You may not think about it much, but a recent post on HowStuffWorks.com on this topic might make you think twice. The post gives tips on how to clean your dishwasher and in doing so cites two recent studies that indicate your dishwasher may be overrun with fungi and microorganisms as a reason why. In fact, one study found 62 percent of dishwasher tested contained problematic fungi. The other study concluded that dishwashers were “diverse habitats for microorganisms to adapt and flourish.”
The reason this problem exists is the hot, moist environment of your dishwasher after a load completes. The post lists several tips for keeping your dishwasher fungi-free. The simplest is wiping it down regularly. They also suggest using two cups of vinegar in an empty dishwasher and running a heavy-duty, high-heat cleaning cycle from time to time.
It’s definitely worth a full read here. We have some additional thoughts and commentary on the topic and list them below.
Some dishwashers have a built-in hard food disposal to remove larger food particles when cleaning, others use ultra hot water and a sophisticated filter system to break down and filter the particles. The merits of filters vs. disposals can be debated later, but for the purposes of this post, it’s important to know if your dishwasher has a filter and how to clean it.
The HowStuffWorks.com post mentions filters and does a great job of explaining how often to clean your filter. They recommend – and we concur – that you should clean your filter monthly if you use the dishwasher frequently and/or do not scrape or pre-rinse before washing (which is perfectly OK with most modern dishwashers).
The HowStuffWorks.com post does not, however, help you determine if your dishwasher has a filter or not. So, as a general rule of thumb:
- American brands like Whirlpool, KitchenAid and GE typically have a disposal. That said, some higher-end models may utilize a filter design to reduce sound output.
- Samsung‘s line is split down the middle. Lower priced models have a hard food disposal, higher priced models have a filter.
- LG and European brands like Bosch, Miele and others almost exclusively use a filter design.
There are a few things we’d add to the post as additional suggestions for keeping your dishwasher clean and/or limiting exposure to nasty fungi.
Air it Out
The warm, wet environment of your dishwasher is to blame for the microorganisms noted above. Simply cracking the door after a cycle finishes is a great way to release trapped steam and heat as well as cool your dishes more quickly. This is particularly true if your dishwasher does not have a heat-assisted dry.
As an added bonus, cracking the door will help your dishes dry faster as the hot steam is pulled away from them rather than condensing in the unit slowly over time.
Upgrade to a Stainless Tub
If you’re considering a new dishwasher, we strongly suggest a unit with a stainless steel interior. Unlike plastic, stainless steel is not porous and allows for ultra-hot washes including NSF certified sanitizing cycles on some models. This makes it more difficult for the troublesome fungi and microorganisms to survive.
Do you have some tips we missed? We’d love to hear them. Submit them in the comments section below.