How to Load a Dishwasher

Two Methods:Loading EffectivelyGetting the Most of your Dishwasher

Loading a dishwasher is not difficult, but loading it properly can help your dishes come out cleaner. It can also save energy and time.

Method 1
Loading Effectively

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    Insert the plates into the slots in the bottom section of the dishwasher. Face them toward the center and, if they lean at all, lean them inwards and downwards. This is because the tubes, jets and rotating devices spray water outward from the center; down and outward from the top; and, up and outward from the bottom of the dishwasher.
    • Try to keep all surfaces separated and accessible to the stream of water from the sprayers.
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    Place the cups, glasses, and bowls at an angle so that they get water from below but don't take up too much room. Stack the bowls neatly on an incline, so that the washing solution can reach inside the bowl and so that they will drain. This also allows you to fill in more space.
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    Place Tupperware and all other plastic items on the top rack. Because the heating element in most dishwashers is on the bottom, placing plastic items in the bottom rack could cause them to melt or warp.
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    Place the various pots and pans open-side down in the bottom section of the dishwasher.
    • Do not crowd or overload the dishwasher.
    • If necessary, hand wash large items or run the dishwasher a second time.
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    Load the cutlery basket handle-down, separating pieces as much as possible. Place knives, forks and spoons in the cutlery basket, handle down. In general, dangerous or sharp knives should be washed by hand, as they dull in the dishwasher. Any wood handled or wood utensils should not go in the dishwasher.
    • Distribute the cutlery loosely, and position the soiled surfaces of the spoons and forks apart so that the water can reach them. Separation is key.
    • Long pieces of cutlery can block the spray from tubes, nozzles and rotating devices. These items should be laid down in the upper basket.
    • Lay larger serving utensils in the top section of the dishwasher. Arrange serving spoons with the bowl facing down so that water does not collect in them.
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    Place cutting boards and large trays on the very outside of the bottom section of the dishwasher if they will not fit in the slots designated for plates. It may be better to just hand wash your cutting boards though as the heat from the dishwasher often warps cutting boards.
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    Use the plastic safety rack on the top shelf to hold wine glasses. If you have a plastic, mesh-like piece that folds up and down on the top rack, this is lightly meant to hold onto wine-glass stems. This is a great way to keep fragile pieces from getting scratched or cracked.
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    Check that spinning arms and rotating devices spin freely and that there is nothing obstructing tubes or sprayers before each run. Also, make sure that the detergent cups can open fully. If any of these things are obstructed or blocked, it will make it much harder to get a good wash.
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    Fill the soap container on the bottom section of the dishwasher or the dishwasher door with powdered dishwasher detergent. Fill to the designated line.If you use pellet-style detergent, simply use one pellet by placing it on the bottom edge of the dishwasher door before closing, Depending upon the temperature of the water and the length of the washing cycle, some of the wraps from the pellet bag may not completely dissolve which eventually plugs the drain. For this reason, some dishwasher manufacturers may not recommend the use of pelletized soap.
    • Fill the soap container on the door of the dishwasher first if you have two. It is timed to open after the dishwasher does some pre-rinsing to soften up the dirt on its own.
    • Only fill the second soap well if you have had issues with cleaning before, or you know a load is particularly dirty.

Method 2
Getting the Most of your Dishwasher

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    Scrape the large food items off of dishes and into the trash or garbage disposal. Remove things like bones, corncobs, seeds, and peelings, etc. Anything thick and caked on should be removed, but even smaller particles, like grains of rice, may or may not come off in your dishwasher. While you don't want to wash your dishes, wiping off with a dirty fork or napkin will lead to much better results later.
    • Pre-rinse, but only if it is necessary. Most dishwashers and dishwasher detergents actually do a better job if they have something to remove. If your dishes aren't coming out clean, though, it might be best to use a quick spritz of water before the food hardens onto the dishes.
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    Learn what foods generally come off and what does not as you use your dishwasher. Proteins such as eggs and cheese; cooked- or baked-on foods; and starches that have dried onto the dish often require extra attention. A light pre-wash and scrub can make your dishwasher much more effective. You could also soak the plates in the sink before starting the dishwasher.
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    Use a rinse agent, or a "pre-wash" fluid to prevent water streaks and get shinier dishes. This will help to reduce water spots, especially if you have hard water. The rinse aid may not need refilling every time you run the dishwasher, but do top it off every couple of weeks to a month, or according to the instruction manual.
    • You can replace commercial rinse aid with white vinegar in a pinch, with little difference in quality.
    • Some dishwasher detergent has rinse aid in it. Read the label.
    • If you have a water softener, or if your water is reasonably soft to begin with, you may find that rinse aid is unnecessary.
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    Run the garbage disposal before running your dishwasher. Dishwashers often drain into the same pipe as the sink, so it's important that the pipe is clear. If you don't have a garbage disposal, use a strainer in the sink drain to stop crumbs and debris from accumulating in the pipe.
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    Know that you can use cold water if your detergent is "Phosphate free."' Modern dishwashing detergent actually eliminated dangerous phosphates, replacing them with enzymes that react at any water temperature. This saves you energy and money.
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    Run hot water into your sink until the water coming out of the tap is hot before starting the dishwasher. Dishwashers can heat up the water somewhat, but they usually work best when the water starts hot. If water is scarce, run the water into a container and use it to water plants or other purposes.
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    Don't overcrowd the dishwasher, as it traps food on your dishes. You should never be stacking things, or forcing everything into weird angles. Load the dishwasher up so that it is snugly packed, but not terribly crowded. Note any issues if you end up with a "bad wash." Did you overcrowd the trays and prevent anything from getting the best clean?


  • Run full loads. Running a full load in your dishwasher can save water compared to washing dishes by hand, especially if you don't overdo it on the pre-rinsing.
  • Store powdered detergents in a dry place until they are ready for use.
  • For energy efficiency run the shortest cycle that effectively cleans your dishes. "Pot-scrubber" and heavy-duty cycles need only be used with the dirtiest dish loads. Run full (but not over-full) loads.
  • Load the dishwasher as you go. Get in the habit of setting your dish down in the dishwasher, instead of the sink.
  • Choose the air dry cycle to save energy. If your dishes aren't perfectly dry at the end of the cycle, leave the door open or partly open for a while before you unload.
  • Some dishwasher models don't have sprayers or arms under the top rack. If your dishwasher doesn't seem to get the inside of your glasses and other items on the top rack clean, see if large items in the lower rack are blocking most the water from the arm under the bottom rack. Water goes through the plates much easier than a large pot or bowl.
  • Make sure your water starts hot enough if using hot water. Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120F. [1].


  • Hand wash wood items and ones with wood handles.
  • Do not fill the soap container past the designated line.
  • Do not place items larger than the height of the bottom section into the dishwasher. This will cause difficulties in opening the dishwasher when the washing is finished.
  • Avoid putting aluminum, silver, silver plates, and other reactive metals in the dishwasher. Their finish will corrode and tarnish.
  • Only use dishwasher detergent in the dishwasher. Do not use dishwashing soap or dishwashing liquid.
  • Consider hand washing delicate crystal and wine glasses. If you do put them in the dishwasher, be sure they are placed so that they cannot rattle against other dishes or glass as they tend to break.

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Categories: Dish Washing and Dishwashers