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This story originally appeared on Myrecipes.com by Kimberly Holland.
The dishwasher is a make-or-break appliance for many renters and homeowners. Once you grow accustomed to its miraculous capabilities, it’s hard to live without one.
But most dishwasher owners don’t realize their actions—specifically, the settings they select on the machine—may greatly impact its lifespan. Pick the wrong ones, and you may find yourself forking up big bucks for a new machine sooner than you’d like.
The heated drying setting uses forced hot air to turn moisture on dishes into steam and blow them out of your dishwasher. This speeds up drying, and it saves you time and the extra effort of wiping off excess water. In the long run, however, it may cost you.
Inside your washing machine, electric heating elements are activated and create intensely heated air during the heated drying cycle. The hot air and the steam it creates must escape the dishwasher, so small air fans pump the hot air out of the dishwasher through exhaust vents. If you’ve ever run your hand across the vents on the dishwasher during this drying cycle, you know exactly how hot this air can be.
This heated drying cycle adds about 30 minutes to your overall washing cycle, but it can ultimately take years off your machine’s life. The routine usage of these electric heating elements and the overuse of air pumps can cut short the machine’s lifespan.
The air-dry cycle, however, uses pumps to push room-temperature air through the machine to encourage even drying. Unlike the heated drying cycle, you’ll likely find some moisture and pools of water in the upside-down bottoms of bowls or cups when the dishwashing and air-dry cycle is complete.
If you don’t like either of those options, you can cut out the dry cycles entirely by opening the dishwasher’s door immediately after the final rinse cycle and allowing the dishes to dry on their own. This is a great option if you wash dishes at night and can afford to leave the door open while you sleep. In the morning, you wake to dry dishes and a lower energy bill. Bonus: washing your dishes at night will reduce heat build-up in your kitchen that can come during the hot period of the day.
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Save energy: The heated drying cycle uses more energy than the room-temperature air-drying cycle or air-drying alone. This will save on your electricity bill.
Protect dishes: The extra period of heat may warp or melt any delicate items in your dishwasher, including plastics or woods. What’s more, the heated drying sometimes causes glasses to develop a hazy film. If you’re worried about spotting, you can use a rinse aid to protect the plastics and glasses. You can also hand-dry them with a microfiber cloth just as soon as the rinse cycle is complete.
Reduce bacteria: Dish towels may harbor bacteria picked up from around your kitchen. Air-drying eliminates the risk you will spread those bacteria to dishes. It’s also important you let dishes dry entirely before stacking them back in your cupboards. The cramped quarters may encourage bacterial growth.
This article originally appeared on Myrecipes.com