How To Load a Dishwasher

I know from years of experience at friends' dinner parties that loading a dishwasher can be a very personal thing. My friend Sandy turns her dishes so they face one way. When she's not looking, her husband rearranges them so they face the other. Gwen won't wash anything glass on the bottom rack, while Lisa mixes plates and glasses on both levels. Lisa's grandmother, however, has figured out the best way to use a dishwasher: Claim you don't understand how to load it so you never get stuck with the chore. While there's no one way to load a dishwasher, there are a few rules of thumb that will make sure you get a great, even clean:

  1. Place your dishes according to height, with larger dishes on the outside.
  2. In most machines, turn plates and bowls to face the middle of the machine.
  3. Don't block the primary water source on the inside of the machine.
  4. Only use automatic dish detergent, not dish liquid, and use as little as you need to get your dishes clean
  5. Don't prewash dishes! The enzymes in dish detergent need a place to work, and food particles provide the work site.
  6. If your dishes will sit a while before you run the machine, lightly rinse milk residue or other food remains
  7. For cleaner flatware, spread your pieces out in the basket, with fork tines and knife blades pointing up (be careful unloading!)
  8. The primary work in the dishwasher is done by heat and agitation, so I follow my own Gram's advice and wash china, collectibles and crystal by hand.

To save money and energy, open the dishwasher door at the end of the drying cycle and let the process finish with an air dry. When you're ready to empty the dishwasher, start with the bottom rack so that any residual water on the top shelf doesn't wet the dishes on the bottom. I personally empty the silverware container first, so I don't scratch myself reaching for the plates. What dishwasher loading tips do you have? photo: jenny downing


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