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How to Load a Dishwasher So It Cleans Better

Here's how to load up your plates, bowls and glasses to get the most out of every cycle.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
Expertise Home Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacks Credentials
  • National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Alina Bradford
Alison DeNisco Rayome
3 min read
Hand loading dishwasher with dirty dishes

There really is a right way to load the dishwasher.

Ekaterina Goncharova/Getty Images

If you're loading your dishwasher haphazardly, you might not be getting the machine's best effort. Loading a dishwasher isn't complicated but if you chuck everything in at random, you might find glasses, plates or silverware coming out with stains or food still stuck on.

The way you choose to load your dishwasher does have a major impact on how well your dishes get cleaned -- and there is indeed a correct method. Follow these tips to help you get much cleaner dishes the next time you run your dishwasher (and settle arguments over whose method is right). 

For more cleaning advice, check out how to clean a stand mixer, how to clean a blender and how to clean a cast-iron skillet.

1. Don't rinse your dishes

Leave most of the washing to the dishwasher. Just scrape off the big stuff from the plates first, then load them in. Don't worry about rinsing, as it can trick the dishwasher's sensors. Learn more about why you should skip rinsing here.

2. Plates go on the bottom rack

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Load the plates on the bottom rack, but make sure they have a little space between them. Touching can block the water jets and can also cause chips in a plate's finish.

3. Bowls go on the top rack

Put bowls on the top rack. Make sure the bowls are tilted down so they don't gather water.

4. Turn your cups upside down

Same for cups. Put them on the top rack in between the tines, if possible. They should be upside down so they don't fill up with water but tilt them slightly so that water doesn't pool in any indentations on the bottom of the cup.

Bowls and glasses in dishwasher

Bowls and glasses go in the top rack of the dishwasher.

rustycanuck/Getty Images

5. Spoons and forks go in the utensil cup

This sounds obvious, but some people ignore the fact that there's a special cup for utensils. If you're one of these people, you may be compromising wash quality. Throwing a handful of utensils on the top rack will not get them as clean as putting them in their designated cup. Besides, putting them in the cup prevents them from dropping down and blocking the sprayer arms.

6. Keep your silverware and stainless steel utensils from touching

Always put silverware, except for knives, in the designated cups with the handles facing downward. Don't let real silverware and stainless-steel utensils touch. During washing, a chemical reaction can happen that causes pitting in the metal.

7. Put knife points down, handles up

Place knives in the silverware cup with the points inside of the cup and the handles upward.

8. Don't let spoons and spatulas fall down

Big serving spoons and spatulas are best placed on the top rack so they don't fall and block the dishwasher's spraying arms. A handy trick is to thread a tine through the hole in the handle to keep the item in place during the wash.

A spatula in the dishwasher with a tine through a hole in the handle

Sticking a rack tine through a spatula or other large utensil can keep it in place during a wash.

Alina Bradford/CNET

9. Wash large pots separately

Small pots can be placed on the bottom rack, but make sure to do larger pots in a separate load. Larger pots can block water jets, leaving the dishes on top dirty. Make sure that all pots are angled down so they get the full benefit of the jets, as well.

10. Plastic containers go on the top rack, away from heat

Put plastic storage containers on the top rack so they don't get warped by the heating element.

10 things you shouldn't put in your dishwasher

See all photos

11. Place large pans and dishes away from the dishwasher door

Make sure not to put any large pans or dishes by the door. This can block the detergent from deploying.

12. Don't forget to do a quick prewash check

Before you start the load, do a quick check of the floor below the sprayer arms. Make sure there isn't any food, spoons or other items that could block the filter or the sprayer arms. Foreign items down there can gum up the works and make your dishwasher not work properly.

Now you can start loading that dishwasher the right way, and get cleaner dishes every time.

For more, check out this hack to get grease out of hard-to-reach spots, and where to put your house plants so they don't die