Get the most out of your washing machine

How to get the most out of your washing machine and dishwasher: Choice

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Hacks to help you save time and money on necessary household chores.

Hacks to help you save time and money on necessary household chores.


From vinegar to greywater, these tips make laundry and washing-up a breeze.


WE spend a large portion of our lives doing laundry and cleaning dishes, so why not make these tasks as easy as possible while saving money and as much precious water as possible along the way?

Consumer group CHOICE has produced some expert tips to help you get the most out of your washing machine and dishwasher - and help make sure these big-ticket items last as long as they should.

There's also some handy tips for washing up in the sink, including which bargain liquid you need to add to your supermarket shopping list.

1. Be wary of 'magic' hacks

First up - here's a warning about hacks you might read about online that aren't quite so expert.

Recently there was a social media storm around using dishwashing tablets to clean your washing machine, with many people claiming it gave them miracle results.

CHOICE white goods expert Ashley Iredale does some myth-busting.

"This may work initially but I wouldn't recommend it, said Ashley.

"Washing machines aren't designed to deal with highly caustic dishwasher detergents, so doing this may damage seals and hoses over time which could also void your consumer guarantee or warranty as the manufacturer may say you didn't follow proper instructions."

Tips for using your dishwasher

2. Save time and money - don't wash by hand

CHOICE experts all agree, using a modern dishwasher on a full load is more water and energy-efficient than washing your dishes by hand. So it's a win-win on saving you time and money!

"OK, so it's not exactly a hack," said Ashley. "But using a typical modern dishwasher uses about six times less water than hand-washing a typical pile of dirty dishes, and getting the water in your sink hot enough to do the dishes takes nearly twice as much energy as you'd use running your dishwasher."

But using a typical modern dishwasher uses about six times less water than hand-washing a typical pile of dirty dishes, and getting the water in your sink hot enough to do the dishes takes nearly twice as much energy as you'd use running your dishwasher. - Ashley Iredale, CHOICE white goods expert.

3. Clean your dishwasher with vinegar

Use this clever - and cheap - hack to remove soap build-up and odours, and give your dishwasher a little TLC to help ensure it lasts as long as it should (around 11 years, according to CHOICE experts).

Pour around 1 cup (250ml) of vinegar into the bottom of the unit or into a bowl on the top or bottom rack, then run the machine through a full cycle with no dishes or detergents.

Note: Check your manual first, as some manufacturers advise that you not use vinegar to clean certain models.

4. Save time and water: don't rinse!

But do scrape. Our expert testing has found that rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher doesn't make any difference to how clean they'll come out at the end.

Do scrape off any large bits of food residue though, otherwise they'll accumulate in your dishwasher.

5. Turn up the heat

Run out of dishwasher tablets or detergent and got a pile of dirty dishes you really don't want to do by hand?

Many recipes for DIY dishwasher liquid or natural alternatives don't work very well but if you're desperate try turning the temperature up and doing a cycle with plain water - CHOICE tests show this will still clean lightly soiled dishes (and perhaps leave you with a little less to wash up later).

Tips for washing by hand

6. Buy a cheap washing liquid that works

Sick of wasting money on expensive dishwashing liquid? CHOICE experts have done the hard work for you and put 41 supermarket dishwashing liquids to the test to find out which is best.

And their hack? Go to Aldi and buy their Tandil Ultra Power Soak N' Clean dishwashing liquid. It came second in the CHOICE test, with a score of 72%, but costs just 0.35c/100ml, which is less than a third of the price of the top-scorer from Morning Fresh (Morning Fresh Ultra Concentrate Ultimate Dishwashing Liquid) which costs $1.23/100ml and scored 81%.

7. Explore new ways to use it

Once you've got your cheap and effective dishwashing liquid, explore all the other things you can clean with it.

It's great for cleaning windows (just mix with warm water and a drop or two of rinse aid) and for removing light stains from clothes (if you've spilled some spag bol on your shirt, just rub with a bit of dishwashing liquid and water).

You can also use it to wash make-up brushes and hairbrushes, and it works wonders to clean and shine jewellery: mix with a little soda, then soak and scrub with a toothbrush.

Washing machine tips

8. Convert a wheelie bin to reuse your greywater

Try this affordable hack to reuse greywater from cleaning your clothes to save water.

Rig up a hose from your washing machine and feed it outside to collect in a tank, or, as clever CHOICE staff member Alice did, in a wheelie bin. Then you can use the water on your garden and save hundreds of litres in the process.

"We wanted to put a small water tank outside to capture and store greywater from the washing machine, but our local hardware store had sold out of all the water-saving products," says Alice. "Instead, we settled on a 100L wheelie bin - it holds the same amount of water but it's about half the price.

"We rigged it up with an inlet for the grey water extension hose near the top and a tap kit at the bottom by drilling two 28mm holes. Our backyard is on a slope, so we can hook a regular garden hose up to the tap at the bottom of the bin and gravity takes care of distributing the water onto the lawn.

"All up we spent about $100 and a couple of hours to set it up. Now our lawn is lush and green again - it's actually being watered more often than before the water restrictions!"

9. Do the occasional hot load in the washing machine

Commercial washing machine cleaner is expensive and largely unnecessary.

Keep your washing machine clean and in good working condition with this simple trick: if you regularly wash in cold water, run the very hot empty cycle occasionally, with just a bit of good-quality detergent in the dispenser, and it'll help keep scrud at bay. Also, ditch fabric softeners as they add to build-up.

10. Brighten up

Brighten your colours and whiten your whites without using expensive and non-eco-friendly bleaches with, you guessed it, vinegar! Try adding around a cup to your load.

Vinegar is also a great alternative for fabric softeners, which are expensive and damaging to the environment (plus some tested performed worse than water). Check your washing machine manual before using to ensure they don't warn against using vinegar in your model.