How to Properly Load a Dishwasher - A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Properly Load a Dishwasher - A Step-by-Step Guide

Dishwashers are becoming more advanced, so it is crucial to know how to properly load your dishwasher and ensure you follow the correct process before loading. Always begin by removing food particles. Dishes that can be loaded into your dishwasher include cups, bowls, plates, mugs, bakeware, and utensils. Here is what you need to know:

How to Load a Dishwasher

It is essential to properly load your dishwasher to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. There are different methods to correctly load a dishwasher, so it’s important to follow the guidelines for optimal performance.

However, incorrectly loading a dishwasher may result in dirty or broken dishes. Correctly load your dishwasher by following our step-by-step guide below to ensure that your dishes are quickly and thoroughly cleaned.

1. Place cups, glasses, and small bowls on the top rack

Stemware should be put in the safety rack. However, if your dishwasher lacks one, wash these items by hand to prevent breakage. Put cups and glasses on the top rack's sides between the tines, facing down. In the middle of the top rack, place small bowls between the tines angled slightly downward, and forward toward the dishwasher's center. This guarantees a spotlessly clean and provides more space. Avoid loading very small items that may slip through the gaps.

2. Place plates, large bowls, and other dishes in the bottom rack

Before placing items in the dishwasher, always ensure they are dishwasher-safe. To avoid blocking the sprayer arm’s rotation, place taller items such as serving platters along the bottom edges, and stack plates between the tines with dirty sides pointing toward the center.

To ensure better water flow, alternate between large and small plates. Large bowls should be placed between the tines or along the bottom rack's sides. Ensure that the interior of each bowl faces the dishwasher's center and position them downward.


3. Place platters, cutting boards, and extra-large pieces toward the sides and back or bottom rack

Place them slightly downward to ensure proper rinsing and to avoid blocking the sprayer arm. Always keep items away from the dishwasher door to allow the detergent to freely flow.



4. Place forks and spoons in the silverware basket with handles facing down

If all your forks and spoons are positioned upright, this may result in nesting, where debris accumulates and prevents proper water flow. Instead, alternately stack forks and spoons face down or stagger their placement.

To ensure smooth water flow, space teaspoons and position them face up. Place larger serving utensils in the dishwasher's top rack. To prevent water from accumulating in the serving spoons, position them to face downward.

5. Place knives in the silverware basket with handles up

This promotes hygiene and proper cleaning, but most importantly, ensures safety. However, extremely sharp knives should be hand-washed because the dishwasher dulls their edges. Never load steak knives, carving knives, specialty knives, or butcher knives in the dishwasher if the handle is made of something other than metal.

The handles may expand and contract due to the heat and pressure of the water, which could lead to a breakage or loosening. Please note your silverware may draw bacteria if the handles are loose or if it has cracks.

Dos and Dont’s for How to Properly Load a Dishwasher

While using your dishwasher saves significant time, the following tips ensure more efficient cleaning:

DO scrape food off dishes before loading

Before placing your dishes in the dishwasher, scrape off any food, i.e., bones, corn cobs, seeds, and skins, along with anything thick and caked.

Pre-rinse to eliminate any debris that could clog the filter. This allows dishwasher detergents to perform better. However, rinsing is recommended before food hardens onto the dishes to ensure they come out clean.

The distinction between pre-rinsing and hand-washing is subtle. Some people believe that hand-washing their dishes and then putting them in the dishwasher makes them cleaner, which is untrue. Certain chemicals found in dish detergent seek out and adhere to food waste. The detergent will not be able to perform as intended without this debris.

DON'T put plastic items on the bottom rack

If dishwasher-safe, you can wash your plastic items in the top rack. Just like small bowls, place them facing down to keep them from falling through.

Keep plastic items away from the dishwasher's bottom heating element, and always place them in the top rack. Otherwise, they can warp.

DO unload the bottom rack of dishes first

Always unload the right way, i.e., unloading the bottom rack first. Unloading the top rack of dishes prevents water from dripping onto clean dishes below if water has collected in them.

DON'T put brass, bronze, or wood items in the dishwasher

Load dishwasher-safe items only, and be aware of what should not be placed in the dishwasher.

Nonstick cookware, brass, bronze, kitchen knives, fine china, crystal, delicate glassware, wooden or silver dishware, and cast iron pans are frequently advised to be hand-washed. Washing them in the dishwasher could damage or ruin their finish.

Wooden cutting boards and spoons may warp or crack. Also, adhere to any instructions or washing suggestions included with your cookware.

DO keep silverware spaced out in the basket

It's crucial to correctly load your dishwasher's silverware basket. This will guarantee the dishwasher's best performance when cleaning silverware and utensils. Silverware should not be clustered together but mixed and distributed evenly for the best washing results. In your silverware basket, never combine stainless steel and sterling silver. If stainless touches sterling silver, it may cause pitting.

DON’T put sharp knives in the dishwasher

Sharp knives should only be hand washed because dishwasher detergent is abrasive, and combined with the load movement that occurs during the wash cycle, will dull the knife's sharp edge. It is also dangerous to unload sharp knives from the dishwasher.

DO wait to run the dishwasher until it's complete

It is a waste of water and energy to run the dishwasher when it is only partially complete.

Also, as the dishes move around, you risk breaking them. Wait until you have a full load before starting your dishwasher to benefit the most from it.

FAQs About How to Load a Dishwasher

How do you arrange dishes in a dishwasher?

Place dishes with their dirty sides facing the center of the dishwasher. The washer jets, located on the rotating spray arm in your appliance, spray upward to wash and rinse dishes.

Do you load the dishwasher with utensils up or down?

Although you can wash your utensils in the dishwasher with either end pointed up, it is always advised to position them pointing down, with their handles up. This is more hygienic and safe!

Do you load a dishwasher front to back or back to front?

Load the top and bottom racks from back to front after removing any food. Even though it might be tempting to load in the front, it is better to fully open the dishwasher and load from back to front. This doesn't affect cleaning but makes it easier to load the dishwasher and efficiently utilize space.

How do you stack containers in a dishwasher?

Since most dishwasher heating elements are located at the bottom, plastic containers should be placed on the top rack to avoid melting or warping. Ensure nothing made of plastic is too small to fit through gaps in your top dishwasher rack. Otherwise, they may fall through the cracks and block the spray arm or touch the heating element.

What can you not put in the bottom rack of a dishwasher?

When using your dishwasher correctly, it is not advisable to put plastic and delicate items, like wine glasses, on the bottom rack. Placing plastic on the bottom rack of your dishwasher exposes it to the highest temperature. This causes warping, which makes plastics unusable and requires more frequent replacement.

Before placing your items in the dishwasher, ensure they are labeled "dishwasher safe”. It’s also better to avoid certain plastics in the dishwasher as the heat may cause dangerous chemicals to leach from them. To be safe, avoid selecting applying high-temperature settings such as "sanitize”.


A dishwasher is undoubtedly a very useful kitchen appliance. It helps you save time and energy, keeps dirty dishes hidden from view, and efficiently disinfects your glassware and dishes.

The above guidelines can be useful if it is your first time using a dishwasher. It can also help if you already have one but don’t have clear guidelines on how to use it for maximum performance. Adhering to step-by-step guides will promote the efficiency, safety, and durability of the dishwasher, dishes, and utensils, among other benefits.

At Coast Appliances, we pride ourselves on the selection and quality of our dishwashers. From convenient portables to spacious built-ins, we have a suitable dishwasher for any kitchen. Please visit our website to browse our full selection of dishwashers.