The Definitive Guide to How to Load a Dishwasher

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Let’s face it, one of the things that the Internet is great for is research. We decided to showcase this today by writing a definitive article on how to load a dishwasher. This is for all those men and women who find themselves rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher after their spouse, or children, or significant other, has already loaded it. (Oh c’mon, you know you do it.)

Now, it’s easy enough to type “how to load a dishwasher” into Google, and come up with over a million results. Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray are just dying to tell you how to load your dishwasher, and you may want to take their advice. (Ms. Stewart says to “Stagger small plates with large ones,” and Ms. Ray says that “Small bowls should stand at attention” on the top rack.)


But we didn’t just want the advice of domestic divas, we wanted the skinny from techies, geeks, and academics. So we modified our search, including a search for “how to load a dishwasher” so as to pull up the academic sites.

And here is what we learned:

The Rochester Institute of Technology says that you should:

– Scrape off as much food from the surface of the dishes as possible.
– Place larger and dirtier items on the bottom rack.
– Place glasses, cups, and less soiled items on the top rack.
– Load plates and glasses so they aren’t touching each other.
– Put cutlery (forks, spoons, etc.) in the basket with the handles facing downwards. Put knives in the basket with the handles facing upward.

And the University of Nebraska at Lincoln reminds us that not only is dish placement important, but water temperature is a factor not to be overlooked:

“The temperature of the water is an important factor in dissolving detergent, removing food soils and drying dishes properly. To do these things most effectively, the water temperature at the dishwasher should not be lower than 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C). As temperature is reduced, the removal of greasy and oily soils becomes more difficult; spotting and filming on dishes may occur as well as improper drying.”

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The Definitive Guide to How to Load a Dishwasher

This said, the diva and ‘how-to’ sites do seem to agree on basic placement, so here it is, distilled from dozens of various site:

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1. Make sure to not block the spray arms!

2. Make sure that all dish surfaces to be cleaned are facing towards the center of the dishwasher.

3. Larger and more heavily soiled items should go in the bottom rack. If they are badly soiled (and if you have a two spray-arm washer, where the top shelf has its own spray arm) you can put them face down so that they get the full force of the sprayer. [And if your dishwasher doesn’t have a separate spray-arm for the top shelf, it’s time to get a new dishwasher.]

4. Glasses and smaller items should go on the top shelf, face down. Glasses should be between the tines (rods) that stick up, not over them.

5. Silverware and smaller serving utensils should go in the utensil basket pointing up. Sharp knives should go in pointing down (and good sharp knives shouldn’t go in the dishwasher at all). Be careful to mix it up with your forks and spoons and knives, so that the forks can’t next with each other, and the spoons can’t, well, spoon.

6. Plastic items should only go on the top shelf if you are going to use your dishwasher’s dryer setting, as that setting usually involves a hot coil at the bottom of the dishwasher.

Everything else after that is a matter of preference. We actually like Ms. Stewart’s suggestion to stagger small plates with large ones, and we already were putting our small bowls in the top shelf “at attention” as Ms. Ray suggestions.

So there you have it – how to load the dishwasher, courtesy of the Internet. However convincing your spouse that your way is the right way is up to you.

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The Definitive Guide to How to Load a Dishwasher

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1 Reply to “The Definitive Guide to How to Load a Dishwasher”

  1. Call me crazy, but I simply load the bloody thing according to the manufacturer’s (Maytag) directions in the owner’s manual?

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