Ilya Platonov/ShutterstockYou never realize how vital your dishwasher is until the day it stops working, but learning to load it properly goes a long way toward keeping it running smoothly—and making your dishes sparkle. Let’s walk through the basics to make sure your dishes come out spotless and your machine stays running a long time. Think you’re already a dishwasher-loading pro? Here are more ways to make any dishwasher work better.
Start by reading the directions
Alfa Photostudio/ShutterstockEven the best dishwasher won’t perform at its peak when you don’t load it properly. Your first clue is contained right in your owner’s manual! Whenever you buy a new dishwasher, save the manual and check for any special instructions on how to load it. If your appliance isn’t new, dig out that manual or look it up on the Internet. Then follow those directions! Avoid these common mistakes that people always make when loading their dishwasher.
You don’t have to pre-rinse
Consumer Reports went to the trouble of slathering plates, cups, and silverware with an “imposing mix of peanut butter, egg yolk, and other gooey stuff,” and let it sit overnight to test whether or not to pre-rinse. What they found is that although pre-rinsing isn’t necessary with most modern dishwashers, it’s best to scrape big chunks of leftover food before loading. Check out these 15 surprising things you never knew you could clean in a dishwasher while you're at it.
Know what the top and bottom racks are for
Ilya Platonov/ShutterstockUse the top rack for concave items such as bowls, mugs, and glasses, as well as large silverware and utensils. The top rack is also where you should place dishwasher-safe plastics, to prevent them from warping. The bottom rack is for plates and platters and eating utensils (assuming your cutlery basket is on the bottom). Make sure you never, ever put these things in the dishwasher.
Load the bottom rack so water can flow to the top
VSamarkina/ShutterstockArrange your plates and platters vertically, and stagger large and small pieces so that they don’t block the water or the detergent from getting through to the top rack. Oversized items, such as dishwasher-safe cutting boards, should go along the perimeter of the bottom rack for the same reason. Don't miss these 15 things you never knew your dishwasher could do, either.
Load the top rack so water hits the inside of your bowls
Di Studio/ShutterstockAngle bowls so they all face center and make sure not to overcrowd, which increases the risk of breakage and impedes the flow of water and detergent. Be sure to place glasses and mugs between the tines, rather than on them. Dishwasher-safe plastics also belong on the top rack, away from the heating element to prevent warping. Lay large silverware items and utensils horizontally, and make sure that long-handled utensils are secure in their places so they don’t fall through and prevent the spray arm from rotating. Found a spot on your glassware? Eek! Here’s how to polish glasses to impress everyone at your next dinner party.
Arrange your cutlery basket
Markik/ShutterstockLoad forks and spoons with the handles facing down, but knives with their handles up (safety first!). Mix your cutlery up to prevent them from nesting together. Oh! Please consider not placing your prized kitchen knives in the dishwasher at all. They prefer to be washed by hand!
After you load it properly…
OllyPlu/ShutterstockEven a well-loaded dishwasher won’t perform well when it’s being fed cold water. To prevent this from happening, run your kitchen sink until the water gets hot. Keep your rinse-aid dispenser filled to make sure everything dries streak-free, too. So next time your family breaks out into one of those “how to load the dishwasher” debates, you’ll be ready to chime in! Psst... don’t forget to clean your dishwasher now and then. Here’s how to give your dishwasher TLC in five easy steps.