I'm a man and I do the dishes. I'll let that sink in for a second...go ahead and read it again if it helps. Whether you believe it or not it's true. Does it happen everyday? No. But there are days when no one in my house does them. Fortunately we have a dishwasher which makes the task much easier, but is there a right and wrong way to load it? Do you need to use a rinse agent? What about general detergent, is powder better than liquid? Could I ask more questions?

When it comes to doing the dishes, I prefer to load rather than unload. For me loading is easier, you scrape off the dishes, put them on the racks, add detergent, and press start. I will unload, I just don't like it. Unloading requires hand drying each dish before putting it away (in my house anyway), bending down to put the pots and pans in the lower cabinet, moving stuff around to make it all fit, etc.

I have a certain way I load the dishwasher too. Cups go in a certain spot, bowls in another, plates are on the bottom rack, while skillets and pots have their place. I'll even admit, if my wife loads a few dishes, but doesn't run the washer because its not full yet and she doesn't put them where I put them, I'll rearrange the darn things. For example, she puts knives in the utensil caddy with the blades pointing up because she's afraid the tips will get caught in the caddy and break. I'm willing to lose a knife tip over a finger tip, so I flip them over. If she didn't know I did that, she does now.

But is my way necessarily better? Becky Worley of Upgrade Your Life on Yahoo! asked dishwasher engineers at Kenmore as well as repairmen from Sears for their advice on the best ways to save water and energy and still get your dishes clean enough to eat off of again.

Should you rinse dishes before you load them into the dishwasher?
My mom is notorious for this, but she takes it one step further. She literally washes the dishes with soap and water before washing them in the dishwasher. Basically they're clean before she cleans them. I asked her about it once and I think her reasoning was because she lives out in the county and uses well water, it doesn't clean as well or some such thing.

The engineers and repairmen Worley spoke with say that with the improvements in rack design and sprayer placement, unless you overload the contraption, simply scraping the food into the trash can before washing should suffice.

Is there a specific way to load?
Yes and no. The engineers and servicemen agree that when loading utensils, forks go in tines down and knives should go in point down as it's safer and they will get just as clean. However, they suggest you watch overloading since the dishes won't get clean if there's not a clear path for the water to get to them.

Detergents and Rinse Agents

We generally go with powdered detergent since it's usually cheaper and we don't use a rinse agent because until now I didn't think it was necessary. According to Worley's article, I may want to start adding "rinse agent" to the grocery list. The Kenmore engineers say the best route to go with detergent are the new pre-packs, most of which contain not only detergent, but a rinse agent as well. As for the debate between powdered or liquid detergent, they say there's no difference. But know that whichever of those options you choose, they say a rinsing agent is a "MUST" due to Energy Star specs that require dishwasher technology to use less water and energy. The addition of a rinse agent helps meet that requirement because it "sheets food debris off dishes easier and allows the dishwasher to have a shorter drying cycle without leaving spots on glasses".

For more tips on how to get your dishes spotless and use less water, therefore saving you money in the long run, check out Worley's complete article at Yahoo! News.