HOME & LIVING
09/25/2014 09:44 am ET Updated Sep 25, 2014

What Really Happens To Leftover Food In Your Dishwasher?

File this under the more you know.

Thanks to the geniuses who put a GoPro camera inside a dishwasher, we now know the magic that happens when we head off to bed and leave our dinnerware to be cleaned. But there was one thing that still left us puzzled: What exactly happens to all the leftover food caked onto that baking dish?

We went to a pro -- Consumer Reports' Deputy Home Editor, Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman -- for an answer. Here's what we learned:

Q: Tell us: Where exactly does leftover food go in a dishwasher?
A. It's pulverized by the washing process and goes down the drain. Many older dishwashers had a food grinder in the machine, but most newer ones don't because the grinder is noisy. Instead, dishwashers have filters which must be cleaned regularly, otherwise your dishwasher will start to smell. So if your dishwasher has a funky odor, check the filter.

Q: How does rinsing beforehand (or not) affect this process?
A: This is one of the biggest dishwasher myths, and goes back to when dishwashers didn't work very well -- probably when you or your parents first got one. But old habits die hard. Today, you don't have to pre-rinse your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher to get clean dishes. Plus, it wastes thousands of gallons of water per year. Just scrape off big pieces of food. Today's dishwasher can handle the mess. We use very dirty dishes -- and we let the crud dry overnight -- to test for cleaning performance.

Q: How has this capability evolved over the years?
A. Dishwashers have gotten better and better at cleaning and are much quieter. Some are virtually silent. They also use less energy and water, though cycle times have gotten longer.

Q: What are the hardest food items to get rid of in a dishwasher?
A. Dried-on oatmeal (perhaps the only exception to the no pre-rinsing rule), rice, and spinach.

And there you have it, folks -- mystery solved. Now check out these 13 (other) fascinating facts from our friends over at HuffPost Taste that will totally change the way you view your dishwasher.

HuffPost

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