We spoke with cleaning expert Melissa Maker about common dish-cleaning faux pas.
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We get it—sometimes just getting the dirty dishes out of the sink is a huge win after a long day. However, there are a few rules of thumb to consider next time you're sudsing up your dinnerware. We spoke with Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of Clean My Space, to learn more about some common dish-cleaning mistakes we might be accidentally making:

1. Not Soaking Your Dish or Cookware Before Cleaning

"There is value to pre-treating a dish or pot or pan that has something caked on it or it has been sitting out for a while," Maker says. "Cleaning is not like how it is on the commercials. You need to pre-treat."

Maker says, if you just seared steak in your stainless steel frying pan, for example, you have some caked-on residue left behind after you place the steak on a plate. You might have the urge to head to the sink and immediately start scrubbing your pan—but you'll likely still be scrubbing five minutes later. She says if you had let your pan soak with some soap and water while you ate, it would do the heavy lifting for you. After you let your cookware pre-soak, you can simply use the appropriate cleaning tool and eliminate the extra elbow grease.

hand putting dishes into a dishwasher
Credit: Hero Images / Getty Images

2. You Don't Clean Your Dishes Enough Before Placing Your Dishes in the Dishwasher

If there's caked-on food on your cookware or dishes, you might think you can just put it in the dishwasher and call it a day, but that's not always how it goes.

"I like to use my all-purpose cleaner with just a little water and dish soap in a spray bottle to clean everything," Maker says. "I just spritz plates and cups that have stuff on them after my rinse and then put them in the dishwasher. That extra little treating helps remove anything built up on there."

3. You're Using the Wrong Scrubbing Tools

"Oftentimes people just grab whatever sponge is on hand to clean, but you have to use the right one," Maker says. "If you use a heavy-duty sponge on a nonstick surface it'll scratch it up. Using a non-scratch sponge will still give you great results without ruining your cookware or delicate serving dish. It just keeps everything looking newer longer." (Try this one at $5 for six sponges from Amazon.)

4. You Shove Everything Into the Dishwasher

"Overcrowding is one of the biggest issues I see with dishwashing," Maker says. "People try to jam everything but the kitchen sink in at every load. Your dishwasher is only successful if the jets can hit what it's trying to clean."

Let's face it, we all expect just about anything we put in the dishwasher to come out sparkling clean, but it's not possible if things are stacked on top of each other or the utensil baskets are overflowing. Maker says all surfaces in your dishwasher should be exposed, or at least visible, before running it. She advises staggering large and small dishes throughout and placing any cutlery that's not a sharp knife face-up for the best results. This also helps prevent food particle buildup in your utensil baskets. Ick.

5. Your Dishwasher Is Dirty

"Most people don't clean out their dishwasher filter," Maker says. "My dishwasher is a little older, so I can't actually do it, but a lot of newer models have removable and cleanable filters."

If you don't clean out your dishwasher filter, or clean your dishwasher in general, food particles will get clogged in the filter. If you've ever been confused by some gritty buildup on your glasses or dishes, this is a likely indication your filter or dishwasher needs some cleaning. All it takes is some soapy water and a nylon scrub brush to get your dishwasher filter in tip-top shape.

Check out Maker's YouTube Channel—Clean My Space—to learn how to clean every ounce of your home with ease. She also has a book of the same title, to always have help handy when you have cleaning questions.