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Can You–Should You Open a Dishwasher While It’s Running

When there are hundreds of chores to do, a dishwasher is a true lifesaver. Not only do the dishes come out clean without your help, but you’ll also save your valuable time to chill or be productive. But, like any other appliance, there are certain ways in which dishwashers should be operated.

Opening dishwashers while it’s running is not recommended. However, you can add an item or two depending on the stage your dishwasher is at. If the detergent dispenser cover is closed, proceed to add items. If the dispenser door is open, wait till the next load as hot water or steam might escape from the appliance and cause injury. 

Dishwasher door open with caption saying Can You Open a Dishwasher While It's Running?

For this answer to make more sense to you, there are a few things you should know about dishwashers. Read on to know about how a dishwasher works, the right way to operate one, safety tips, how to add items to a dishwasher while it’s running, signs that your dishwasher isn’t working properly and how to clean a dishwasher.

How Does a Dishwasher Work?

In simple words, here is how a dishwasher works: the dishes stay still in plastic baskets and pressurized jets of hot water spray against all the dirty dishes. Although it sounds simple, the dishes do come out clean every time – probably cleaner than when washed by hand.

Most dishwashers follow the same process mentioned below:

  1. Cold water is fed into the dishwasher from the home water supply.
  2. The heating element in the dishwasher warms the water to a temperature of at least 120°F (but not more than 150°F). This temperature is way hotter than what we normally use when washing the dishes by hand. Using hot water makes dishwashers more hygienic and effective than hand-washing. 
  3.  The electric pump at the bottom of the appliance pumps and propels the water in jets, forcing it to spray against all the dirty dishes.
  4. Once the dishes are washed, the water falls into the basin. From there, it is pumped out to the sink or a hose, depending on the model of the dishwasher.
  5. The final step is called a “dry cycle”, but this is optional. The heating element heats the air inside to dry the dishes. Most people skip the dry cycle to save energy and simply let the dishes dry without heat.

To understand the process better, watch this video: 

Safety Tips While Using a Dishwasher

Afterall, dishwashers are electrical appliances, and there are a few things to keep in mind while operating them to avoid all kinds of injuries and risks. Keep the following tips in mind to clean your dishes effortlessly, efficiently and safely:

  • Store the dishwasher detergent away from children.
  • Add detergent before turning on the dishwasher.
  • Do not overload the dishwasher. Leave enough room for the water jets to clean the dirty dishes.
  • Do not mix steel and silver items to prevent corrosion.
  • Keep identical items like spoons and bowls away from each other. If they are all kept together, the water cannot reach every part of the dish.
  • Do not put dishes made of wood, iron, or other fine materials into the dishwasher. Wash them by hand.
  • Do not put plastics on the bottom rack, as the water is hottest down below and could melt the plastic.
  • After one cycle is complete, make sure that there is no detergent left in the dispenser and clean it if necessary.

Opening a Dishwasher During a Cycle

It is best not to open your dishwasher while it is running, but if it is absolutely necessary, you can add an item or two depending on the stage of the cycle. Open the washer only if the detergent dispenser cover is closed. If it is open, chances are, hot water might spill out and cause burns. 

Most newer dishwashers are designed in a way that the pump shuts down as soon as you open the door. However, to avoid all kinds of risks, refrain from opening the appliance during a cycle.

How to Add Items to Dishwasher During a Cycle

If adding items after the cycle is necessary, here is how you should do it:

  • Lift the dishwasher door to bring the cycle to a stop. 
  • Wait till the spraying has completely stopped.
  • Open the door.
  • Check the detergent dispenser. If it is closed, add the item. If it is open, wait for the next load, or wash the item by hand.
  • After adding the item, close the door firmly.
  • The light indicators will stop blinking when the door is shut. After a delay of about 30 seconds, the cycle will resume at where it left off.

How to Clean a Dishwasher

While it seems like your dishwasher should be self-cleaning during the wash cycle, the truth is it isn’t. Food parcels and soap residue build up in over time in unsuspecting places, and it is important to clean it once in a while. 

A monthly deep clean is recommended to maintain your dishwasher. Unclean dishes even after one complete cycle is the most common sign that the appliance is in dire need of a good bath.

Materials Required

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Sponge
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Warm soapy water

Here’s the perfect way to clean your dishwasher.

  • Clean the Drain. To begin with, reach into the drain and remove all the chunky debris you find. Inspect the bottom rack of the dishwasher, and check for morsels of food stuck in it. Remember to wear gloves while you clean.
  • Clean the Filter. Fill a bowl with hot, soapy water. Soak a clean cloth in the soapy water. Take out the filter and clean every nook and corner of it using the wet cloth. The dishes will come out clean only if the filter is free of dirt.
  • Use Vinegar. Take out all the dishes from the dishwasher. Place a cup of vinegar on the top rack and run the machine on a normal hot cycle. Do not use detergent or soap. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that can not only loosen up the dirt and clean the whole place, but also remove lingering odors.
  • Use Baking Soda. After the vinegar cycle, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Make sure there are no dishes in the machine, and that the detergent rack is empty. Run another cycle on the hottest water setting. Baking soda is a mild alkali that can dissolve dirt and grease easily. It is one of the most popular cleaning agents used worldwide.
  • Clean the Outside. Take a microfiber cloth and clean the outer surface of the dishwasher. Door, buttons, handles, corners – do not leave out anything.

Signs That Your Dishwasher Is Not Working Properly

One thing to keep in mind is that if your dishes come out dirty even after a cycle is complete, it does not mean that the dishwasher is damaged. Clean the entire machine and try again.

However, there are a few signs which indicate that something is wrong with the appliance. If you notice any of the following, it may be time to repair the machine or buy another one:

  • Your dishes aren’t hot once the cycle is complete.
  • There is rust on the inside of the dishwasher or on the dishes.
  • The door is not closing properly, and there is water on the floor.
  • There is a crack on the inside of the dishwasher.
  • Your dishes aren’t hot when the cycle is finished.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, it is better not to open a dishwasher while it is running. But in urgent situations, you can add a few items depending on the stage of the cycle. Check the detergent dispenser prior to opening the door. If the dispenser is closed, it is safe to add the remaining dishes. If the detergent dispenser is open, try washing the utensils outside by hand or wait for the next cycle.

It is important to follow these guidelines because if you open the dishwasher door during mid-cycle, there is a high chance of hot water splashing outside. This can cause burns and is very dangerous.

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