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Because You Asked: Can I Stop Pre-Rinsing My Dishes?

Written by Recyclebank .

Let technology take care of the dirty dishes.


Dear Recyclebank,

I always pre-rinse my dishes before I put them in the dishwasher, but I wonder if this is wasting water. Can I stop pre-rinsing the dishes, and will it really save that much water?

-Diana C., Indian Harbor, FL

Dear Diana,

Unless your dishwasher is more than a decade old, pre-rinsing your dishes does waste water. Modern dishwashers are well-equipped to handle reasonable amounts of food residue, and scraping off the excess food (especially any solid particles like bones or meat) should be sufficient. Consumer Reports notes that most of the models it tests make quick work of even the tougher residues. It helps that many models use features like soil sensors and strategic dish rack design to improve cleaning power, even while reducing energy and water use.

MORE: Dish cleaners that are tough on residue, easy on the planet

Skipping the pre-rinsing can drastically reduce the amount of water used to get dishes clean. “Rinsing dishes can use up to 20 gallons of water before the dishes are even loaded,” according to ENERGY STAR, and “Hand washing your dishes costs $431 more in energy and water” than using an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher. Why add the resource costs of hand washing on top of the comparatively low resource consumption of a dishwasher?

How do you reduce water-use when you do the dishes? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • Kathy H. 5 months ago
    My dishwasher is 5 years old and it has never gotten even small food scraps off unless I pre wash the dishes first/ I fill one sink with water and put each plate ect into the water and scrub it with a wet paper towel.
  • Gregory R. 5 months ago
    Does the vinegar eat the dishwasher lines? I would be putting it in the rinse agent cup.
  • Clarissa G. 5 months ago
    I was told by nespresso not to use vinegar in cleaning the machine because while it does break away the minerals, it does not dissolve it and so then clogs other stuff which then eventually ruin the machine. So is that then the same for washing machines and coffee machines and dishwashers? Seems like it to me. Nespresso recommended this powder stuff i forgot what it's called, that breaks down minerals AND dissolves them.
  • Laura L. 5 months ago
    I call BS Recyclebank. I work in people's homes as a caregiver, these families obviously have money to be able to hire me & they have brand-new, state-of-the-art dishwashers. Gorgeous, stainless steel with sensing capabilities and buttons-galore. And every. single. time. I unload the supposedly "clean" dishes, which were loaded partially pre-washed, they are filthy--grease & food pieces remain on all the dishes no matter where they were in the dishwasher & no matter what type of material the dish was. On top of that, they also have a white film residue of the dishwasher soap. I know it's the dishwasher soap b/c when I inevitably have to re-wash the dishes, they foam up the minute I put water on them, before I apply the dish soap. I've tried switching to all brands of dishwasher soap (Publix generic brand loose powder works best) and they still leave some form of residue & there's still food on the dishes. I've tried those rinsing solutions but that just leaves more soap chemical residue. I've tried adding vinegar, it takes the soap residue off but not the food/grease.
    • Rita P. 5 months ago
      I use my dishwasher as a drying rack too!!!
    • Maya L. 5 months ago
      Laura, I understand what you're saying and this has happened to me. But since I move a lot, I've come to find that different areas have different water elements (heavy/light minerals, sulfur, etc.). The worst place was near southern Florida because of all the sulfur. Even my white laundry came out brown if I didn't use a special chemical remover (bleach did nothing). I'm in Tucson now and, other than when in Denver, I rarely have to do more than scrape or wipe dishes. Sometimes I do have to soak dishes that my other half "forgot" to wipe out. I have a $1200 washer, use dishwasher multi-function cleaning tabs (F****h), add vinegar & my dishes come out sparkling clean. The only time I have to pre-wash anything is if we have any greasy food, which is rare. Maybe the fact that we don't eat much fatty meat & have a water softener makes the difference. I know my hair love the soft water! : ) BTW I was having more problems with C*****e dishwasher pacs. I read many reviews that told me they were not good and the F****h tabs were much better. I found a huge difference when I switched.
    • Laura L. 5 months ago
      These are also top-brand dishwashers by the way, costing close to $1,000 or just over.
    • Laura L. 5 months ago
      My conclusion is to hand wash your dishes & put use the dishwasher as a space-saving drying rack.
  • Angela M. 6 months ago
    I wipe mine out with reusable cloth then but them in the dish washers I will soak pots if needed
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