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What Is the Best Way to Load a Dishwasher?

Though it might seem like a simple task, there is a proper way to load your dishwasher. Read on to discover the basics of loading your dishes for an optimal clean.

Proper Way to Load a Dishwasher

The best way to load a dishwasher can be surprisingly controversial: Should forks be placed tines or handles up? Can bowls go on the top rack? Should you ever put a wooden spoon in the dishwasher? In this guide, learn how to load a dishwasher's top rack, bottom rack and silverware caddy properly and then discover tips for getting the most out of your dishwasher.
Putting cup into a dishwasher

Top Rack

  • Load cups, mugs, glasses, saucers and other small items by size. Many top racks have rows of varying widths, which can accommodate cups of different sizes. If the tines are adjustable, you can move them around to make room for your items.
  • Your top rack may have a mini rack that folds down to keep wine glasses and other stemmed glasses secure. While most stemmed glassware should be washed by hand, if they're dishwasher safe be sure to use this rack to keep them secure.
  • Load all dishwasher-safe plastic items on the top rack as well. This keeps them away from the hot water and heat drying elements at the bottom of the dishwasher, which can melt the plastic.
  • Place items at an angle, with the dirtiest side facing downward, to ensure that the water can clean off all the food.
  • Don't overlap items, as this can keep the dishes from being cleaned thoroughly and lead to chipping or scratching.
  • Lay large utensils flat in the top rack. Wooden spoons, salad servers and other utensils should be washed by hand—never put in the dishwasher.

Bottom Rack

Bottom drawer of dish washing machine
  • Plates, bowls and large items go on the bottom rack. Divide the bottom rack in half and angle all plates and bowls so that they point towards the middle, the main source of the water.
  • Fit larger items like casserole dishes around the sides of the dishwasher. If you have lots of large items, check to see if any of the tines in the bottom rack fold down. This will give you more room. Don't put tall items in the front of the bottom rack, as this can block the detergent door from opening.
  • Like with the top rack, place items with their dirtiest side down. Make sure that they don't overlap so they'll be cleaned thoroughly.

Silverware Caddy

  • Forks and spoons should be loaded with the tines up and the handles down so the water can circulate over them freely and clean off all the food.
  • Knives should be placed in the opposite orientation—handle up, blade down—so you don't accidentally cut yourself while loading or unloading the dishwasher.
  • Don't put silverware of the same type in the same section of the caddy. They will nest together and be cleaned less thoroughly. Mix together different types of silverware in the same section to keep them from nesting.
  • High-quality sharp knives should be washed and dried by hand to avoid dulling them and reducing their performance.
  • Stainless steel and silver-plated utensils should be kept apart; otherwise, the stainless steel might scrape the good silver.

Other Tips

Handwashing plate
  • Do scrape off large chunks of food before loading the dishwasher, but pre-rinsing isn't necessary. Newer dishwasher models are designed to clean off these food particles. The one exception to this is if your dishes are going to sit in the dishwasher long enough for the food to dry before you run it. In this case, you should go ahead and rinse them.
  • Always check the manufacturer's instructions before loading something in the dishwasher. Even some items that seem like they should be dishwasher-safe are actually hand wash only. Smaller kitchen appliances such as blenders and processors have parts that should always be hand washed.
  • Shake your dishwasher detergent (whether liquid or powder) before putting it in the machine to break up any lumps and mix it together thoroughly.
  • Run the hot water in your kitchen sink before starting the dishwasher. The hotter the water, the better your dishwasher works, and pre-heating the water might even help shorten the cycle time.
  • Run your garbage disposal before running your dishwasher since both machines usually empty into the same pipe.
  • Make sure that the spinning arm at the bottom rotates freely and that nothing is blocking the water jets at the bottom. Also make sure that the detergent door can open unimpeded.
  • Double check that small items such as lids are secure. If they fall down to the bottom rack, they can block the flow of water, get tangled up in the spinning arm or even melt.
Follow this guide and you'll have squeaky clean dishes every time you unload your dishwasher.

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