How to clean the dishwasher and why

The dishwasher is a machine that deserves an award. I love cooking and eating but I hate washing up. In many homes the dishwasher is used almost every day, and sometimes more, so it does need a little care and attention to ensure it is doing the best job possible. 

If you are using the quick and easy Gyre and Gymble dishwashing tabs it is important to remember that these do not contain rinse aid. Rinse aid can be found in most commercial dishwashing tabs or bought from the supermarket. Its primary function is to help with the drying process at the end of the wash cycle.

But guess what!? All you need to do to replace the rinse aid is a splash of vinegar. This works just as well, and costs considerably less.

Here are a few other things that will help your machine:

  • Just scrape the plates before putting them in, there is no real need to rinse as well. Just be sure not to overwork the machine by loading lots of leftovers.
  • Don't over fill the machine, as this can stop the water flowing across the dishes freely.
  • Add dishwasher salt as required, and this will will help with hard water problems.
  • Clean out the filters at least one a week. This is a horrible job, but you will have cleaner dishes. 
  • Every now and then, run the machine on a hot cycle while empty. The hotter the better. You can add a cup of bicarb soda to the bottom of the machine to help the cleaning process. 

If you follow these simple ideas, your dishwasher will love you back.

How to make your own dishwasher tabs without harsh chemicals?

I had never considered how easy it would be make my own dishwasher tabs! Not only it is something that you can do easily in your own kitchen, you can do it without harsh chemicals, and it also ends up being considerably cheaper than store-bought dishwasher tabs. 

So, how much are store-bought tabs? Depending on the brand and quantity, they work out to be somewhere between £0.10 and £0.20 each tab. Consider, however, that they also contain a range of harsh chemicals, in particular, phosphates, which are known to be damaging to our waterways. Phosphates encourage the growth of algae and the cost of cleaning them up is huge. In the end we all pay with higher water purification costs and water rates, but our river systems suffer greatly, too.

Now for the good news. Making your own dishwasher tabs at home is not only simple and quick, it's also quite a bit cheaper!


You can also double or triple these quantities to make more if you like, but the above is a rough guide on proportions. 

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and add the Castile soap and essential oil and then mix until completely damp. The mixture will look a bit crumbly, and will begin to foam, but this is precisely what is meant to happen. 

To form the tabs, you can use a baking tray lined with baking paper. A flexible ice-cube tray will work just as well. Anything that will allow you to form tabs of the right size to fit into your dishwasher will be fine.

Press the mixture firmly into the tray so that it is about 1.5cm thick. If you use a baking tray, take a metal ruler and compact the mixture down evenly, and then cut them into the right size, about 2cm by 2cm. Treat it just like the base of a slice.

Leave the tabs for about an hour and they will all be solid. Break them apart, or push out of the ice cube tray. Leave them out in the open until they are completely dry, and then store in an airtight container. 

Further reading

If you would like some information on the effects of phosphates on our waterways, here are a few handy links: