But Consumer Reports says give yourself and the environment a break and skip that step altogether.
For lots of people, rinsing off dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher is automatic.
But Consumer Reports dishwasher testers, who wash thousands of dishes every year, say that extra step is not necessary. And they would know!
"We get our dishes dirty with some of the toughest stuff out there, like oatmeal, egg yolk, peanut butter, and tomato sauce," said tester Jim Nanni.
All this food is left to dry onto the dishes, then scraped off. In the next step, testers load each dishwasher with the exact same number of dishes.
They use a standard detergent, the same one for each machine, as well as a rinse aid.
When the dishes come out, the best dishwashers leave them sparkling clean, no pre-rinsing required. And you'll save more than time.
"It's actually a waste of water to rinse your dishes, and if you're using hot water, a waste of energy, too," said Nanni
Be sure to follow the dishwasher manual for loading dishes to make sure you get the cleanest dishes possible.
"I know it's a bore, but you really need to read the instruction manual for your dishwasher," said Nanni. "You need to follow the guidelines for loading that machine so you get the cleanest dishes possible."
Some key points? Plates should be arranged so that the dirty side is facing in towards the center.
And if your silverware basket has slots for utensils, use them. That way spoons won't stick together and food won't get caught between them.
Load your dishes properly, and they'll turn out as clean as the ones in Consumer Reports' test lab.
Of course, the detergent you use is also important. Consumer Reports has tested those too, and recommends Cascade Action Pacs. At about $4 for a bag of 20, you'll get clean dishes for just pennies a plate.