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Loading a Dishwasher the “Correct” Way

When it comes to loading a dishwasher, I have a very specific way of doing it. The right way.

Just kidding!

Sort of. I do rearrange my dishwasher if someone else loads it! I might have even secretly re-loaded the dishwasher at another person’s house before!

A little over a month ago, I saw a segment on one of the morning shows discussing dishwashers. They had an expert on to talk about the correct way to load a dishwasher so it caught my eye. Since I had just started this blog, I grabbed a pen and paper and took some notes.

Photo Credit: epredator

Loading your dishwasher.

  • According to high efficiency dishwasher manufactures,  you can scrape the food off your dishes but you don’t have to rinse them.  (I’m very curious about this. I’ve definitely found food particles in the bottom of my dishwasher and in the silverware basket before. And I rinse first.)
  • Using the bottom rack load dishes along the sides and back of the dishwasher.
  • Load dishes so they face towards the middle of the dishwasher.
  • It’s safest to load silverware so it faces down. It’s cleanest if the silverware faces up. (I guess you just have to be sure that you have a way of pulling the silverware out of the basket by touching the handle. Otherwise, it seems like hands touching it kind of defeats the purpose.)

How much dishwasher detergent should be used?

  • Surprisingly, less dishwasher detergent is needed than what is directed on the instructions. (I’ve also read this elsewhere). The “expert” recommended decreasing the amount used little by little until finding the least amount that would get the dishes cleaned.
  • Those with hard water will need more detergent.
  • A rinse agent helps the look of your dishes and they recommended using it with every load.

Read your dishwasher manual.

The manual will outline specifics for your particular model.

Clean your dishwasher on a regular basis.

In case you need to know how to clean your dishwasher, I’ve recently written about how easy it is!

So, is my way really the right way?

I load my dishwasher slightly different than they suggested on the morning segment. So, perhaps my way isn’t the “correct” way after all. I’m not sure I can change though. Maybe I’ll try. Maybe.

How about you? Do you load the dishwasher a certain way? Do you rearrange the dishes when others load the dishwasher?

  • Beth May 4, 2010, 9:13 am

    One of my friends must have seen the same show you did because we just had this conversation the other day!

    I totally have a certain way to load the dishwasher. If someone else loads it, I definitely re-arrange it (but never at someone elses house!!! ;). My hubby (energy efficient Man that he really is) doesn’t put enough dishes in there. I can get a lot more dishes in it the way I arrange them. Heck, I am usually just happy that someone else put the dish IN the dishwasher for once that I don’t even mind re-arranging it most of the time!

    The silverware thing really perplexes me. I put some up and some down and am just really careful when unloading it not to cut myself on a knife!

    And, I am definitely a rinser. I cannot bear the thought of putting them in the dishwasher without being rinsed off. They get so much cleaner (no more hardened on food when they are supposed to be “clean”) and my dishwasher usually doesn’t smell everytime I open it to put another dirty dish in. I hate the smell of rotten milk (or any day-old food, for that matter), so this keeps me from having to hold my breath every time I open & shut it! ;)
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Lightbulb Moment =-.

    • iDreamOfClean May 4, 2010, 9:41 am

      Good point about the smell!! I am all for rinsing! Oh, and for the record, I’ve only rearranged the dishwasher at a very close family members house while helping them with the dishes :-)

  • Molly May 4, 2010, 10:37 am

    Great tips, thanks. Did they say anything about using an actual rinse aid versus vinegar?
    .-= Molly´s last blog ..Responsiblilty Re-schmon-sibility =-.

    • iDreamOfClean May 4, 2010, 11:33 am

      The show didn’t mention it. But, I recently read that vinegar works exactly the same. I haven’t posted about it yet because I want to try it out first!

  • Tammy L May 4, 2010, 10:58 am

    I love all your tips! :)

    I scrape (if there’s anything to scrape) but don’t rinse. I figure why bother if the dishes still come clean?! (And they do… even in our old dishwasher, which still works great!) Also, not rinsing means that my boys (4 and 6) can put their dishes in the dishwasher even though they can’t reach the faucet/sink to rinse them. :)

    One of these days I plan to take pictures of how my dishwasher looks when it’s completely full! Would be fun to compare with others! :)

    Do you know if there’s a reason that canning jars or cups/bottles on the bottom rack don’t get cleaned inside?
    .-= Tammy L´s last blog ..Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Getting dinner ready on time =-.

    • iDreamOfClean May 4, 2010, 11:27 am

      Just amazing! I’d love to see it!! Maybe we could have a Kitchen Tip Tuesday or Real Clean Wednesday where all we do is compare loaded dishwashers. Ha!

    • iDreamOfClean May 4, 2010, 6:47 pm

      I just saw your question for some reason! I don’t know for certain, but I bet canning jars don’t get clean on the bottom rack because the sprayer is concentrated in the middle. That’s why the recommend facing your plates towards the middle. Plus, items in the top rack won’t get very clean if there is something blocking the water from getting to the top rack. That’s what I’m thinking top of mind.

      • Tammy L May 6, 2010, 3:47 am

        Okay. :) I always wish my dishwasher had a see-through door! Wouldn’t that be cool?! :)
        .-= Tammy L´s last blog ..Easy and fun: Homemade pita pockets =-.

        • iDreamOfClean May 6, 2010, 8:44 am

          Never thought of that! It sure would!!

  • Lori @ Couponomic Stimulus Package May 4, 2010, 2:11 pm

    I love this! I would love it if you would link it to my Tueday’s Tips, Why Frugal Living linked below. Thanks!
    .-= Lori @ Couponomic Stimulus Package´s last blog ..Why Frugal Living? =-.

  • Gwen T May 4, 2010, 4:06 pm

    The more kids I have – the less picky I am! : )
    .-= Gwen T´s last blog ..Sisters =-.

    • iDreamOfClean May 4, 2010, 5:30 pm

      Ha!!! Good Point!!

  • Lana May 4, 2010, 6:45 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I found your blog via Tackle it Tuesday, but I will be back to visit often!
    .-= Lana´s last blog ..Tackle it Tuesday! =-.

  • mandi@itscome2this May 4, 2010, 7:28 pm

    The silver ware always gets me. My mil loads it with the handles down & uses that logic that it gets cleaner, but I’m thinking if that’s the case then the bottom of the plates & the bottom of the handles don’t get clean … sounds kind of funny to me!! And I’m with you, why would you then want to put your dirty hands on the clean part that goes in your mouth!

  • Rachel R. May 6, 2010, 11:13 am

    I think that every dishwasher has to be loaded differently, because the racks are not configured the same. So I load my current dishwasher the same way every time, because I’ve found (I think. So far, anyway) the most efficient way to fit everything in there – but it isn’t the same as the way I loaded the dishwasher in our last house.

    We load all of the silverware facing up, except for sharp knives. I don’t think getting them dirty is an issue if your hands are clean when you put the dishes away.
    .-= Rachel R.´s last blog ..Making Skirts Work (WFMW) =-.

  • Vikki May 23, 2010, 1:03 am

    Rinser!!! But then I rinse them before they go in my dish water too if I’m washing by hand, which I do while I’m cooking or bulky item. Can’t stand stuff floating in my dish water… oooh I think I may throw up a little… ick.

    I use vinegar as my rinse agent and it works wonderfully. I clean it once a month by running it with a pkg of lemon Kool-Aid in it. Now if I could just find a recipe for dishwasher liquid that really worked.

    And yes I’m guilty of re-arranging after someone else loads. I’ve been know to do the dishes at a friends house because I can’t stand to see dirty dishes piled next to the sink! And yes I do know I’m more than a little anal, but I try to keep it under control. I don’t re-arrange right in front of them. I do at least wait until they leave the room… giggle

    My niece puts things in so whomper jawed that next to nothing fits in it. My younger sister loads it so full nothing gets clean. Me I load it just right… :o) Dang we sound like the homemakers version of the 3 bears.

  • Ang August 11, 2010, 9:40 pm

    I’m a totaLNazi when it comes to loading the dishwasher! I swear, I can always fit everything in the entire sink in and it all comes out clean… most of the time! Thanks for your website, I’m having a hayday reading everything while I rock a sick little one. This is totally my kinda site! I will be back!

    • iDreamOfClean August 11, 2010, 10:52 pm

      Ah, well I’m so glad you’re reading but sad about your little one! Hope the sickness fades soon.

  • Fiona November 2, 2011, 7:31 am

    I had the same trusty dishwasher for years, 13 actually, and never any problems concerning food residues on dishes either pre or post wash. Unfortunately, my old dishwasher gave up the ghost, and we have had to replace it with a brand new model, from a different manufacturer.
    I find this machine is trickier to load, and I am only satisfied with the wash result when I give dishes, pots and pans a quick rinse before loading. This was not something I ever had to do with its predecessor. I have also noticed that instead of a 90 minute wash and deep scrub for the really baked-on dishes, I have to allow over 3 hours for my new appliance to achieve the same……..Anyone else experienced similar problems?

  • Larry November 16, 2011, 4:17 pm

    I am a dishwasher Nazi. I often re-adjust the dishes after family member fail to do it “properly.” Lectures abound on the “right” way to load, with a reason for every placement. I treat items like a Chinese puzzle, with configurations that maximize the number of items that can be stowed for each washing — but in such as way that soiled surfaces can be power washed. All flatware handles down, except the pointy things — a concession to my wife, who cannot seem to reach into the machine without finding the tip of a steak knife with the palm of her hand. The wash cycle is not launched until the appliance is full. My approach allows for the additon of more than a dozen items when the less skilled have deemed the machine to be full. Dishes are always pre-rinsed so that the outcome is not a bunch of “clean” dirt clinging to the crystal. (The latter also minimizes blockages do to drain build up). Oh sure, my wife is threatening a divorce over it, and the kids now run out of the kitchen during clean up, but it is a small price to pay for preserving on of the few remaining customs of a civilized society.

  • BarbaKay April 29, 2012, 11:11 am

    Don’t you think the top rack should be loaded from the back toward the front, say … when you finish a glass of something and put it in the d/w, start in the rear then as you load throughout the day/week … load toward front? It seems easier and also prevents weight on the front end of the top rack, which can damage the machine.

    • iDreamOfClean May 1, 2012, 8:45 pm

      Oh, yes! I like that! Loading the dishwasher from the back to the front could also make it easy to tell how much space is left for dirty dishes.

    • Jennifer May 26, 2012, 10:52 pm

      I do that with the top rack. Except for one glass jar that I use to make frothed milk for my coffee. It goes in the upper, front, right corner, always. But it is super light-weight, so I’m not worried about it damaging anything.

  • Jennifer May 26, 2012, 10:50 pm

    I totally have a specific way to load my dishwasher, even to the point that certain dishes *always* go in the exact. same. spot. every. time. And yes, I have been known to reload someone else’s dishwasher or my own if it isn’t “right”. Sadly you would never know I’m a dishwasher neat freak by looking at the rest of my home.

    • Jennifer May 26, 2012, 10:58 pm

      Oh, and as far as silverware goes, I heard a tip once. Put all knives together, forks, spoons etc to make it easier to put them away quickly. Knives go points down, forks go tines up, and I put spoons either right side up or upside down depending on size of the bowl. Small spoons go bowl down, soup spoons and teaspoons go bowl up, and serving spoons usually go bowl up in a separate compartment. That way you can use the handles of the spoons to separate the bowls to prevent nesting. I also typically rinse my silverware and run my fingers over them (only butter knives, not steak or other sharp knives) to make sure I don’t feel any stuck on food before I put them in.

  • Todd Shrull June 20, 2012, 12:43 am

    There are some good things posted here! I am also a dishwasher nazi, and it is entirely apparent that other members of my family do not take it as seriously as do I.

    There is a method that is both safe, and clean in the end. My method also helps the person designated to unload the clean dishes. The following is the method I recommend:

    Earlier I read that plates must be on the bottom towards the back and facing inward. That is correct. It is the basic design in all dishwashers. Glasses and cups must go in the top rack, typically in the outer most rows. The inside rows of the top rack should be for large serving spoons and spatulas. Placing a spatula in the silverware basket causes problems with the top tray. The other spaces can be filled with smaller less uniform things such as measuring cups.

    Speaking of the silverware basket, it is paramount for safety reasons that forks be relegated to a back space. Each type of utensil should have its own space. All spoons (large to one side, small to the other..or mixed if you do not care) need to be up front. Butter knives go in the middle slots. Forks, as I said, go to the back along with steak knives and odds and ends like smaller measuring utensils such as teasoon, etc..This allows for easier unloading. As far as staggering (up/down), it makes good sense to do so in order to keep spoons from cupping. A pair of spoons that cup will not get as clean.

    Cutlery must NEVER be washed in the dishwasher. They must be handwashed or one will end up having them sharpened over and over again long before they should need to be.

    Large pots and sauce pans are typically easy to handwash if one finds that the dishwasher is too full. If washing a light load, they typically only fit on the bottom rack, yet this can be an issue due to the propensity to block water flow to the upper rack. If they are placed into the dishwasher, it should be to the center in order to leave the outer most slots to the dinner plates.

    My family think me crazy, make fun of me, and pay no attention to me. In fact, mock me even now. Yet, as I did not load the dishwasher tonight, I now prepare to rearrange it.

  • Gloria Crowther March 25, 2013, 11:42 am

    I was determined to find a dishwashing detergent recipe that WOULD clean my dishes as well as the powdered Laundry detergent I mixed up, use all the time, & I’m thrilled with the results!
    I looked at 2 dishwasher detergents I found Online & had a lot of good feedback UNTIL —— the film started appearing, there seemed to be MORE garbage & Film — on All dishes & silverware, & in the Dishwasher itself!
    I decided to start by following my favorite Repairman’s Best Tip. He told me on the last visit about getting the Dishwasher clean & clean it Once a Month. (He said, I will tell you this if you will DO IT – or – I can keep coming, use the same thiing, & Charge More Money!) I definitely listened, & it Works to clean the Dishwasher! It’s a product called THE WORKS. It is used to clean toilets etc. but doesn’t mention Dishwashers. I can buy it at almost any store — but,, like my Repairman said — .Buy it at the DOLLAR STORE!!
    So, once a month, I squirt most, if not the whole bottle, all over the inside, EVERYWHERE, in my Dishwasher (empty), let it soak for 15 minutes, run my tap water as Hot as I can get it – run the garbage disposal while the Hot water is going, then let the Hot water fill the Dishwasher at the beginning of a rinse cycle. I STOP the Dishwasher when the water stops — don’t let anything spray around or drain. The hot water soaking with the WORKS (plus the Steam) gives the built-up crux in the bottom

  • Gloria Crowther March 25, 2013, 12:18 pm

    crud in the bottom time to dissolve & break apart on the heat coil, etc. Then, let the Rinse & Hold cycle run so it sprays everything down, & let it drain out, again running the hot water & the garbage disposal. This gets the crud out, broken up, & swept away instead of remaining to go on your dishes!
    I combined the 2 Detergents that seemed to get best results for all. It has: 3 C Borax, 3 C Wasting Soda, 1½ C Kosher Salt. I Doubled this Recipe (cost is same TOTAL) Then I mixed these ingredients well & put them in an airtight seal container. It takes 1 TABLESPOON, put in the BOTTOM of the Dishwasher (NOT THE DOOR DISPENSER), then I fill a small ramekin container with WhiteVinegar & place that in the center of the Top Rack. Then, I put 3 DROPS of LIQUID DAWN in the 2nd compartment in the door (this will release at the correct time of cycle). I Never use the Lemonaid Koolaid, the Vinegar is better in my machine. If you need more than 1 Tbsp., use 2 Tbsp. but no more. The cost for all is about $3. Mine will last just shy of 100 wash cycles. Be sure the container is Airtight!
    REMEMBER to use “THE WORKS” – Once a Month to clean Dishwasher. (Buy it at the $1 Store!

    This is a combination from MomsByHeart & CrazyCraftBugs.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder May 22, 2013, 7:57 am

    Most assuredly, the safest method of loading silver\flatware is with the sharp tips down. My father always told me this, each time I helped him load the dishwasher when I was a child, and it stuck with me. As of this entry, I’m 45 years old, and I have never, not once, had an issue with this…until today.

    Some idiot, in my office, loaded the dishwasher with the forks tine-up. And I drove a tine about 1/2″ under my nail (between the thumb and nail)…talk about excruciating! I’m just livid how someone could be so stupid, not just myopic, but stupid as to think that leaving something sharp, sticking straight up, is such a brilliant idea. If it had been a sharp knife, the results could have been much worse.

    If anyone recommends tines-up, or blades-up (for knives), point out that this is a horribly moronic idea that, at no time, should anyone ever, under any circumstances, practice…unless you’re marooned on an island, literally starving to death, and must make a Burmese tiger pit in a last-ditch attempt at trapping an animal. THINK PEOPLE!!

  • CLIFTON September 15, 2013, 1:15 pm

    today I open our dishwasher, and saw my wife had filled the bottom tray with big pots and pans laying flat so we had a big talk and I could not get her to see how easy it was to find dish on top rack not clean, maybe someone can explain it a little better, PLEASE!