The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Your Dishwasher

Remember the Cascade commercial where a cute little girl in overalls gets snarky about her mom washing all the dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher, and then washing them again if they "come out gross"? The girl then goes on to ask, "So what does the dishwasher do?" (via As it turns out, Cascade girl wasn't just being a brat, she kind of had a point. And you don't even need to use Cascade Platinum, the product she was shilling for, in order to skip pre-rinsing your dishes. There's an actual scientific reason why you should just go ahead and stick your dishes in dirty. Yay, science!

Why you shouldn't pre-rinse your dishes

While most older types of detergents contained phosphates to help break down the leftover food stuck to your dirty dishes, phosphates themselves proved to be an environmental hazard and have, for the most part, been replaced by cleaning enzymes (Via CNET). Enzymes, which are created from bacteria, actually eat and digest the food particles, but they need those food particles to be present or they have nothing to attach themselves to so they can begin their cleaning job. While you might still want to rinse or scrape off any large pieces of food stuck to your dishes, those enzymes need at least some food residue remaining to do their job (via MyRecipes). With at least a little bit of stuck-on gunk, your dishes are guaranteed to come out of the dishwasher a lot cleaner than they went in.

Pre-rinsing also wastes water

Yet another reason not to pre-rinse your dishes is that it is bad for the environment. All of that water used to duplicate the cleaning process is water that needn't have been used in the first place. But what about skipping the dishwasher altogether and just hand-washing your dishes? This method, while more labor-intensive, would surely be more eco-friendly, wouldn't it? Think again. The Natural Resources Defense Council reveals that washing a full load of dishes by hand could require up to 27 gallons of water, whereas that same number of dishes washed in an Energy Star-rated dishwasher might only take three gallons of water. While you'll still need to hand-wash certain items like wooden utensils or cast-iron pans, you should be putting your dishwasher to use for most of your dishwashing needs.

So there you have it — Cascade commercial girl was right, after all. In the interests of efficient cleaning and for the sake of the environment, sticking your dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher isn't lazy, it's the smart and responsible thing to do. In fact, it's downright heroic, doing your bit to help avert a global water crisis.