7 secrets to loading your dishwasher the right way

You never realize how vital your dishwasher is until the day it stops working, but learning to load it properly goes a long way toward keeping it running smoothly—and in making your dishes sparkle. Let’s walk through the basics to make sure your dishes come out spotless and your machine stays running a long time.

Think you’re already a dishwasher-loading pro? Here are more ways to make any dishwasher work better.

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Secrets to loading your dishwasher the right way
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Secrets to loading your dishwasher the right way

Start by reading the directions

Even the best dishwasher won’t perform at its peak when you don’t load it properly. Your first clue is contained right in your owner’s manual! Whenever you buy a new dishwasher, save the manual and check for any special instructions on how to load it. If your appliance isn’t new, dig out that manual or look it up on the internet. Then follow those directions!

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You don’t have to pre-rinse

Consumer Reports went to the trouble of slathering plates, cups and silverware with an “imposing mix of peanut butter, egg yolk and other gooey stuff,” and let it sit overnight to test whether or not to pre-rinse. What they found is that although pre-rinsing isn’t necessary with most modern dishwashers, it’s best to scrape big chunks of leftover food before loading.

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Know what the top and bottom racks are for

Use the top rack for concave items such as bowls, mugs and glasses, as well as large silverware and utensils. The top rack is also where you should place dishwasher-safe plastics, to prevent them from warping. The bottom rack is for plates and platters and eating utensils (assuming your cutlery basket is on the bottom).

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Load the bottom rack so water can flow to the top

Arrange your plates and platters vertically, and stagger large and small pieces so that they don’t block the water or the detergent from getting through to the top rack. Oversized items, such as dishwasher-safe cutting boards, should go along the perimeter of the bottom rack for the same reason.

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Load the top rack so water hits the inside of your bowls

Angle bowls so they all face center and make sure not to overcrowd, which increases the risk of breakage and impedes the flow of water and detergent. Be sure to place glasses and mugs between the tines, rather than on them. Dishwasher-safe plastics also belong on the top rack, away from the heating element to prevent warping. Lay large silverware items and utensils horizontally, and make sure that long-handled utensils are secure in their places so they don’t fall through and prevent the spray arm from rotating.

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Housewife puts dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Horizontally.

After you load it properly …

Even a well-loaded dishwasher won’t perform well when it’s being fed cold water. To prevent this from happening, run your kitchen sink until the water gets hot. Keep your rinse-aid dispenser filled to make sure everything dries streak-free, too.

So next time your family breaks out into one of those “how to load the dishwasher” debates, you’ll be ready to chime in! Psst.. Don’t forget to clean your dishwasher now and then. Here’s how to give your dishwasher TLC in five easy steps.

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