For many households, October marks the beginning of the holiday season. For us, it’s also the beginning of our busy food season. Halloween treats tow the line for Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas cookies and New Year’s Eve pupus, not to mention the many “chilly” nights we opt to stay in and enjoy some comfort food at home.

With the influx of extra dirty dishes, the dishwasher is bound to put in some overtime, so I decided to look into what we can do to help it out. Use these five tips to help a dishwasher that’s not running up to par run more efficiently. Or, use them to ensure that a good one stays that way.

1. Choose gel over powder. Gel dissolves quicker and easier than powder, which results in more soapy time in the cleaning process. Plus, powder has been known to stick around, leaving residue on dishes even after the load has finished. Consumer Reports found the pod/pack/tab variety to have the highest ratings compared to traditional detergents, but at a cost of about three times more per load. For me, the gel works just fine.

2. Unclog the holes. Examine the areas where water sprays out. Food and gunk can clog the holes, making the dishwasher less efficient. Use a skewer to clear them up.

3. Clean the filter. On the bottom of the dishwasher, sometimes under a cover, lies a filter. Take off the cover, but remember not to force it. You may need to use a butter knife for leverage, but it should come off easily. Clean the filter underneath. Warning: This can be pretty gross. It’s the place where everything goes that doesn’t fit down the drain. I recommend wearing gloves.

4. Keep cleaning. Open the dishwasher and find the steam vent on the door. Again, there may be a cover here. If there is, take it off, but be careful not to force it. Clean it, and don’t forget the gloves.

5. Get out the vinegar. Run an empty load with a cup of white vinegar tossed on the bottom. This will help clean the dishwasher and remove hard water and calcium deposits from the drain and jets. Do this once a month.

Remember, the point of using a dishwasher is to save time. Keeping it in tip-top shape may require some extra effort, but it will save you in the long run.