Yes, there is a proper way to load the dishwasher, and anyone who says otherwise might just want to watch the world burn. We take cleaning our dishes seriously, both personally and in the Food52 team kitchen—Amanda has a dishwashing manifesto, and we even made a video about our go-to ways to load a dishwasher (see below).
• Wooden utensils and cutting boards. They will—I repeat, will—warp! Or even worse, they'll crack into pieces.
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• Cast iron, but you already knew that. Coarse salt, always.
• Insluated travel mugs, as most have a special vacuum seal between the inner and outer shells, and the seal can be ruined if you put the cup in the dishwasher.
• Other metals whose finish can be messed up, like copper.
• Fancy knives that could warp—it's pretty much a safe bet to always hand wash your best knives. Carbon steel will rust, and any knife will dull from the harsh conditions of a dishwasher.
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.
There are also 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?" There is also the factor of your particular dishwasher—newer models recommend not pre-rinsing so that the dishwasher can properly sense how much grime needs to be removed, while older models might need the additional help of a pre-rinse. I personally always pre-rinse, because I've never had a dishwasher capable of handling the almond butter-plastered spoons in my household. Plus, something has always felt wrong about not at least attempting to scrape some goop off first.
Regardless of your personal dishwashing convictions, here are our top five tips for a most effective cleaning:
1. Load back to front: this will ensure less breakage of delicate glasses and bowls, since there's less chance for things to get jammed up against each other while loading more in.
2. Load facing down: I cannot stress the importance of this enough—your dishes will never get clean if the crustiest part of them is facing up. Water in most dishwashers comes from the bottom and sprays up, so if you take anything away from this, let it be this one rule.
3. Place silverware together, face up: the same goes for your silverware as it does your dishes—the most caked-on parts of them will not get clean if there's no room for the water to swish around them. Putting them face up in the basket will ensure optimal soaking time for the leftover alfredo sauce on your forks. Keeping them together in groups also just makes it easier to unload them once they're sparkling clean.
4. Plastic always goes on the top rack: as you may know from a melted-in-the-microwave incident, the thin plastic of to-go containers is very sensitive to heat. Err on the side of caution when it comes to the dishwasher, and always keep plastic on the top rack to avoid a meltdown.
5. Unload bottom first: this will prevent any stagnant water from the top (hello, undersides of mugs) from dripping onto the bottom dishes as you put them away.
This article originally appeared in July of 2012. We're rerunning it because dishwasher loading is ever the hot topic.
What are your dishwasher rules? Share 'em in the comments!
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When I'm not writing & editing for Home52, I'm likely to be found DIY-ing a new piece of furniture (or restoring an old one), hanging things on the wall in my apartment, or watching hours of vintage RHONY.