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How to properly load your dishwasher

Person loading dishes into a dishwasher

Let's be honest: Doing the dishes can get gnarly. There's dried cereal clinging to the inside of breakfast bowls, bits of scrambled egg floating in your coffee cup, and remnants of last night's chicken seemingly fused to your best pan. To make matters more serious, research shows that relationship happiness is tied to how a couple divides up household chores, including dishwashing.

If you're reading this and wondering to yourself, “Do I really know how to load a dishwasher?," you're in the right place.

While Asurion Experts can't give you relationship advice, they can teach you how to stack a dishwasher. Trained, certified, and experienced with all sorts of major appliances, our experts offer support to millions. Here's their advice on how to correctly load a dishwasher to not only minimize damage to your plates and bowls, but also improve your dishwasher's performance and longevity.

How to load the dishwasher's top rack

The proper way to load a dishwasher begins with filling the top rack with glasses, cups, and small bowls—always with the dirty side facing the center of the machine.

Put dishwasher-safe plastics up here too, as they could warp on the bottom rack.

Finally, don't crowd the dishes; you'll only prevent water and detergent from flowing through the machine and run the risk of breaking something.

How to load the dishwasher's bottom rack

The next step in how to best load your dishwasher is to put large, heavier items on the bottom rack, including plates, serving bowls, and dishwasher-safe cutting boards. That's where the spray is most powerful.

You don't need to pre-rinse these items, but do scrape off big pieces of food. And don't overfill. Placement matters, so follow these tips:

  • Oversized items, like platters, go in the back and on the sides, so the spray arm can move freely.
  • Dishes go dirty side down.
  • Dishwasher-safe pots and pans go on the bottom rack, but never in the same load as fragile items.
  • Always put big items—like a dirty cookie sheet— at an angle along the sides so you don't block the dishwasher jets.

How to space out utensils in the dishwasher

If your dishwasher has a basket for utensils, place spoons and forks with the handles facing down. For safety, knives should go handles-up so you don't cut yourself on the blades.

If your dishwasher has a third rack, you can also place silverware and cooking utensils there. Wherever you put them, avoid cramming too many utensils together, and mix up forks, knives, and spoons—they won't get as clean if they're nested together.

Lastly, you can wash sterling silver flatware in the dishwasher, but to avoid hard-to-remove marks on your silver, make sure it doesn't touch any other type of metal, including stainless steel flatware.

What not to put in the dishwasher

Putting bronze, brass, wood, or china with gold leaf in the dishwasher can lead to damage, warping, and discoloration. Instead, you'll have to hand-wash these items. The same goes for nonstick pans. Sharp knives can dull when washed in the dishwasher, so it's better to hand-wash them too.

The best way to unload your dishwasher

Now that you've learned the best way to load a dishwasher, here's a tip for emptying it: Unload the bottom rack first. That way, water from the top rack won't drip onto the dry dishes below.

Follow these tips and your dishes will come out sparkling. Your partner will thank you.

Ready to learn more? Here's our experts' guide on what to do when your dishwasher isn't drying dishes.

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