My dishwasher has two different places to put in detergent, and the manual says to fill them both completely. The back of the box of detergent I use says (confusingly), “Fill all detergent cups completely. Use less detergent for soft water, more for hard water. More powder may be required for heavily soiled dishes.”

A repairman once told me that I should fill the larger of the two detergent cups about 1/3 full, and that’s all I should use. Anymore could cause problems. I decided to listen to him because it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly that way.

This weekend, the New York Times confirmed that I’m doing the right thing and explained why, too.

“Nobody thinks they use too much soap,” said Vernon Schmidt, who has been a repairman for almost 35 years and is the author of a self-published book, Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even a Man Can Understand. But apparently most of us are in denial.

Washing machines and dishwashers are made to use far less water now than older models and, therefore, need less soap. And detergents have also become increasingly concentrated. So a little goes a long way.

“Most people use 10 to 15 times the amount of soap they need, and they’re pouring money down the drain,” Mr. Schmidt said.

The piece goes on to say that too much dishwasher detergent can leave film on dishes and glasses. It’s not necessary to fill the entire detergent cup.

Loading the dishwasher properly helps to get dishes cleaner while using less detergent. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that I’m useless at loading a dishwasher (I don’t necessarily agree). The New York Times has guidelines for loading correctly, and I’ll give you those in case my husband is right.

  • Put larger items to the outsides of the washer so they don’t block water from getting to everything.
  • Face the dirty side of the dishes towards the inside of the machine.
  • Mix utensils up to keep them from sticking together.
Finally, scraping large pieces of food or baked on food is necessary but pre-rinsing all dishes is not necessary and wastes water.

So there you have it. You can save money and resources by doing less.

When you use less detergent, you’ll use less packaging and ingredients used to create the detergent. When you stop pre-rinsing, you’ll save water.  

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