Dear Angie: Should I rinse my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher? — Angela L., Bellefonte, Pa.
Answer: Your question sparked lively debate among my staff and the experts they consulted.
The one thing that's clear is that you should scrape or rinse off large food items. But opinions differ on whether you need to sweat the small stuff when it comes to preparing a load for the dishwasher.
Many manufacturers say that machines can handle most food bits and that thorough rinsing wastes water. It's always a good idea to review your appliance owner's manual to see what it recommends.
However, many top-rated dishwasher repair pros told our team that the more pristine your plates before washing, the better. They offer two reasons:
■ Removing most food before washing can keep particles from lodging in the dishwasher's pump assembly, drain lines or spray arms, causing bacteria buildup that can contaminate your dishes and utensils.
■ Rinsing before washing makes it easier for the dishwasher to do its job, which can prolong the appliance's life.
Another wrench in the debate: Some top-rated service providers say dishwashing detergent works better when it has food waste with which to interact.
So, in addition to checking your owner's manual, I recommend you conduct a test at home. Vary the amount of rinsing, and see how your dishes come out.
Now that I've done my best on the rinsing question, I hope nobody asks my opinion on who in their household — or mine — loads the dishwasher the right way. I'm afraid that debate would hit a little too close to home.
Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at firstname.lastname@example.org.