Do we need to rinse our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?

For lots of people, rinsing off dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher is automatic. But Consumer Reports dishwasher testers, who wash thousands of dishes every year, say that extra step is not necessary, and they would know.

Testers used dirty dishes with some of the toughest stuff out there, such as oatmeal, egg yolk, peanut butter, and tomato sauce. All that food is left to dry on the dishes and is then scraped off. Next, testers load each dishwasher with the exact same number of dishes.

The testers use the same detergent for each machine, as well as a rinse aid. When the dishes come out, the best dishwashers leave them sparkling clean, with no pre-rinsing required. And you'll save more than time. Consumer Reports says that It's actually a waste of water to rinse your dishes. And if you're using hot water, it's a waste of energy, too.

Consumer Reports says what you really need to do is check the instruction manual for your dishwasher. Be sure to follow the instructions for loading dishes so you get the cleanest dishes possible.

Some important points: Plates should be arranged so that the dirty side is facing toward the center. And if your silverware basket has slots for utensils, use them. That way spoons won't stick together, leaving food caught between them. Load your dishes properly, and they'll turn out as clean as the ones in the Consumer Reports test lab.

Of course, the detergent you use is also important. Consumer Reports tests those, too, and recommends Cascade Action Pacs. They're about $4 for a bag of 20.

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