How to load a dishwasher (properly)

How to load a dishwasher (properly)
(Image credit: Getty)

Everyone knows how to load a dishwasher, right? Well, if your home is a place for arguing about who stacks it best, it’s time to put that debate to rest. 

When buying a new appliance, most of us are generally happy to spend some time looking into the best dishwashers and best countertop dishwashers for our needs. If you’re not stacking your new dishwasher properly, though, it won’t be delivering the best results.

Everyone has their own favorite way of loading a dishwasher. Forks up or down? Plates facing in or out? Help is at hand with our definitive guide, designed to help you get an optimum clean from your dishwasher.  

How to load a dishwasher to fit the most in

If you have a large household and need to run the dishwasher frequently, it can be tempting to cram as much in as possible. If there isn’t a gap between the items, they won’t clean thoroughly as the spray jets won’t reach them properly. You also need to make sure that nothing is blocking the spray arms, which need to rotate freely – keep an eye out for pan handles or long spoons protruding below the rack. While we are on the subject, long items like knives or serving spoons are best off lying down on the top rack where they can’t fall through and block drains. 

Start by placing in the largest items, such as dishwasher-safe pans and plastic cutting boards, at the back of the bottom rack. Putting larger items at the front can stop detergent from reaching the back properly. Items that require more cleaning, such as cookware, should also go on the bottom rack where the water pressure is strongest. Anything made of dishwasher-proof plastic should go on the top rack where the temperatures are lower. Stack plates vertically, and put large bowls and pans face down or at an angle. 

How to stack glasses in the dishwasher so they don’t topple

Most modern dishwashers have wine glass holders, which flip down when not in use. Place long-stemmed glasses so they are held securely in these special racks. If you have more wine glasses than space, resist the temptation to stack them elsewhere as they will probably fall over – just leave them for the next cycle. Shorter glasses like tumblers should be placed over the tines of the top rack so they are securely held in place. 

How to load a dishwasher (properly)

(Image credit: Getty)

Why you shouldn’t over-organize your cutlery drawer

Being organized may seem like a good thing, but it is possible to go too far in your quest to be neat! Grouping all the same types of cutlery together and having it all facing the same way may seem like a good idea for quick unloading, but it can actually result in a worse clean. Spoons especially tend to ‘nest’ inside each other so water jets can’t reach between them. Mix up cutlery and make sure some is facing up and some down so that you have a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Which way should your plates and bowls face in the dishwasher?

Finally, a question with a simple answer! The spray jets are located in the middle of the dishwasher, and you want the area to be cleaned to face the sprays. Plates and bowls should, therefore, face inwards, towards the middle.  

Bowls can be one of the trickiest things to fit into a dishwasher, as their concave shape makes them difficult to stack. Large items, such as serving or pasta bowls, should be placed at the back of the bottom rack. Positioning them at an angle will help detergent reach the insides. Small bowls, such as those used for nibbles and tapas, should be placed upside down on the top rack.

How to load a dishwasher (properly)

(Image credit: Getty)

Which detergent should you use in your dishwasher?

If you have run out of dishwasher detergent, it may be tempting to use a little dish soap – after all, they do the same thing, right? This is a bad idea, as while they are both detergents, they work very differently. Dishwasher detergent does not produce suds while it cleans, so it is designed for use in an enclosed space. Putting ordinary dish soap in will produce a lot of suds that cannot escape – except by seeping through the door and onto your floor! If you do accidentally get your soap mixed up, then you will have to clean the dishwasher before you can use it again. Scoop out as much of the suds as you can by hand, wipe it all out with a damp cloth, and then run the machine empty on a hot cycle. 

Looking after your dishwasher

After cleaning all your dirty dishes month after month, your machine will be grateful for a little care and attention to keep it running smoothly. When you stack your dirty plates, scrape off any leftovers into the bin so they don’t clog the drain. Every so often, treat your dishwasher to a hot cycle and a pack of dishwasher cleaner, which will help to remove any buildup of fat or acid. Wipe around the door seal regularly and check the bottom of the dishwasher for anything that might get stuck in the drain or block the rotor arms. 

If you take care of your machine and stack it correctly, it will continue to deliver a sparkling performance time after time.  

Sara Walker

Sara is an experienced magazine journalist and commercial copywriter. Writing helpful home-related content for Top Ten Reviews, Sara splits her time between the UK and France, alongside her Springer Spaniel.