 10 seconds in the sink adjacent to the dishwasher before turning on the machine. This gives the dishwasher a head start by warming the water in the pipes and shortening the running time for the machine.
This is from my most recent column in the Miami Herald.
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