How to Properly Load a Dishwasher

Okay–this is a regularly occurring “discussion” in my house and I’d like to publicly declare that neither one of us, at this point in life, knew how to properly load a dishwasher–until now. I must say, I am fairly gobsmacked and that doesn’t happen very often.

Yes, my friend…there is a right way and there is a wrong way. And no, your way is likely not the right way and your spouse’s way isn’t either. Chances are high, your way is likely as incorrect as mine was, too.

If you’d like to keep score, each correct answer is worth 5 points, each incorrect answer is worth -5 points.

So let’s get right to it, shall we?

Remember, we have two racks, top and bottom, and a basket for your silverware–not silver, silverware, your everyday silverware, cutlery, or whatever you want to call it.

We will start with the silverware basket. Knives go in blade down always–it’s a safety thing. But the spoons and forks go up AND down. That’s right, like carousel horses–one up, one down, spoons and forks. This way, according to Consumer Reports, you’ll get better distribution of the water making for cleaner cutlery.

How’d you do with that one?  

5 points for getting the knives correct. And give yourself another 5 points if you knew to alternately put the forks and spoons up and down.

Next up is the bottom rack.

The bottom rack is for dishes, bowls, and serving pieces like larger plates only, so take 5 points off if you put cups or glasses on the bottom racks.

If you understand how an old-fashioned sprinkler works, that is the same idea with a dishwasher–the arms rotate giving your dishes a nice even spray and the middle has a large sprayer that comes right up the middle to add to the cleaning.

Therefore, plates should all be facing the middle sprayer that pops up–on the left side of the rack, load the dishes facing the middle (the front of the plate should be facing left), and on the right side of the rack, load the dishes facing the middle as well (the front of the plate should be facing right). It should look like this: (((((II)))))

Did you get that fancy “drawing”? The II is the middle sprayer while the (((( are plates facing the middle and the )))) are also plates facing the middle.

I’d bet big time on you not knowing that. And if I were in Vegas I would make money off that bet. Am I right? Yeah, more points are being taken away…

Bowls without an edge on them can be loaded on top or bottom, while dishes need to stay strictly on the bottom rack; likewise glasses and cups on the top only.

At this point, you’ve probably stopped keeping score. I get it–I’m humbled too.

Moving on…

Serving pieces or casserole dishes should be placed on the bottom and slightly tilted to get the spray distribution, but definitely not lying down fully. So like downward dog, not child’s pose if you’re into yoga. Or if you play dominos, like a falling domino caught in a photo: you need the angle.

Larger cooking utensils like spatulas and spoons are all top-rack-worthy–but not wooden spoons or your precious chef’s knife. Let’s give those babies a hand wash.

Glasses and cups should fit within the tines (those are what the “spikes” are called on the top rack). That way they are stabilized when the water comes spraying.

And there you have it–how to load a dishwasher from the makers of actual dishwashers!

But before we’re done here, there are a few things you need to know–like how to CLEAN your dishwasher!

That’s right, dishwashers can be gross!

Did you know your dishwasher can get mold, needs to have the seals cleaned and they have gunk traps that get full of…gunk?

Yep! Let’s tackle each one of these issues:

  1. Mold happens when moisture doesn’t have a place to go. Open the dishwasher and let it air out after a load. This works really well when the dishes are still warm. I just wedge a rolled-up dish towel in between the door and dishwasher and that works well.
  2. The seals around the door can get yucky. Wipe them down with some white vinegar periodically.
  3. The gunk trap! YUCK! Clean that out! You need to pull out the bottom rack to get to it, it’s usually right there in the middle with gunk all over it and needs a little TLC. Take it out, dump the gunk then give it a nice hot soapy washing in your sink with a scrubby.

And one more thing–give your dishwasher a cleaning. Throw 1 cup of white vinegar in the dishwasher, wash it on the full cycle with the hottest water and then open it up to air dry. You should have a clean and shiny dishwasher that makes you proud to be its owner!

NOW–don’t throw in the dishtowel when I tell you this but…



And that one my friends made me upset!

“NO, you’re wrong!” I yelled at Consumer Reports. Then I was hollering again at YouTube and then again at 5 other articles I read from Professor Google when I was researching this important report.

I was bereft. Emotionally exhausted even.

But it’s true my fellow fanatical rinser–there is no need to rinse, just scrape the big chunks off and let the dishwasher do its thing. The only time you shouldn’t do that is if you’re not going to run the dishwasher for a few days and then the dirty plate will stink which will result in a stinky dishwasher and your kitchen as well.

GROSS. In that case, please rinse your plates–but only for the sake of the smell–you honestly don’t need to rinse before loading otherwise, sigh.

Now–let’s do a little troubleshooting.

If your dishes aren’t getting clean enough, you’ve loaded the dishwasher correctly, you’ve given Old Faithful a good cleaning and still, you have dishes that are just this side of the dog licking them clean, then it’s time to look at your dishwashing soap.

And yes, powders, tabs, and gels are about equal in their cleaning power. However, Consumer Reports loves them some pods when it comes to superior cleaning. Personally, I haven’t found that to be true, but I am a mere reporter, bound by my duty to report. Pods are apparently the bomb dot com or so says Consumer Reports.

Another reason your dishes aren’t getting cleaned? You filled that thing up like it was Thanksgiving. Too many cooks spoil the broth as the saying goes, when it comes to cooking in the kitchen–the same holds true for dishwashers. Too many dishes is too many dishes. Remember, the sprayer needs to be able to distribute the water and it can’t if you’ve crammed them in there like your toes in a pair of shoes that are too small (but they were on sale so…). Either break up your load or do some dishes by hand.

Lastly, the third reason your dishes may not be getting clean is that your water just isn’t hot enough. Dishwasher soap and dishwashers themselves, require high-temperature water to make the magic happen while you’re doing other more important things, like hanging out with your family. So double-check the dishwasher’s water temp!

I hope we’re still friends after I told you all these big ugly secrets about your dishwasher. I just had to–someone had to, it might as well be me.

Love you, mean it. xo

One Response

  1. I stopped using pods when the repairman had to put a new motor in my dishwasher. The pods are supposed to melt away, but he told me that where they heat seal them, it doesn’t melt. Then, he took the sprayer out and showed me that it was clogged up with little pieces of plastic. That motor had to work so hard to get water out that it burned up. He recommended liquid dishwasher soap, so no more pods for me!

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