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How Do I Properly Load a Dishwasher?

Best Performing Dishwashers

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: we know we aren’t going to solve any household arguments with this article. People are set in their ways and one article won’t change that. Sorry.

But for those of you who are genuinely curious as to how to properly load a dishwasher—i.e. how to load it to ensure dishes end up well-cleaned—the experts at Nebraska Home Appliance are here to help.

The #1 Thing to Remember

Take your time. The dishwasher is already saving you so much time, surely you can give it a few minutes of your time to load it with thought and care?

The reason most dishwashers fill up quickly is that dishes are tossed in haphazardly. Not only are you failing to maximize space in the dishwasher, haphazard placement ensures at least some dishes are going to come out still soiled. So, take your time: pull the rack out fully, look at where other dishes are currently placed, and place accordingly.

Cups

  • Need we say the obvious? Bottoms-up. And avoid laying cups on top of other cups—cups can be jarred loose and pool up with water, or they can bump other cups and chip.
  • Always place cups on the top rack. The top rack is specifically designed to angle cups towards the jets of water from the sprayer arm.

Plates

  • Always put plates on the bottom rack, even if the plate is small. For starters, the bottom-rack tines are designed to position plates in such a way that they are hit just right by the sprayer arm. What’s more, plates are flat. It sounds like a stupid observation but remember that the insides of cups are cleaned by water from the bottom sprayer arm, and flat plates do not obstruct that water flow. And because the dishwasher drains from the bottom, plates also don’t obstruct the flow of water, carrying detergent and food debris, back down. So, fill the bottom rack with all the plates you have.
  • Follow the tines. They will be arranged in such a way that the dirty side of the plate faces the center of the dishwasher. There’s no need to further angle or put gaps between plates, the goal is neat rows of plates that make use of every slot. Grouping plates by size helps, for both loading and unloading.

Bowls and Other Rounded Dishes

Bowls are the real challenge, as there are few hard-and-fast rules for them. It is usually recommended that you place small bowls in the tines on the top rack, and larger bowls around the sides of the bottom rack. Some bowls are relatively shallow though, and even if small can be stacked in the bottom rack along with the plates. Use your discretion.

As with plates, make use of every slot, there is no need to further angle or leave gaps between bowls. And as always place the dirty side of the dish facing towards the center of the dishwasher and angled down in such a way that water will not collect in it. The rows of tines will be designed with this in mind.

Dishwasher-Safe Plastics

  • Avoid putting on the bottom rack. The heating element is at the bottom of the dishwasher, and placing plastics on the bottom rack, right above the heating element, can cause them to warp.
  • Always lay plastic containers flat on the rack, concave side down. If you stack them on top of cups or lay them sideways, the water coursing through the dishwasher can right them, leaving you with a disgusting pool of water to dispose of.

Silverware

  • Handles down, folks. Do you really think that tangled thicket of tines and blades wedged together into the bottom of the basket is the best way to clean silverware? Placing forks, spoons, and butter knives handle-down in the basket ensures there is room for water to flow around every part of your silverware. If you’re worried about poking your hand on a fork, slow down.
  • Sharp knives are the one exception where you should place the handles up. That said, it is recommended you hand-wash sharp knives as it can better preserve the blade edge.
  • Mix the silverware up. Although it is tempting to sort the silverware by type as you place it in, that’s a sure way to end up with nested spoons that don’t get clean.

Don’t Overload

Packing in as many dishes as possible runs two risks:

  • Disrupting the flow of water and detergent through the dishwasher tub, which prevents some dishes from getting clean
  • Breaking or chipping dishes (remember, dishes are being sprayed with jets of water, and water can push things around)

If you can’t find room for certain items, relax, the sink still works for washing dishes. In fact, many items should never go in a dishwasher:

  • Anything made with wood, too much soaking in hot water causes wood to warp and crack
  • Brass, bronze, copper, pewter, which is easily discolored in dishwashers
  • Large kitchen knives, and sharp knives in general, as they can be damaged by the heat and chemicals
  • Pots and pans without dishwasher-safe indication on bottom
  • Insulated mugs without a dishwasher-safe indication, as their vacuum-seal can be damaged, reducing their thermal-retentive qualities
  • Cast-iron cookware, removes the seasoning that makes cast-iron work
  • Nonstick pans, similar to cast-iron, though the manufacturer may say they’re dishwasher-safe, better safe than sorry

Need More Help?

Find your user manual, whether in a drawer in your home or online. Many manufacturers include diagrams and instructions for loading their dishwashers. Not every dishwasher is set up exactly the same, so it’s best to let the manufacturer be the final judge of whether a bowl can go in the bottom rack.