No doubt about it, there are definitely two different camps on how to put your silverware into the dishwasher. It’s almost as controversial as toilet paper over or under—a debate we also solved!
One position is the one that Leslie Reichert, The Cleaning Coach, grew up with. “My mother insisted that the silverware was put in handles down so that when the utensils were rinsed and dried, the drops would roll down to the handles, and not leave spots on the food surfaces of the silverware,” she says. As for sharp knives? She put those facing downward, Reichert says. The opposing argument is to load silverware with handles facing up so you can put them away without getting germs from your hands on the eating surfaces of the silverware.
Most major dishwasher manufacturers agree on one thing: Load knives with the blades down and the handle sticking up for safety’s sake. According to Tod Colbert, founder of Wisconsin contractor and remodeler Weather Tight, the proper way to load silverware utensils is in the basket “with the handles up to, most importantly, protect one’s hands,” he told RD.com. In particular, he recommends keeping knife blades down—not just because they’re sharp, but because keeping the blades down will keep them sharper longer. “The dishwasher has been known damage knives, so it might be best to hand-wash your really good/sharp ones,” he suggests. Your best knives are some of the things you should never put in the dishwasher to start with.
Now, Reichert agrees with major dishwasher manufacturers about placing silverware handles in the up position. “I also recommend this if you are having your children learn to empty the dishwasher, or you really want to avoid transferring germs from your hands to the eating surfaces of your silverware,” she says. So there you have your answer: The experts agree, handles up! (This is how to clean out a moldy dishwasher.)
Reichert and Colbert also agree about another tip for putting silverware in the dishwasher: Don’t group cutlery of the same type together. As Colbert explains, “Separating silverware so that forks, knives, and spoons are mixed and evenly distributed allows the water to pass through each utensil more easily, resulting in a cleaner result.” Haven’t been doing that? It could be just one of the ways you’re loading the dishwasher wrong.