Still Doing This Step When You're Washing Dishes? You Can Stop Immediately.

Skipping this part of your routine will instantly save you time and water.
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It’s a question as old as time itself: Do we need to pre-rinse our dishes before we put them in the dishwasher?

Surely many a marriage has ended because spouses have not been able to agree, so we — Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, the hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast — decided to take it upon ourselves and finally get an answer.

Press play to listen to the full episode and hear all of the brilliant tips and tricks we learned to make dishwashing — both in a machine and by hand — easier and more effective:

“That’s the $64,000 question, for sure,” Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Care and Cleaning Lab, told us. “If you’re running a load right away ... there’s no need to pre-rinse.”

That’s because today’s dishwashers are so effective they don’t require us to do anything more than remove large chunks of food from our dishes before loading them.

“It’s not a garbage disposal, it’s a dishwasher, so you want to get excess food off, but you don’t need to pre-rinse,” she explained. “And keep in mind that the more you wipe off, the cleaner your filter and your dishwasher will stay.”

But we don’t want to remove everything, because having some debris actually helps our machines do their job.

“Most of today’s dishwasher detergents have enzymes in them, so the theory is that enzymes need to work on something in order to clean, which is true,” Forté said. “But dishwashers also have sensors in them that tell them how dirty the load is. It’s a turbidity sensor, and it measures the amount of soil that’s in the wash water. So if it senses a lot of soil, it’s going to add more water. It’s going to up the temperature. It’s going to make accommodations for that. If it senses less soil, it’s going to reduce some of that.”

Forté emphasized that we don’t want to “fool” our dishwashers.

“You want it to do a good cleaning job, so some food will help the dishwasher work better and the detergent work better,” she said.

If we used just a few dishes or won’t be immediately starting our dishwasher for some other reason after loading it, Forté advised running the machine’s rinse cycle rather than manually pre-rinsing, to save both time and water.

The rinse cycle “uses about a gallon of water,” she said, which is much less than you’d use pre-rinsing under the faucet.

It keeps the food from drying on your dishes, “which makes it harder to remove” when you run the actual wash cycle, she noted. It also “keeps odors down in the dishwasher, because, if you close the door [while dirty dishes are in there], it can start to smell. So you want to keep that to a minimum.”

Forté didn’t stop there with her dishwashing secrets. She also revealed the one thing we’re probably doing wrong when we load our dishwashers (and how and why to do it better), the method she’s used for decades to get burned-on food off of her pans, the viral dishwashing hack we should never try and much more. So listen to the full episode above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Make sure to subscribe to “Am I Doing It Wrong?” so you don’t miss a single episode, including our investigations of the ins and outs of tipping, how to apologize or vanquish your credit card debt, how to find love online or overcome anxiety, tips for online shopping, taking care of your teeth and pooping like a pro, secrets to booking and staying in a hotel, how to deal with an angry person, cooking tips from celebrity chef Jet Tila, shocking laundry secrets, how to protect your online privacy, and more.

Need some help with something you’ve been doing wrong? Email us at, and we might investigate the topic in an upcoming episode.

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