6 Dishwasher Loading Tips

Dishwasher Loading Tips

Nothing beats the convenience of a dishwasher. Live without one for a while and you will never take for granted the time and energy savings that this small appliance can provide. Standing with your arms submerged in soapy water up to your elbows is not very enjoyable, especially if you have to do it day in and day out.

While your dishwasher is likely one of the most loved appliances in your home, what do you do when your dishes keep coming out dirty? In an ideal world, your dishwasher would remove every last piece of dried food or grime; however, improper loading techniques can reduce efficiency and leave you with dishes that are not completely clean.

If you want to ensure that your dishwasher works the way that it should, try some of these loading tips.

1. Remove Large Food Particles

Scraping the largest pieces of food from your dishes can help your dishwasher work more effectively. These pieces can sometimes get stuck on while sitting in the dishwasher and even the most heavy duty spray of water and detergent won’t get them off. After eating, use your napkin or a fork to remove food into your garbage can or garbage disposal before loading.

Most small particles of food will come off during a cycle, but if they are stuck on or if you notice that your dishwasher does not seem to be washing them off, try a light pre-rinse before loading.

2. Limit Pre-Rinsing

It is often tempting to think that you should wash all of your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher if you have had problems with dishes coming out dirty.

Loading the Dishwasher

However, dishwasher detergents work best when there are food particles to cling to. Only pre-rinse your dishes if they are extra dirty or will be sitting in your dishwasher for a while to prevent food from drying on. If none of your dishes are getting cleaned enough, you can certainly pre-rinse, but most dishwashers should be effective enough to get rid of the food. There are some types of food that are particularly difficult for a dishwasher to handle, such as:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Baked-on food
  • Starches

In these cases, you may have to soak them in warm, soapy water for a short time before loading.

3. Loading the Bottom Rack

The bottom rack of your dishwasher is meant to hold large dishes that can withstand the direct heat. When you load your plates, don’t keep them in a perfect row. Make sure that they are all leaning towards the center so that the spray arm can reach the surface area of each plate.

Any large pots, casserole dishes, or serving bowls also go on the bottom rack and should be placed at an angle so that the water from the sprayer can flow over the entire surface area of the dishes. Cutting boards or baking sheets fit best on the outer edges of the rack to avoid blocking the flow of water and detergent to the other dishes on the bottom. Some of the larger items that you load on the lower rack can keep the washing arm from spinning properly, so make sure that you push the rack in and give the arm a spin to make sure there is ample clearance.

4. Loading the Top Rack

The top rack is the best spot for cups, glasses, bowls, and other small items. Try not to place individual glasses on the tines of the rack, as that can result in rattling during a cycle and you could end up with cracked or broken glasses.

When you load your bowls, try to get as much of the open space facing down towards the spinning arm for the best water flow. The bowls loaded at the front of the rack should face the rear and those at the back of the rack should face forward so that the hot, soapy water can get inside the bowls better.

Large utensils, such as spatulas, mixing spoons, or whisks do well on the top rack, but make sure that they are placed face down to keep water from pooling. Any other small item that can fit should go in the top rack, but don’t overcrowd.

5. Loading the Cutlery Basket

When you load utensils into the cutlery basket, it is best to place them with the handle end facing down. This helps to ensure good water flow, but also exposes the soiled end to the water spray. Sharp knives or any other hazardous utensil can be loaded with the point down to prevent an injury when unloading.

It is best to separate the different types of cutlery to avoid nesting. Knives, spoons, and forks can be intermixed in the different compartments so that they are cleaned more thoroughly. If you fill your cutlery basket too full, the utensils may not have enough room to get cleaned thoroughly, so make sure to leave enough space between items and place the larger items on the top rack.

6. Know What Shouldn’t Go In Your Dishwasher

Because your dishwasher is so convenient, you want it to clean every dish that you own, but there are some that should not make it into the appliance. Some plastic containers cannot withstand the intense heat of a dishwasher and may melt, especially if placed on the lower rack.

Open Dishwasher

Check items that you are unsure about to see if they have a dishwasher-safe marking on the bottom. If you still are unsure, take the safe route and wash the items by hand. Any items that have wooden handles or other features should be washed by hand as well, since the dishwasher can cause the wood to crack or warp over time.

Other items that should stay out of your dishwasher include:

  • Fine china
  • Items with embellishments
  • Cast iron
  • Teflon
  • Insulated travel mugs

These items could end up damaged from the heat produced by your dishwasher, so take care to wash them separately.

Once your dishwasher is loaded correctly, you are ready to start a cycle. Keep in mind that you may have to figure out what works best for your particular model, but in general you should be able to enjoy some cleaner dishes with these tips in mind.

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Kara Zorn

Kara Zorn

Kara Zorn is a wife and working mom who loves life hacks that help her schedule allow for as much quality family time as possible. She enjoys cooking with locally sourced food and produce and recently took up brewing Kombucha.


  1. kerensa Baker (@kerensab) says:

    Or just use the sink.

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