There are times when you have to rely on hand-washing your dishes. Here's how to make sure doing so is efficient and effective.
Washing the dishes properly, in a plastic dish tub, rather than one at a time under the tap, will not only save water and energy but also save time. If you're not using a tub, line the sink with a rubber or plastic mat.
To catch drips, place a baking sheet under your drying rack. Look for sheets with 1-inch vertical sides to prevent runoff from seeping onto your countertop. They'll also resist mildew better than a rubber tray or dish towel.
Fill the tub with one or two squirts of dish washing liquid. This is more economical than squirting dish washing liquid directly onto a sponge. The hotter the water, the more likely glass and silver will dry without spots and streaks.
Wash dishes in this order: crystal, glassware, clear glass plates, other plates, flatware, serving ware, the greasiest serving dishes, then pots and pans. Drain the dishwater tub and start again as needed. Rinse five or six pieces of dishware at a time, using hot running tap water. Start from the back of the plate or outside of the glass, rinsing the eating or drinking surfaces last.
Use cold water to wash off starches and dairy products, because they get gummier in hot water. Bottles are easier to clean if you soak denture cleaner in them overnight and then scrub them with a narrow nylon toothbrush.
The sooner you wash pots and pans after using them, the better. Because salt is absorbent and a natural abrasive, it is an excellent antidote to grease. Rub salt into especially dirty pots and pans with a dry sponge until greasy residue is gone.
Fill especially dirty pots that have coated, baked-on food with water and 1/4 cup powdered dishwasher detergent or baking soda. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat, and let soak for an hour. Scrape the pot with a spoon or rubber spatula and finish up washing as you normally would.
Fill badly burned pots without nonstick coatings with cold water and 2 or 3 tablespoons salt. Let soak overnight. Slowly bring the water to a boil; the burn mas should disappear. (You may need to repeat a few times.) Then wash as you normally would.
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When using the dishwasher, put heavy-duty wash jobs on the bottom rack, delicate dishes and glassware on the upper rack. Don't place items over the prongs on the upper rack but use the prongs to hold glasses and mugs in place.
Contrary to what many people think, you can put silverware in the dishwasher. The key is to keep stainless steel out if you put sterling or silver-plate pieces in. The two metals will react with each other and cause irreparable damage to both finishes.
Wash and dry new silverware by hand a few times, then place it in the machine -- but use less detergent than normal and don't run the "dry" cycle. Silver should be removed just before the rinse cycle and dried by hand