How to Load A Dishwasher

How to Load A Dishwasher

Dishwashers do an excellent job at cleaning dishes and they save energy and time that would have been used to wash dishes manually. As a result, they are one of the best-priced kitchen appliances in the world today. Notwithstanding, you have to know how to load a dishwasher so that it can function maximally.

How to Load  a Dishwasher
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A dishwasher loaded the right way does a perfect cleaning of all grimy kitchen utensils. This leaves a spotless, sparkling-clean look after the wash cycle.

It can be frustrating to find left-over stains and food particles on dishes at the end of a wash cycle. That is a waste of precious time and other resources.

It is important we properly load our dishwashers. That way we not only assist them in doing their job right, but we also prolong their lifespan.

Of course, we all desire great value for money spent on buying the dishwasher; that is not too much to ask, is it?

That said, we are going to look at tips on how to load a dishwasher, common mistakes to avoid when you want to load a dishwasher, how to maintain your dishwasher and put it to good use.

If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here.

How To Load A Dishwasher – The Right Way

The proper way to load the dishwasher is to have dishwares with baked-on food items placed at the lowest rack of the dishwasher. Place the dishes faced down facing the water spray arms. Wash aluminum and stainless steel only on the top rack of the dishwasher.

Place spoons and knives with the handles facing up, so you do not have to pick up the sharp edges. Never wash gold-trimmed dishes in the washing machine. The gold trim will turn into flakes and will be washed away.

Although different dishwashers model come with different designs and features, a dishwasher primarily has two components – the upper or top rack and the lower or bottom rack. 

These racks are specially meant for specific kitchen utensils, dish or cookware. Here is a guide to loading dishwashers below.

Video: How to Load a Dishwasher Correctly

This video will show you all you need to know about loading your dishwasher.

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Upper Rack

These items are good for the top rack: cups, big kitchen utensils, small plates, plastic lids, small bowls, plastic containers, mugs, drinking glasses, and other stemware.

Put cups, water bottles, and mugs topsy-turvy by the side of the upper or top rack.

Place small plates and bowls in between tines in a manner that they face down towards the middle of the appliance where they will be sprayed directly.

Put dishwasher-safe plastic lids, small bowls, small plates, and containers in the top rack with their face down.

If your dishwasher model comes with flexible stemware holders’ shelf that you can fold down, then keep stemware (drinking glasses, wine glasses, goblets and so on) here to prevent them from breakage or crack during wash cycles. But if yours didn’t come with this feature, place them upside down by the side of the upper or top rack.

Other kitchen utensils like long spoons and spatulas can be kept flat on the upper or top rack.


Long kitchen utensils must be kept flat on top racks to prevent them from falling from the rack and blocking the spraying arms in the process.

Keep all plastic items (except smaller sizes that can slide through the gaps on the rack) in the top rack where they will be far away from the heating element below the dishwasher. 

Also, care must be taken to firmly place them in the top rack, so they don’t fall directly on the heating elements or block any washing arm.

Lower Rack

These items are good for the bottom rack: baking dishes, stainless steel pans, pots, serving bowls or platters, big bowls, silverware, lunch and dinner plates.

Put big bowls in between tines or by the front, side, or back of bottom racks.

Keep lunch and dinner plates or dishes in the middle of tines on the bottom rack making sure that their dirty sides face the washer jet.

Place big cookware, for example, pans, baking dishes, and pots at the back or by the side of bottom racks all facing down towards the washer jet.

Place silverware like spoons and forks in the silverware basket with their handle facing downwards so that they can be properly cleaned. 

Knives can be kept in the silverware basket too but with their handles up and their shape end pointing down. This is to protect your hands and fingers during unloading.

Place cutting boards, platters, flat pans, and other over-sized utensils at the back or side of bottom racks. They should not be close to the door of dishwashers so that they don’t block water sprays and prevent other utensils from getting cleaned.   


You must ensure that you don’t nest your silverware together so they can be cleaned properly.

Put dishware with baked-on food remains upside down towards the lower spray arm. 

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What Are The Common Mistakes To Avoid When Loading A Dishwasher

  • Loading Dishes on The Wrong Compartment
  • Rinsing Dishes Before Loading
  • Dishwasher Detergents
  • Wrong Water Temperature
  • Facing Dishware and Other Kitchenware in The Same Direction
  • Separating Silverware
  • Wrong Placement of Bowls and Pans
  • Overloading Your Dishwasher
  • Using the Same Setting for Every Wash
  • Loading Non-Dishwasher Kitchenware

Most people make these mistakes mostly because of ignorance or failure to adhere to instructions on the product manual. They are totally avoidable, let’s go over them.

Loading Dishes on The Wrong Compartment

Ideally, dishes are meant to be on the bottom rack while the top rack is specifically designed to clean cups, mugs and other stemware. Dishwasher tines are made in such a way that they can properly hold dishes or plates and receive hot water in the right proportion for effective cleaning. 

Placing utensils in the wrong compartment and crowding them in the process prevent other items from getting properly cleaned. 

In addition, some models are built with features to spray water on hard to reach areas within the machine.

Rinsing Dishes Before Loading

Rinsing dishes fully prior to loading is not advisable; it is okay to remove food remains but don’t give it a full rinse. It is okay to rinse dishes in the sink or use dishwasher ‘Rinse Only mode’ if you are busy or your machine is not full. 

This is to prevent your machine from smelling or your dishes from drying out. Simply scrape off food remains from dishes when you are running a wash cycle immediately.

Dishwasher Detergents

Most powder or liquid detergents can clean dishes, however, not all of them can do it very well. Hence the need to use good detergents like tablets or pods (gel packs). They don’t leave water stains, discoloration or films on your dishes. 

Make sure they are fresh and store them under the right temperature and condition (cool and dry place). Add pods packs to dispenser where they are fully utilized.

As a precaution, keep them away from children who might not be able to differentiate them from candies because of their bright colors.


Dishwashers function maximally when the hot water temperature is very high at about 120-degree Fahrenheit or 40-degree Celsius. At this temperature, it can dissolve tough stains and grime. So, if your water is not hot enough, your utensils might not be cleaned properly.

Also, the type of water used to wash dishes is important, soft or hard water. Filling detergent dispenser in the machine to the requisite level depending on the hardness of the water is advised for best results. 

Facing Dishware and Other Kitchenware in The Same Direction

It is important to correctly position dishware in the respective sections marked for them inside the machine for optimal cleaning. Those in front should face backward, while the ones at the back should face the front. 

This is to make sure all dishware faces the spray arm at the center and gets an equal amount of water. 

Separating Silverware

Most people place silverware like spoons, knives, and forks in separate sections of the machine. This is not good as they won’t be effectively cleaned. Mix your silverware to prevent nesting. 

Do not place silver utensils and stainless-steel utensils together because they could spark a chemical reaction that will leave the silverware dinted.

Wrong Placement of Bowls and Pans

Knowing where to put big bowls, pans, platters, pots, and other cookware can be difficult. They can be slipped by the side of the lower compartment where there is enough space for it. 

Put small bowls and saucepans by the side of the upper compartment. This is to ensure that soap and hot water get to hard to reach areas and clean tough stains.

On the other hand, keep big kitchen utensils like spatulas and serving spoons flat in the upper compartment. 

Note that big utensils should not be kept in the utensil baskets as they can block other smaller utensils and prevent them from getting cleaned.

Overloading Your Dishwasher

In as much as washing dishes in the dishwasher is fast and it saves energy, you should not overload the machine. 

If you do, there is a probability that your kitchenware won’t get properly washed. Others might not be cleaned at all. A good thing to do is to wash in batches or you wash some manually.

Using the Same Setting for Every Wash

Don’t use the same settings for every wash cycle. Most people use only the ‘normal’ setting for all their dishwashing cycles; this is not ideal. 

You can use different settings for different wash cycles, provided it is the perfect one for each type of wash. These instructions are stated in the product manual.

You will be amazed at the things you did not know about your dishwasher.

Loading Non-Dishwasher Kitchenware

Not all kitchenware is dishwasher safe. This means that putting them in the dishwasher might compromise the quality of the items. Some non-dishwasher safe kitchenware includes sharp knives, wooden spoons, some plastic containers, some chinaware and so on. 

Plastic containers could be melted by hot water, wooden spoons can be broken or cracked, chinaware or gold flatware can be discolored. The coating on non-stick pots and pans can also melt and peel off in the process.

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Things That You Should Never Put in A Dishwasher – Non-Dishwasher Safe Items

  • Non-stick Pots and Pans
  • Sharp Knives
  • Breakables
  • Kitchenware Coated with Cast Iron
  • Cutting Boards and Wooden Utensils
  • Silver Utensils

As earlier stated, there are dishwares you should not put in your machine. Because when you do, your kitchenware might be destroyed in the process of cleaning due to continual exposure to hot water and dishwasher detergent. 

When this happens often, your machine’s efficiency and lifespan may be reduced. Some of these items are:

Non-stick Pots and Pans

Sometimes we assume that some products are safe for the dishwasher, but this might not be true. Over time, their coating wears or peel off due to continuous exposure to detergents and hot water.

You should check very well and see if they are certified safe for your machine. Often, it is better to wash them manually with your hands. 

Sharp Knives

This is not safe for your dishwasher as they can absorb lots of water. Their lifespan is shortened in the process. They are better washed with hands.


Do not load any fragile kitchenware into the machine. For example, items like chinaware and crystal.

Kitchenware Coated with Cast Iron

Just like non-stick pots and pans, placing pans or pots coated with cast iron or copper will damage it (coating will peel off). With time, they get rusted.

Cutting Boards and Wooden Utensils

They absorb so much water because of their porosity and so are not fit for dishwashers. 

Silver Utensils

Because of the special coating this kitchenware has, they easily wear off. So, they are not fit for your machine. You must wash them with your hands.


Refer to your product manual for a specific guide on dishwasher safe items. Also, always check all kitchenware generally if they are safe for your machine.

Check out other related dishwasher articles:

How to Use A Dishwasher – General Maintenance

Here are tips on how to use your machine to its full capacity.

  • Preheat Water
  • Regularly Clean Your Machine
  • Load The Machine Correctly
  • Save Energy

Preheat Water

Before you start a wash cycle, preheat your water so that it can flow into your machine from the start. Remember, hot water cleans faster than cold water. 

Also, check that the heater is regulated to 120 degrees Fahrenheit which is the right temperature of water used for dishwashing.

Regularly Clean Your Machine

At least once a month, give your machine a deep clean using vinegar and baking powder. This gets rid of tough stains and odor giving it a fresh smell and a sparkling look. 

Also, check the drains and other parts of the machine for food remains or particles that can clog the drainage system. When you do this, you help it work optimally. 

Load The Machine Correctly

We already stressed how important this is. You will be surprised at how fast and efficient your machine runs when you do this correctly.

Save Energy

We can use a dishwasher and still save some energy and water by turning off ‘heated dry’ settings in the machine. 

So, you don’t have to worry about the energy consumed, water usage, and the implications on the environment for each wash.

Other Uses of Dishwashers

Apart from kitchenware, there are lots of things that can be thrown into a dishwasher for cleaning. Here is a list of some of them.

Bathroom items like toothbrush holders, shower brushes, rubber tub mats, soap dishes, and so on.

Home decoration items like switch plates, vases, pencil cups, small garbage cans, outlet cover, and other light accessories.

Beauty items like hairbrushes, combs, and other beauty tools.

Kitchen tools like refrigerator shelves, brushes, sponges, oven trivets, microwave turntable dishware, and so on.

Kids toys like pacifiers, bath toys, and so on.

Rubber pet toys, food plates, leashes, and collars.

Others are flowerpots, rubber boots, garden tools, shower slippers, shoes, grill grates, baseball caps, and car floor mats (rubber types).

Note that you must check and be sure that these items are dishwasher safe. Items that are painted or coated should not be washed in a dishwasher. Put all items in the right compartments.


Don’t overcrowd items in the dishwasher, separate them so they all get cleaned. If possible, wash them in batches.

Arrange all dirty kitchenware in such a way that their dirty surfaces face the middle of the machine where washer jets are located.

Keep all items in the middle of dishwasher tines on the top and bottom compartments.

Use the right dishwasher detergent and hot water at the correct temperature (120-degree Fahrenheit).

Finally, ensure that all kitchenware is dishwasher safe.

How to Load Dishwasher — Related FAQs

Why Are My Dishes Still Dirty After Washing In A Dishwasher?

Your dishes are still dirty after washing in a dishwasher because the dishwasher is clogged. When this happens, the dishwasher recirculates dirty water. Dishes done with dirty water will remain murky.

Another reason your dishes will come out dirty is because of a faulty dishwasher heating element. Hot water is necessary to break down food leftovers on the plates. This breakdown enables the detergent to clean the dish. Without the boiling water, your dishwashers will come out dirty.

Additionally, using inappropriate dishwasher detergent and running your dishwasher on the wrong wash cycle will result in dirty dishes at the end of the wash cycle.

Is It Cheaper to Run the Dishwasher at Night?

It is cheaper to run your dishwashers at night. Utility companies will charge you higher when you use electricity during peak hours. Peak hours refer to times in the day when everyone is up and consuming power. During the night, at off-peak periods, the electricity demand is reduced, hence a reduced billing rate.

Check your utility company’s website to determine the rates for peak and off-peak billing. Also, find out what times have been labeled as peak periods and off-peak periods. That way, you will save yourself some cost and toss your dishes into the dishwasher just before you head to bed and wake up to clean dishes.

What Washes Better, Hand Washing, or Dishwasher?

A dishwasher washes better than hand washing. It is more economical and efficient. Not only does the dishwasher save you more time and resources, it also does the dishes more hygienically to a level that you can’t obtain by hand washing.

When you run a full load on the dishwasher, you save more than ten times the amount of water that hand washing would require for the same number of dishes. Due to the design of dishwashers, they use the least amount of detergent necessary to deliver clean dishes.

Also, the temperature at which the dishes are washed prevents bacteria growth on them. You cannot hand wash dishes at such temperatures.

Why Is My Dishwasher Leaving Tea and Coffee Stains In Cups?

Coffee and tea stains in cups after running a wash cycle is a sure sign the dishwasher is not running the wash cycle with the right amount of detergent. Inferior quality detergents will cause an inefficient wash cycle; this also leaves stains in cups.

To prevent this, increase the amount of detergent used in running your wash cycle. Also, change the soap if the spots persist after increasing the amount of detergent.  

Running the cups on a longer wash cycle will also prevent stain leftover on the dishes at the end of the wash cycle.

What Is The Best Way To Load My Cutlery Basket?

The best way to load your dishwasher cutlery for efficient washing is to have the cutleries placed in an alternate arrangement. Knives and other cutlery with sharp edges should be placed with their handles facing up. The washing action of the dishwasher will turn the knives’ blades blunt if you do not load them that way.

After that, place spoons with their handles facing down. Ensure you do not clutter cutleries of different materials. Have stainless steel and the silver spoons in separate cutlery basket compartments.

For your safety, have all sharp and pointed cutleries faced down. This arrangement will prevent you from having to pick them blade first.

How Much Detergent Do I Put into My Dishwasher?

The amount of detergent required to run a full load wash cycle is about two to three tablespoons of soap. This amount is, however, dependent on the hardness of water supplied to your home. The level of soil on the dish and the type of dishware you are washing also affects the amount of detergent you will use to run a wash cycle.

To efficiently use your dishwasher detergent, ensure you do not pre-rinse your dishes before placing them into the dishwasher. Your dishwasher detergents contain enzymes that need dirt to activate. So, pre-rinsing your dishwares will reduce the efficiency of the dishwasher detergents. 

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