Anyone who has ever lived without a dishwasher will know something of agony. True, there are fates far worse than a life without the machine, but it is commonly believed to save marriages, reduce the fly population of any home, sterilise feeding bottles, and save water. Simply put, the dishwasher deserves a spot amongst the best inventions of all time, along with the bicycle, the automobile, the aeroplane, and scissors.

A friend of a friend of mine is fascinated by dishwashers and has said that her greatest wish is a glass dishwasher, so that she could peek inside and see exactly how the magic happens. In the absence of her glass contraption, her imagination has led her to believe that dishwashers are home to a number of ‘klein mannetjies’ (tiny gnomes), equipped with the most advanced cleaning utensils, running up and down between the plates, knives and forks, scrubbing away and making sure that everything is sparkling clean. They are believed to be extremely shy, so that’s why they disappear the moment you open the door, and you’ll probably never actually see one in your lifetime.

As ridiculous as all of this may sound, I like to keep it in mind when I pack the dishwasher. It reminds me to keep enough space between the plates, bowls, knives and forks for the hard-working and elusive creatures to do their thing. Yes, a dishwasher makes life simpler and easier, but here are a few tips that will make it even more effective:

  • There is seldom a reason to rinse a plate before putting it in the dishwasher, so scrape it clean instead. Saving water is one of its best attributes.
  • Dishes should always face inwards towards the centre, not towards the sides.
  • Knives should always be placed in the cutlery rack with the blades facing up.
  • Glasses go between the tines (or prongs), not over them.
  • When the cleaning cycle is complete, unload the bottom rack first to prevent any excess water from the top rack to drip onto the dishes below.
  • Use gloves when removing glassware to avoid getting greasy fingerprints on them.
  • Keep smaller, lighter items like lids and small containers from being flung about the interior during the stormy washing cycle by putting them in a nylon laundry bag.
  • To ensure that every member of the household knows whether a load is clean or dirty, use colour-coded magnets.
  • Clean the traps and seals often and run an empty load with vinegar occasionally to clean out any build-up or mould.

Taking care of your dinnerware can be easy if you stick to the rules. If the label says that it’s not made for the dishwasher, then it’s probably best to wash these delicate pieces with good old soap and water in the sink. Some items should never go in the dishwasher, like cast iron, antiques, and hand-painted ceramics.

For everyday use, I mostly buy pieces that are dishwasher safe. Not only does it make life in the kitchen a bit easier, but it also makes those tiny creatures a whole lot happier.

My favourite dishwasher-safe pieces from my shop

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