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The Best Way to Load a Dishwasher

Updated on January 26, 2014

Dishwasher - The Kitchen's Best Friend

Loading Like a Pro

How can I load a dishwasher like a pro? Now that my husband spends more time at home, he has forgotten that for years I loaded the dishwasher and the dishes washed just fine. I do admit that he loads a dishwasher in a way that could be featured on a commercial, but he also has to do, or chooses to do more hand washing. If a dish is marked as dishwasher safe it is can be loaded in many ways. To maximize cleaning and maximize the load capacity of the machine, it is very important to be as organized as possible.

Dish Placement

Load utensils with knives blades down and spoon and forks up. The newest information states that the basket openings should let the water in to clean either way, so with small utensils you have a choice, but the up position allows for food to be completely washed away. Large knives and ladles can be positioned safely in the top rack by laying the sharp edges down being sure to secure them between upright tongs. Put large cookies sheets and cutting sheets (not to be confused with cutting boards) furthest from the center.

Some people prefer to hand wash bakeware that is insulated and has more than one layer in its construction which will keep water from seeping in cracks. Certain high-end cookware cannot be washed without discoloring the pans. Be sure to read the cleaning instructions. Of course, if the cook is trying to season the pan, it should be kept away from the dishwasher completely. If washing high end china, hand wash unless the dishes are completely white, and the instructions verify that it’s OK.

Top Loading and Detergent

  • Plates go on either side of the spray arm facing the center. Small plates will go in the back allowing for the maximum cleaning surface depending on how the spray arm circulates the water. There is an upper spray arm too, which takes care of the glasses and cups.
  • Glasses and cups go bowl down in between the side of the basket and the upright tong. This will keep the cups and glasses from turning over. Do not place them over the tongs. Wine glasses, if they are small, can be placed in the same position as the glasses. Do not lay wine glasses down as the water will pool in them after the rinse. Large wine glasses will have to be washed by hand.

What detergent should I use?

The new all in one dishwasher detergent with built in rinse agent are a great choice. They work well and the rinse product is always on hand. Unless the dishwasher is extremely old, you shouldn’t have to pre-rinse before you load the dishwasher. If you don’t overload the dishwasher, most items should come out shiny and clean. Do not put liquid detergent not meant for dishwashers in the machine as a substitute. This is a mess waiting to happen.

Food Breakdown

  • Newer dishwashers can break down food. There are several ways this is done. One is breaking the food down with a high pressure water spray that causes the food to disintegrate.
  • Some machines have a mechanism to grind the food, and the particles are washed away with the dirty water. Either way, clean off the filter by wiping it with a paper towel. It is advisable to occasionally put the dishwasher in a wash cycle with a small amount of white vinegar that is poured in the bottom. This helps to clean not only the dishwasher, but to clear out the filter. If you decide to use vinegar make sure there is nothing metallic in the machine. It will change the color.

Efficiency and Noise Level

Remember that the dishwasher does use less water, so even if you have to collect dishes in the washer for most of the day, it will pay in the long run. With new engineering of dishwashers, and the new detergents which get better all the time, the dishwasher is the best bet.

Thinking about buying your first dishwasher? Consider high-end, if noise level is a problem. They are so quiet. If the TV room, or gathering area for company is near, you might want to save a little longer and purchase the dishwasher that won’t leave you yelling at everyone in the room. Researching the decibel ratings on various models might make the decision much easier.

Stainless Steel Dishwashers

Stainless dishwashers are quiet, sanitary, and long lasting. Shop around, talk to friends, and listen to the noise level of the dishwasher at your friends' homes to know what you want. It is important to pick a dishwasher at the highest end if you plan on staying in your present home, but if this is a first home, a medium range dishwasher might work for you.


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