Want to know how to load a dishwasher, you know the proper way? Then read on to discover the secrets to loading a dishwasher correctly and efficiently, from your silverware to your glasses.
I come from a family of five kids, and we all took turns loading and unloading the dishwasher. Whatever didn’t fit in the dishwasher had to be washed by hand, so you better believe my siblings and I got super creative when it came to loading it.
My mom was always a fan of the “pre-rinse” of the dishes, so even though we crammed every last plate and bowl into that thing, they usually came out pretty clean. My mom always bought the most economical dishwashing detergent, and it seemed to get the job done.
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When my husband and I moved into our new home 2 ½ years ago and ran our dishwasher for the first time, the dishes did NOT come out clean. They were covered in hard water stains and had a filthy grime all over them.
We tried pre-rinsing, we tried a rinse agent, and we went through probably 10 different kinds of dishwashing detergent. Finally, I bit the bullet and bought the expensive stuff: Cascade Platinum. I didn’t like spending so much on a dishwashing detergent, but I thought, “It’s so expensive, it HAS to work, right?”
It did! I’m going to get on my “soap” box for a minute here, ok guys?
Ever since I started using Cascade Platinum, all of my dishes come out sparkling clean with no water spots, which is a huge bonus since I don’t have time during the day to re-wash all the plates, bowls, and silverware that should have been washed the first time around by the dishwasher.
But, hey, you can go ahead and try some homemade dishwasher detergent still!
However, it’s often not enough to have a great dishwashing detergent. I want to help you get the most out of your dishwasher by going over some dishwasher no-no’s and gender loading dishwasher tips so you can get your plates and cutlery clean the first time.
Most of us lead busy lives, and we don’t want to spend half our day washing dishes!
What NOT to Put in the Dishwasher
Ok, let’s talk first about what not to put in your dishwasher. Just because it’s a kitchen item doesn’t mean it’s dishwasher friendly!
According to Good Housekeeping, the following items are what not to put in dishwashers:
- Most skillets, pots, and pans (this includes ones made out of copper, aluminum, or cast-iron)
- Wooden utensils
- Wooden cutting boards
- Fancy or expensive china
- Your nice chef knives
- Some kids plates, bowls and cups: these are often made out of super cheap plastic, and they can melt in the dishwasher. Make sure they say “dishwasher safe” if you don’t want a puddle of plastic goo in the middle of your appliance.
- Pressure cooker lids
- Insulated travel mugs
- Dishes with huge chunks of food still on them (gross! You’d just have to clean inside your dishwasher later!)
- Jelly jars with paper labels still on them
However, I know from experience that you CAN run some plastic toothbrushes through the dishwasher, you can run your sponges through the dishwasher to disinfect them, and your dishwasher can also clean some kids’ bibs (among other things).
Best thing to do if you don’t know if an item is dishwasher safe? Read the label, of course!
Dishwasher Safe Symbols
Obviously, you shouldn’t put items in a dishwasher that aren’t “dishwasher safe.” But it can be hard to know how to tell if plastic is dishwasher safe, or perhaps if it is “dishwasher safe top rack only”.
But, really, what does top rack dishwasher safe mean anyway?
The reality is that, with the exception of newer high-end dishwashers, the vast majority of dishwashers have an exposed heating element in the bottom of them. This heats up during the drying phase of a dishwashing cycle and can get hot enough to melt or warp things like plastics and other materials, thus plastics are often advised to be put on the top rack ONLY.
Many plastic and kitchen items come in packages that share whether or not they are dishwasher safe or come with a little instruction book when you first buy them. Read them and remember what it says! Otherwise, many plastics and other kitchen utensils have one (or a variant) of the following dishwasher-safe symbol on them:
How to Load a Dishwasher
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about best practices for loading dishwashers.
How to Properly Load a Dishwasher (Per Your Model)
People often wonder what the best way to load a dishwasher for their specific dishwasher as every dishwasher model is slightly different.
Thankfully, most dishwasher manuals are now available online through the manufacturer in case you lost your original manual, are renting your home, or bought your dishwasher used.
For example, if you want to know how to load a GE dishwasher, the GE dishwasher owner’s manual (like the one that came with our dishwasher) can also be found on the GE website and typing in the model number:
Once you enter your model number, you have access to the:
In this case, the Use and Care Manual contains several pages of useful information about running the dishwasher, and a page of pictures of the proper way to load a dishwasher:
Your dishwasher may not be GE, so here are links to the other major dishwasher makers:
- How to load a Bosch dishwasher
- How to load a Kenmore dishwasher
- How to load a KitchenAid dishwasher
- How to load a Whirlpool dishwasher
- How to load LG dishwasher
Rinsing Dishes Before Dishwasher
Many people rinse their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, but is it necessary?
The reason is simple – your dishes need to be dirty for your dishwasher detergent to work. The enzymes in the detergent attach to food particles, so there needs to be some food there to attach to! Basically, your detergent might rinse away before it has time to do anything if your dishes are gunk-free.
You won’t get your dishes any cleaner if you rinse or hand-wash them before you put them in the machine.
Today’s new-fangled dishwashers are savvier than what grandma might have owned. They have advanced sprayer technology and sensors that detect how dirty your dishes are. And research proves that your extra rinsing efforts don’t help your dishes get any cleaner than your hard-working dishwasher alone.
You can waste a lot of water by pre-rinsing dishes, so try to avoid the old habit and save the planet at the same time by simply scraping food and trash off instead of rinsing it before it goes in the dishwasher.
Although, I will say, the cheapest of dishwashers may still require you to rinse your dishes as they are more “sanitizers” than cleaning machines (from my experience living in apartments).
Loading a Dishwasher
When it comes to loading a dishwasher, dishes should be cleared of large pieces of food or debris before loading.
Make sure dishes do not:
- touch or interfere with wash arms
- prevent the dishwasher from closing properly
- face upward
Make sure dishes are:
- between the tines
- facing down or sideways and toward the center
- scraped of major food particles but not rinsed
Best Way to Load Silverware in Dishwasher
The silverware basket is there for a reason. That’s where the silverware goes!
Don’t load your silverware haphazardly all over the place. Put it in the silverware basket and be sure any large chunks of food are removed before washing (like between fork prongs).
Make sure spoons are not spooning each other (ha) and that there is adequate space between all utensils so that they are cleaned on every side properly.
Long spatulas and utensils should lay down in the top rack because they’ll block the hot water if you try to stick them in the basket.
As for the correct way to load silverware in the dishwasher… well, there’s still some debate on this.
I personally load all of my silverware with the handle down. I used to load it handle up, and it would drive my husband crazy. He showed me that you lose a lot of room in the silverware basket if you load it with the handle up.
There is no hard and fast rule one way or the other, but this article on NBC News sheds some light:
“Almost all dishwasher manuals, manufacturers’ websites and company spokespeople agree on one thing. Load knives with blades down to avoid injury. As the GE appliances website says, handles up and blades down “protect(s) hands.” Representatives of LG and Bosch also told NBC News knife handles should be handles up and blades down to prevent cuts.
But manufacturers aren’t unanimous about forks. LG and Bosch suggest forks down for safety. But Kenmore manuals say forks up for best results, while GE is neutral. (The GE manual says forks down, but the company’s marketing manager said it was up to the consumer.)”
So, if you think you’ll hurt yourself pulling the silverware out with the butter knives facing up, then put them facing down. Just be smart and don’t hurt yourself. There’s no need to get blood all over those clean dishes!
How to Load Glasses in a Dishwasher
Glasses and cups should mostly go in the top rack of your dishwasher, though I place an occasional cup or two on the bottom rack if there’s some extra room.
The open part should face toward the bottom of the dishwasher as to not collect dirty water during the wash and have a better chance of coming out spotless. Be sure to load glasses in a dishwasher at an angle so they’ll get adequate water flow and take up less room.
I like to make homemade salsa and dressings, so I often run empty glass mason jars through the dishwasher as well as our traditional water glasses. I also run the Camelbak water bottles through the dishwasher every now and then.
Be sure if you’re going to put any kind of water bottle through the dishwasher that it is marked as dishwasher safe and to disassemble it properly first. Some parts are still best washed by hands (like straws).
How to Load Detergent in Dishwasher
Most dishwashers come with a very specific dishwashing detergent cup where the detergent is supposed to go. It’s usually located somewhere on the inside of the door of the dishwasher, like this:
Make sure you fill it up completely and that the top of the cup locks in place. There is a second spot in some dishwashers where you can add a little extra detergent or a designated spot for a rinse-aid. If you’re not sure which is which, check your dishwasher manual.
I like to use the Cascade Platinum “action pacs” so I don’t overfill the cup or have to worry about the amount. Just make sure you keep these in a high place where kids can’t reach, because they look almost like candy, and kids can be poisoned from eating them.
A Few More Dishwasher Loading Tips
It is recommended that you run the garbage disposal before you start your dishwasher, as the sink drain often uses the same pipe as your dishwasher.
Also, if you really want, you can use cold water if your detergent is “phosphate free” which most modern dishwashing detergents are as they use enzymes instead which react at any water temperature. This tip can save you time and money!
This handy-dandy tip sheet came with my dishwasher, and I thought I’d share it with you:
I hope these dishwasher loading tips help you get the most out of your appliance and that you can avoid annoying hand washing as much as possible!