How to Load a Dishwasher

October 19, 2016

To celebrate this week’s launch of Amanda and Merrill’s book, A New Way to Dinner, we’re diving into the archives to revisit times they ripped out a page from their dinner playbooks for us. Loved leftovers, brown bag lunches, and roast chicken awaits. 

Today, Merrill demonstrates how to properly load a dishwasher. 

Loading a Dishwasher

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We take cleaning our dishes seriously. Here's Amanda's dishwashing manifesto, and today, it's Merrill's turn to talk dirty dishes, and she's focusing on the dishwasher. She's demonstrating how to properly load a dishwasher, and sharing a few tips for making your cleanup easier. 

First, a few pointers: 

• No wood, cast iron, aluminum, or other metals whose finish can be messed up, like copper.
• No fancy knives that could warp.
• Load everything facing down.

This may seem like obvious information, but better safe than sorry—we've seen (and heard about) all of these rules being broken at some point. 

dishwasher dishwasher

There are varying opinions about the pre-rinse. Amanda says, "Don't be a lazy bones—rinse everything first before loading!" and Merrill asks, "What's the point of having a dishwasher if you have to wash your dishes first?" What's your opinion? 

If you've got any other dishwasher rules, share them with us in the comments. 

Today's video was shot by Alex Lisowski, and edited by Kyle Orosz. 

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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I'm a freelance food and prop stylist, writer/editor, and video producer.


Stephen R. September 13, 2015
Just found this vid - I have to say that I do it all as Merrill out lines - Breaking knives, forks, tea spoons and other spoons into their own section (I have the same styled dishwasher with a cutlery draw) make for such a easy unload. Also it's no harder in loading the cutlery into section once you have your brain trained.

I also unload from the bottom up for exactly same reasoning - to stop water washing down onto dried, streak-free items.

I send a cleaner through my machine once a month (or so) which add to the dryness and finish.

Just sent this vid to my dad to prove that I am not alone.
myke September 11, 2015
So rerunning an article from 3 years ago? Things really change and for the better esp where appliances are concerned. When in doubt look in your manual. My new dishwasher says to not pre rinse or at least leave a few crumbs on the dishes for more efficient cleaning.
QueenSashy September 11, 2012
I have to make sure my husband reads this.
Moore A. August 21, 2012
HOT SECRET! Having worked for the French silversmith Christofle, I am INTIMATELY familiar with the "why does my silver-plate come out of the dishwasher looking yellow?"

YES, silver-plate (and sterling, for that matter) are dishwasher safe. But, when you include stainless in the same load, a chemical reaction occurs and the silver tarnishes. (Pots and pans, separate load.) Ok, fine so far. But, here's the rub...

Most of the high-end dishwashers (Miele, are you listening?) are LINED IN STAINLESS. I have a Fisher Paykel dish drawer (lined in acrylic) and my silver-plate and sterling always come out sparkling.

Second, as has already been said - always load knives down. The safety reasons are obvious, but this positioning also allows the water to dry away from the connection between the blade and the handle thus reducing potential for rusting and eventual weakening of the connection between the two.
mrslarkin August 21, 2012
that is awesome information! Thank you for sharing, MAE. Although I really like the patina of tarnished things, got any tips on getting silverware sparkly again?
Moore A. September 11, 2012
Sure... a little silver polish and a lot of elbow grease ;)
[email protected] January 8, 2013
Run a few inches of water in your sink and dissolve a couple tablespoons of salt in it. Loosely crumple a 12" x 12" piece of aluminum foil into a "log" and lay it in the water. Set your silver so one end rests on the foil and ensure that it's completely submerged. Leave it for a few hours. The aluminum will absorb the oxygen, and the tarnish (silver oxide) will turn back into silver.
Dr.Insomnia July 30, 2012
I find that pre-rinsing is more necessary with an older, less powerful dishwasher. But the key is whether your dishes are dry or not. Leave oatmeal remnants to dry out, and suddenly you're expecting water jets to wash away super glue.

Leave dishes to soak if they have difficult to remove substances. Don't be so fastidious about loading every single item, one at a time, into the dishwasher (if you can afford the sink space). I also do a lot of pre-rinsing by accident, by running the water over dishes that need a rinse while washing my hands, for example, or rinsing a vegetable.

If you don't run your dishwasher often (~once day or two), by the time you get around to it, chances are the dishes in there have completely dried and left everything caked on. They don't come clean, and you might as well hand wash. So I would just handwash in such situations, and reserve the dishwasher for heavy loads (like a big dinner night), when you know it will get run in due course.
galsmu July 22, 2012
I intentionally separate spoons and forks in my Kitchenaid DW. I find that they tend to clump together ("spooning" :) ) if not separated up/down and they don't get clean. Really aggravating to have to re-wash them!
Homemadecornbread July 22, 2012
My BF used to be an appliance design engineer for GE. He says that the DW actually uses food particles from the dishes to blast away other food particles that are stuck on dishes. So we don't rinse. Also, it's not necessary to fill both soap cups, in fact the dishes might get cleaner and the machine work more efficiently with less soap. So a few experiments with varying amounts of soap could be a good idea, taking into account the hardness/softness of your water. We have very soft water - a large bottle of Cascade lasts close to one year!! Cleaning out the basket regularly is important, too.
JanieMac July 19, 2012
Our (European AAA energy rated) dishwasher started making funny noises and failed to produce clean washes. Tried all sorts but in the end called the repair guy. He says we aren't cleaning out the basket and filter at the bottom often enough and probably not rinsing dirty stuff. I was always of the don't rinse it school of thought except for really grotty stuff, but not anymore. I used to clean the basket every few months, now it is weekly. So maybe that is what we have to do with the more 'efficient' machines. I have to say though, it is wonderfully quiet compared to my old dishwasher and it is a good feeling not to be using so much water.
Merrill is fabulous, no more jokes in our house about my dishwasher packing rules!
Burnt O. July 19, 2012
Given the relative low cost of wooden utensils - I put 'em in the dishwasher. No problem. If they split, or dry out (very rare), I pick up a replacement at the grocery store. I have some good bamboo utensils that DON'T go in the DW.
meglet July 18, 2012
The rinse-or-don't question should be settled by the age of your dishwasher -- older models don't have the enzymatic magic that Peter mentions.

I'm enjoying this thread all the more because I just moved into a house with the most *stunning* kitchen (no, really, it's the bestest) except that it doesn't have a dishwasher. *sob*
Peter July 18, 2012
Meglet, is it based on the age of the dishwasher or the soap one uses? I thought it was the soap, regardless of dishwasher... but that's based on my understanding of how things work not anything I read from the manufacturers or soap makers.
Chauncey July 19, 2012
I wipe/wash off the utensiles and plates in my sink while warming up the water to the dishwasher. Hey, I live alone, it takes awhile to accumulate a washer load! Don't judge. :-)
SMSF July 19, 2012
Meglet -- all is not lost! Look into getting a roll-away / portable dishwasher. I have a great one from GE. Full size and it does a fantastic job. These are noisier than built-ins but definitely better than going without.
Peter July 18, 2012
Don't pre-rinse the dishes -- not only does the dishwasher works better with more dirt to remove but if the enzymes in the soap don't have any "dirt" to eat they can etch your glasses.

Agreed that like should go with like in a silverware basket but the same is true on those top trays. It makes emptying go a smidge faster. Pick a corner for the knives a corner for the soup spoons, a corner for the teaspoons, etc.

There's no risk of heat damage to plastic on the european dishwashers (Bosch, Miele, Asko, etc) as they don't have heating elements for drying on the bottom.

One tip I picked up for those same european dishwashers -- unload start bottom to top. If you go top to bottom, then when you roll the shelves out you run the risk of any remaining pooled water (on an upside bowl or mug for example) dripping down on the dry dishes below.
boulangere July 21, 2012
Great theory, but I'm in the same dishwasher with Chauncey. I cook alone and run the DW at best once a week if not every 10 days. Dishes not at least rinsed would fare better stacked in my sink for a week and a half.
roryrabbitfield July 18, 2012
I have had long discussions about dishwashers with my family. Rinsing before loading dishes into the DW is a no-no. The DW is designed to do that for you. But read your manual. I do find that some foods get really stuck on (egg yolk, dried up rice) and so I will rub off those very stubborn food only.

I have messed up several black Calphalon pots by putting them in the dishwasher. I think they are fine to use, but they don't look so nice anymore.

I never put good knives in there (but other people in my household do: drives me crazy!).

I keep good wood things out, cheap wood things can go in.

Very large items I had wash: they take up too much space.

I think it is probably energy-efficient to no use the extra heat setting. The dishes will dry without it.

I have had a to-do on my list for 2 years to read my DW's manual. I am now inspired to do that. After I find it! ; )
Third F. July 18, 2012
I love this series of Kitchen Confidence series on tasks. How about organizing spices, storing glassware (Bottoms open or tops up? My mom always insisted on bottoms up). I'd love to see more. I enjoy reading everyone tips!
meglet July 18, 2012
My secret tip: Get on YouTube and see if your dishwasher's manufacturer has a video on loading your particular machine. Mine did, and I learned about a couple of cool hidden features that weren't even in the manual!
TXExpatInBKK July 18, 2012
Thanks for this! I never would have thought to check YouTube.
gailllc July 18, 2012
Your success goes all the way back to purchasing your dishwasher -- we insist on having that mid-level sprayer arm so the top rack gets as clean as the bottom rack. Also, to prevent rubbing through the finishes on your dishes, or getting rub marks on glasses and metal-ware, we make sure no dishes are resting against another. Our dw has a silverware basket with slots, our knives have to go blade down but they get clean all the same. Save water and DON'T rinse your dishes -- newer dishwashers use less water and energy than hand-rinsing, and are designed to clean unrinsed dishes; that's why the cycles are so long: your dishes are in a hot steamy environment getting clean.
mrslarkin July 18, 2012
Loading the dishwasher is one of my kitchen pet peeves. Hate it!

I hand wash large bowls and pots, otherwise, items on the top shelf don't get the spray from the bottom jets.

I only use Cascade. I've tried other less expensive brands and they just don't clean well.

I've got a basket utensil holder, and I place dinner knives in point-down, and forks and spoons go in handle-down.

I'm bad - I put my wooden spoons through the dishwasher. Shame on me!
Author Comment
Kristy M. July 18, 2012
mrslarkin! I've seen wooden spoons snap in half mid-stir, and have then found out that they've been run through the dishwasher.
mrslarkin July 18, 2012
oh dear....I will try to change my lazy ways and set a better example! I do love my wooden spoons, after all.
Author Comment
Kristy M. July 18, 2012
Phew! I'll sleep better tonight knowing this.
boulangere July 21, 2012
I've sent many, many wooden utensils through the DW. No mid-air snaps. Eventual deterioration? Sure. At 99 cents on average each, cheat at twice the price.
mrslarkin July 31, 2012
Here's a useful tip on rejuvenating wooden utensils and bowls, in case they've been through the dishwasher one too many times!
Nozlee S. July 18, 2012
I love how SERIOUS Merrill looks in the video preview screenshot. Dishwashing is no joke!