This Popular Dishwasher “Hack” Sadly Doesn’t Work. Not Even a Little Bit.

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Credit: Minette Hand

If you’ve ever washed plastic food containers (or cups or kids’ bowls and plates) in the dishwasher, then I’d be willing to bet that you’ve dealt with still-wet dishes once the cycle is done. While all your other dishes end up dry once the machine is finished, the plastic stuff almost always seems to hang onto condensation, ultimately adding an extra drying step to your dishwashing chore. Fun, right? 

I’m ashamed to admit just how often I throw partially wet containers into the cabinet, so instead, I’ll just show you this viral TikTok.

Here’s what the TikTok claims: If you’re washing plastic containers, wait for the cycle to end, then open the door, hang a towel on the door so half of it hangs inside the dishwasher, then shut it. Leave the towel to absorb the excess steam, and you should end up with a fully dry rack. Game-changer … or is it?

I tried the TikTok hack twice, and both times I ended up disappointed. The first time, I used my usual tea towel (in the video, it looks like the creator used a similar, thin cotton one). I put it in the dishwasher door as soon as the cycle ended. An hour or so later, I took the towel out, and while it was a bit damp, the containers were still totally wet. Bummer, right? 

I wondered if I’d done anything wrong, and the only changes I could think of were to use a more absorbent towel (like, a thicker cotton one from the bathroom) and to leave the towel in for a longer amount of time. I ran the dishwasher again, like before, stuck the towel in when it was done, and waited twice as long. After two hours, the towel was totally dry (maybe it had absorbed the steam but I waited too long). The plastic items? Still wet!

Understanding the scientific explanation makes the problem less annoying: Apparently, glass, ceramic, and metal tend to retain heat, which translates to drier dishes. Plastic, on the other hand, is less dense and doesn’t hold onto as much heat, which means your containers don’t get to dry.

So what can you do? One TikTok commenter recommends using a rinse aid, like this one. You can also open the door for a while after the cycle to let the steam escape. My plan? I promise to start drying all plastic items before putting them away.

Have you tried this? Did it work for you, by any chance?