Appliance repair man Chris Hilliker is called to repair a lot of dishwashers. He finds many of the problems are preventable, like poor cleaning performance.

One cause is that water is not hot enough, He says the solution is to run the hot water tap nearest the dishwasher until it's hot, then turn on the machine.

A second cause of poor cleaning performance is too much or too little detergent.

"If you have soft water you probably have to add only about one-quarter of the detergent on the package, and if you have hard water you probably need to add what they recommend on the package," Hilliker said.

And dry out the detergent cup before filling if you are going to use a delayed start. The detergent reacts with water and starts to lose strength if it sits for a while

A third cause of poor wash performance is stale detergent because it reacts with the moisture in the air.

"You shouldn't have your detergent box more than two months because it will lose its wash-ability," Hilliker said.

It's also a good idea to inspect the wash arms for simple clogs, which can prevent your dishes from getting clean.

And clean the removable screen in the bottom of some European-designed dishwashers because they can hold a dirty residue that will get on your dishes.

Your dishwasher itself should be cleaned from time to time to keep it running efficiently -- especially with phosphates being banned from detergent. The phosphates used to help keep the machine performing well and prevented nasty build-ups like drain clogs.

There are many cleaners on the market. Glisten says it uses a "natural food acid like those found in lemon juice." Another product, Dishwasher Magic, has citric acid as an active ingredient. You can buy citric acid or find it in other products, like lemonade mix.

"Lemonade crystals --preferably unsweetened crystals –- and even Kool-Aid is one of the things people use because there are unsweetened varieties," Hilliker said.

White vinegar is another food-safe dishwasher cleaner. In fact, many owner's manuals recommend you throw a cup or two in every once in a while to improve cleaning performance.

"It's all very safe if you use citric acid or vinegar; it's all things prescribed by the manufacturer," he said.

Hilliker says you can even use vinegar as a rinse aid. It's natural, inexpensive and very effective

Finally, if you really want to make appliances last, read the owner's manual, because there may have been significant changes since the last time you bought a particular appliance --changes that could cost you money if you don't change too.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen