How do you use a commercial dishwasher?

Joined Aug 15, 2016
This might seem like a stupid question but I'm hoping for some help on using a commercial dishwasher.

We just had one installed in our small restaurant this week and we were obviously excited (as we've been washing by hand for a year!)

Then we put the first few loads in and.... they're not clean.

The glasses have greasy marks, dirty ceramics are still dirty, cutlery is only 50% clean. Detergent and rinse aid are being used as I can see them going through the pipes, and the dishware comes out boiling hot and untouchable. But why isn't it very clean?

Googling around, I've heard pre rinsing mentioned a couple of times. Is this a pre-requisite for getting things clean? We've put in items that are rinsed a bit and might have minor dirt on them - e.g. A bowl of ice cream that's been given a quick rinse but still some residue in the bowl - and it comes out almost exactly the same. Surely we're not supposed to rinse things til they're already basically clean? Or maybe I've misunderstood commercial washers and that's what you do in a restaurant?

Despite the success of our business, my sister and I have not had any restaurant or bar experience and struggle with details like these so any info would be really appreciated.

If it helps, the dishwasher is a Sammic X-50, which I believe is a hi-temp.

Thanks in advance.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
'Dishwashing" machines, at least as far as commercial units goes, is a misnomer. They should be called "sanitizing units". Stuff needs to be fairly clean going in. It is a quick short cycle, unlike a home machine, so it will not really clean stuff.

One last thought, if it is a high temp machine, make sure that the chemicals (detergent, rinse aid, jet dry, etc) are designed for use in a high temp machine. The same holds true for low temp, make sure the chemicals are for a low temp.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
A dishwasher is not magic, it has upper and lower spray arms that kinda/sorta fling water about in 90 seconds per cycle. Its like kids jumping through a garden spinkler : The kids get wet, yeah sure, but not neccessrily clean.

Most, if not all dishwashers operarate the same way: The pump pumps hot water from the tank through the big (fat) spray arms for about 90 seconds, then fresh very hot water is used to sanitize the load using the secondary smaller spray arms for 30 seconds and you're
done. If you put filthy greasy dishes in the machine, your tank water quickly becomes dirty and greasy, and, logically, your dishes are dirty and greasy. The only way to get rid of greasy tank water is to drain the machine and start all over again.

The commercial machine is designed for speed--120 seconds per load vs. 2 hrs a load for a residential load. The speed comes with a price: you need to pre rinse your dishes, which might take another 3-4 minutes.

Hope this helps....
Joined Aug 15, 2016
Thanks for the info. I guess I had misunderstood how to use it.

So if I'm correct, of the three steps to cleaning dishes (rinsing, soaping, 2nd rinsing + drying) we need to essentially still do the 1st step and the dishwasher does the rest? I guess that's still going to save time.

Does anyone have any experience on putting glasses through and what we should do to these? 1 in 5 come out with greasy fingerprints or mouth marks around the rim.

And what do we do with burnt-on pans? Leave them to soak or just give up entirely on putting those in a commercial dishwasher?
Joined Oct 31, 2012
One in five glasses sounds about right.

     Overall, my more learned colleagues have explained how the machine works so I will add that despite having a machine, you are essentially still washing dishes by hand, then the machine is sanitizing them. 

   It helps to have a "dish prep" area next to the dishwasher, equipped with receiving area for dishes and glassware, a sink and hand held sprayer. So if the food remains have not already been removed by waitstaff, a garbage pail should be handy in the dish area. The dishes are rinsed/sprayed off with soap, wiping with a sponge as necessary, then placed in the rack. Also a dish dispersal area where the clean rack can be set down after coming out of the dishwasher. 

So the dirty dishes come in, someone stands in the prep area, quickly rinsing and wiping with a soapy sponge all debris from the dishes before putting them in the rack.  They get sprayed and then put in the dishwasher. When the cycle is done, the rack is set in a clear area on the other side of the dishwasher so they can cool and be put away. Any dishes or glassware still appearing dirty get put back through. 

Mounting a shelf-slanted slightly, above the dish prep area for the glass rack can be a big help. 

 Glasses are handled in a similar fashion. They can be racked quickly and sent through, any greasy/lipstick marks can be soaped off quickly. 

When done correctly, dishwashing is a process and needs some room dedicated to that process to make it as easy and efficient as possible. In small kitchens, space can be at a premium but devoting at least the minimum to dishwashing will make life much easier when faced with doing many dishes every day. 

Burnt on pans? First, learn to stop burning them. That's not meant to be rude. Crusty, cooked-on food is to be expected in a kitchen depending on what is being cooked. But actually burnt pans on a regular basis tells me you are overcooking something. 

But yes, you set them aside and let them soak until they are easier to clean. Then put them through the usual dishwashing process. 
Joined Aug 21, 2004
 cutlery is only 50% clean
Fill a bus tub up with pre-soak and water, cutlery goes in tub as it comes back, when clean cutlery is needed, drain tub, rinse cutlery and stand up in these type of containers before sending through machine

Joined Dec 23, 2004
Yeah, when plates come back you should stack 'em up, put a green pad on the top one and set the water sprayer on top; run water til they all are filled to soak.  Let them soak while you do other stuff, five or ten minutes helps.  Hit them with the scrubbie to take off any stuck on stuff, then rack 'em and run 'em though.  The water will need to be changed frequently, how often depends on the volume of stuff.  Periodically the machine must be cleaned inside and out.  The spray arms need to be taken apart since toothpicks and crap will clog them up reducing the water pressure.  The best part of the machine is that, if the chemicals are set up right, the dishes will air dry without streaks or spots to speak of.

For glasses you must make sure the machine is clean and the water is fresh.  If you do it right they'll come out better than if you hand wash.

As others have said, the machine will use either temps or chems to sanitize the dishes which is a big time saver.
Joined Oct 31, 2012

"Despite the success of our business, my sister and I have not had any restaurant or bar experience and struggle with details like these so any info would be really appreciated."

A couple more thoughts on your business in general. 

First, Get a sales tax account. The bank will help you set one up. At no point is the money yours to use and it gets easily confused with the rest of the money. When the time comes, you have to pay it right away. No excuses. A sales tax account will eliminate any problems. 

Second, make frequent visits to other restaurants. As often as possible, introduce yourself to the owners. Explain that you would be interested in seeing the back of their operation. Most owners should be open and willing to do so as you also own a restaurant. Explain your lack of experience. Ask questions about what you see.  As owners with no prior experience, you can gain much from observing how others run their operation. Include places like country clubs, hotels, schools, pizza shops, large and small fine dining both corporate and independent. You can learn a lot by seeing and comparing. Listen and ask questions. 

Don't waste time trying to figure it all out on your own. Go see how others do things and learn the fast way. You won't do everything you see or learn but you can shorten your learning curve a great deal this way. 
Joined Aug 15, 2016
Thanks for the advice. We've put together a streamlined system now that seems to be working well.

chefwriter - thanks for tips. We are on top of finances but thanks for the advice on visiting other restaurants, it is worth trying for sure.

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