How to Load a Dishwasher

How to load a dishwasher – a boring job that’s done most every day (well, more or less, depending upon the size of ones household). The process sounds simple enough, yet there are things to consider in the proper loading of a dishwasher that can make large differences in the outcome of the plates and silverware that are being put through the cleaning process. If using electricity (or gas), why not get the very best cleaning possible during the time that the machine is running?

Below are our tips on how to load to a dishwasher so that it can do its best possible job of cleaning.

how to load a dishwasher

How to Load a Dishwasher

Tips to Properly Load a Dishwasher


One of the biggest controversies is the question of whether to load the silverware handle up or handle down.
Most manufactures of dishwashers agree that the best way to load the dishwasher silverware tray is to leave the eating ends of the utensils pointing upward. This allows the water and detergent easy access to the most important part of the silverware, the part that enters the mouth. The controversy that arises with this arrangement is that someones fingers will then be pressed all over the eating end of the silverware after it has been cleaned. Good argument, to which we respond the same as to many other arguments – “wash your hands first!”.

Don’t load sharp knives into the dishwasher.
The exception to loading silverware would be sharp knives, they should go point down to prevent accidental cuts if you insist on taking this shortcut to washing them by hand. But… don’t put them in there in the first place! Washing sharp knives in the dishwasher isn’t good for the dishwasher or the knife. Sharp knives will cut away at the plastic silverware bin and either break it or expose the metal within which will then rust. As far as the welfare of the sharp knives, the water force dulls them as it pushes them into other silverware and the basket. Also, some handles will age and wear much more rapidly with this abuse.

Other items that should skip the dishwasher are wooden utensils, wood cutting boards, cast iron pans, copper pots, copper mugs, hand painted dishes, vintage dishes, insulated travel mugs and disposable plastics.

Top Rack:

Bowls should be loaded on the top rack of the dishwasher.
If they are loaded on the bottom of the dishwasher, they can capture the water and prevent it from reaching the glasses located on the top rack of the dishwasher.

Glasses should be loaded on the top rack where the pegs can keep them stable.
Glasses on the bottom rack can shake around during the washing cycle and then break when they collide with nearby plates.

Plastics should only be loaded into the top rack of a dishwasher.
The bottom of a dishwasher gets hot enough to melt many plastics which is not good for the object or the dishwasher. Wedge plastic pieces between glass pieces to keep them from flipping over when the water starts up. Beware that some plastics will even melt on the top shelf (they should be labeled “hand wash only” or at least be missing the “dishwasher safe” label on the bottom.


Use the prongs.
All those prongs were put there for purpose, be sure to use them as intended.

Don’t overload a dishwasher.
Crowding won’t save anything as you’ll just end up washing many of the items again because they won’t get clean if water can’t run freely all around and between them.

If you’ve loaded any tall items into the dishwasher, be sure to give the spray arms a turn to be sure that they won’t be blocked from spinning around when started.


Should you rinse the dishes first?
Dishwashers are designed to rinse food residue from plates, so they need some there to do their job. The best solution is to keep a spatula near the dishwasher and scrape plates before putting them into the dishwasher. Then, just add the spatula to the top rack of the washer when loading. The water will break down any remaining food residue and if not, then the food grinder will catch it.

The dirty water then passes through a filter, which should be cleaned from time to time (it’s part of a regular dishwasher maintenance program – see the owners manual). If this filter is not cleaned, the dishwasher will start to smell and food specks will remain on the dishes after a cycle making them feel rough.

How to Load a Dishwasher

Additional Info

Since each model of dishwasher is different, they all have specific loading instructions which can be found in the owners manual. If yours is missing, try downloading it from the manufacturer’s website.

Another item worth mentioning here is to watch for damage to the gasket (that long piece of black rubber that runs around the inside front perimeter of the dishwasher) that can possibly occur with un-careful loading of a dishwasher. If the gasket gets punctured, torn or otherwise damaged then the dishwasher will not seal properly and may leak. A new gasket can be ordered from the manufacturer if this ever happens and it’s pretty easy to slip a new one into place.

Before calling a repair man for your dishwasher, or other appliances, check out our posts on other simple fixes to large appliances and small kitchen appliances.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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