How to Load a Dishwasher and Stop Dirty Dish Do-Overs

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Dishwashers have long been a source of friendly squabbles among well meaning family members.  While most folks know full well how to load a dishwasher (or think they do!) disagreements like whether you should pre-rinse the dishes before loading the dishwasher, or which racks the pots go in, or if you really need to run the drying cycle to sanitize the dishes – are pretty common.  But while most of us have a favorite way to use this marvel of modern technology, the truth is that pulling out gross dishes at the end of a cycle that remained layered with  last night’s dinner is all too common.

To end the dirty dish do-overs, here’s how to load a dishwasher the right way for consistently clean results:

how to load a dishwasher
Photo credit: HomeDepot.com

Not Your Parents Dishwashers

The fact of the matter is that ‘dishwasher’ isn’t a universal term, and the dishwasher you use now may be very different than one you grew up with.  Today’s machines offer a wide range of cycles and configurations that can impact how they should be loaded.  But the principles here apply to most, and are a great place to learn how to load a dishwasher the right way.

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Take A Look at the Water Flow Pattern

First and foremost, you want to actually understand how water flows through your dishwasher. Take a look at the mechanisms, where the nozzles are, and the position and width of the spinning sprayers. Imagine that your dishwasher is full of soapy water and where the dishes would need to be in order to get clean. It’s also important to think about what could cause one dish to block another. If it helps, consider looking up your dishwasher design online for a complete perspective.

how to load a dishwasher
Photo credit: HomeDepot.com

The Importance of Gaps

Now that you have an idea about how water flows, remember that the water has to hit the surface of every dish in order to get them clean. Cramming dishes in next to each other, especially if the dishes are actually touching, will guarantee dirty surfaces and unwashed residue. There must be a gap between every item and every other item so that the soap and water can jet past and over every surface.

Rules for Concave Dishes

Concave dish means that it curves inward like a cave. These can be bowls, cups, pots, measuring spoons, and so on. Unlike plates, pans, and cutting boards which allow water to flow up past and around or down and through them, concave items form a catching surface that stops both vertical and horizontal water from getting around and over them. For this reason, you need them to blow as little upward water motion as possible. Put bowls, cups, and pots in the top tray whenever possible so they don’t block water from below. Do not nest them close together, make sure that the inside of each bowl is facing down and is not blocked by the bowl in front of it.

how to load a dishwasher
Photo credit: HomeDepot.com

Tips for Sparkling Silverware

The next stop in your how to load a dishwasher dilemma is your silverware which can have a nasty tendency of coming out of the dishwasher grimy with dried bits of food still attached. The first key to silverware wash is to soak them ahead of time, utensil side down into the water of a cup full of soapy water. This will loosen dried food beforehand. When you’re loading, put the silverware into the tray with forks and spoons pointing up (handles down) and knives pointing down for safety. Make sure to only put three or four utensils max in each sub-compartment so they don’t nest and keep each other from getting clean.

how to load a dishwasher
Photo credit: HomeDepot.com

The Right Soap for the Job

Not all dishwasher soap was made equal and your model of the dishwasher may factor in as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what’s available in the store for what works best with your dishwasher. If you’re having trouble getting your dishes clean with good loading tactics, the problem might just be your soap. While rinse-aid isn’t necessary for clean dishes, it can help with water residue, especially if you have hard water.

Do Your Own Scrubbing

Finally, loading your dishwasher correctly for its design is important but there’s only so much swishing soapy water can do. cooked-on food, baked grease, char, and other more challenging dish mess will need to be soaked and possibly scrubbed with an industrial-strength sponge before the dishwasher can finish the job.

Running a dishwasher is something that almost every modern adult has to deal with and even an old dishwasher is usually better than having to do all dishes by hand. The key is to understand the model you have, how it can best wash your dishes, and how to load a dishwasher to get the most sparklingly clean results


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