How to Load a Dishwasher and the Subtle Art of Mastering Tetris

In the Barnaby household, washing the dishes is by far the least favourite chore. None of us enjoy the task, and we’ve all been known to come up with all kinds of excuses to avoid it. 

These feelings have led us to invest in two dishwashers: a full-size monster that lives in the kitchen, and a table-top dishwasher we now keep in the larder, but that used to commute between Tom’s office and the main house. 

However, as we have discovered over the years, loading the dishwasher is equally as tedious a task – especially when you and your significant other have vastly different concepts of what the process should look like. 

I have to admit I am the one at fault here. 

I tend to get the loading done as I go along, which means that at some point the stack no longer makes any sense. Tom, on the other hand, is an experienced player of Tetris, and can stack a dishwasher like a pro.

Which means that the tips I am about to list are more his than mine. And while he’d love for me to accept them as gospel and start applying them in everyday life, for now we are content for the same person to do both the loading and the unloading, in order to avoid any potential fracas. 

Here then is Tom’s guide to applying the principles of Tetris to loading a dishwasher.

Plates and Large Dishes Always go on the Bottom Rack

Plates and large dishes always go on the bottom rack

Don’t try to place plates on the top rack, even if they may appear to fit. You want the plates to be close to the jets, which means, on the bottom rack. 

Small plates (i.e. those tiny ones that match your coffee cups) can go on the top rack, but anything you’ve eaten off of needs to go on the bottom.

The same goes for pans and pots, mixing bowls and other large items. Place these at the very edges of the perimeter. You might not be able to fit all of them in at once, but in order to get the best possible results, don’t crowd them on the top rack. 

Glasses, Cups and Mugs Always go on the Top Rack

Consequently, glasses, mugs and cups should always be placed on the top rack. Yes, there will be space for them on the bottom one too, especially if you don’t fill it with plates, but have more glasses to wash up. 

However, since the jets are much stronger on the bottom, you don’t actually want your glasses anywhere near them. Always place them upside down, and refrain from throwing that extra glass in somewhere where it’s not meant to go. 

Plastic Items Always go on the Top Rack

While we are on the subject of strong jets and higher temperatures, note that all plastic items should always go on the top rack. This includes containers and lids. Some bowls may not be able to fit, and if they are dishwasher-safe, you should be able to get away with washing them on the bottom rack too. 

While all dishwasher-safe plastic should come out completely unharmed from the wash, do your best to keep them as far away from the main source of heat as possible. 

Long Utensils go on the Top Rack, Lying Down

All of your longer utensils should also be placed on the top rack, lying down. Think ladles and spatulas, large spoons and long knives. They may take up a bit of your valuable space, but that’s what makes loading a dishwasher a lot like assembling a puzzle: you need to prioritise your items, and know what can be fitted in with what. 

Make sure they can’t slip through the rack or block the spraying arms in any way. 

Plates Should Face the Centre of the Dishwasher

Contrary to whatever popular belief you’ve firmly held on to up until this point, plates should be placed so that they face the centre of the dishwasher, so that they get the best possible wash. 

This means the front ones will face backwards, and the back ones will be facing the door. 

And no, it doesn’t make more sense to have them all facing the same way.

Knives: Handles up, Forks and Spoons: Handles Down

This is where Tom will usually lose it if he happens to open the dishwasher before I’ve unloaded the load I’ve stacked: I always seem to place the knives handle down.  

However, it makes perfect sense to place knives with handles up, and forks and spoons with handles down. I’ve cut myself twice on a poorly positioned knife (always the one with the raged edges, when you’d think a straight edge knife would be more dangerous), and still can’t seem to take the necessary precautions. 

Don’t Crowd the Silverware Basket

The silverware basket shouldn’t be stuffed to bursting. When it is, the water and soap won’t be able to find their way to all of your cutlery properly, and you’ll be left with stains and an inadequate wash. 

Depending on the size and type of your basket, this might be an easy task, if you have those neat holes that only fit one item at a time. If not, you’ll need to play a bit of dishwasher Tetris to find the best fit. 

Separate Your Metals 

Place your silverware on one side, and your stainless steel cutlery on the other. Washing them together can cause dents in your silver, and that’s the last thing you want to be doing to Grandma’s silverware. 

Don’t Pre-Wash Items (But Don’t Put Them in with Food Either)

I find the ultimate dishwashing dilemma to be do I wash this before I place it in the dishwasher or not

If you place a pan that is way too dirty in the washer, it may not come out clean. On the other hand, if you are also washing it by hand, you are spending more water and energy, not to mention time and energy, than you reasonably need to.

We’ve found that the best recipe is to remove all bits and chunks of food from the plate or pot or pan. This means scraping the bottom a bit, and perhaps running it under running water. We don’t use any detergent or a sponge – just the water and perhaps a knife. 

Use Pods Instead of Powder

It’s high time we all graduated to pods – they do a lot better job at cleaning, and they are also easy to use. Dishwashing liquid and powder is just not as good as a pod or a tab. 

We use either the Finish Powerball ones, or sometimes the Calgon ones which are great for limescale. 

Don’t Experiment with Non-Dishwasher-Safe Items

We’ve all thrown an item or two into the dishwasher that we technically knew shouldn’t be there. And while this experiment may not have caused any visible harm, it’s still best to refrain from repeating it.

For starters, some items may start to ooze harmful materials you are not even aware of when hit with high temperatures, so in order to be safe rather than sorry, wash that handful of items by hand. 

Do Experiment with Cycles 

What you should be experimenting with is the cycle you use. We all tend to stick to just the one (normal, regular, or some variation of that word), when most machines come with amazing alternatives too.

Try the Prewash and the Heavy Duty wash when things are particularly stained (or you just forgot to put them in the washer on time), and give the Sanitise option a try too. 

Only Run it When Full 

Finally, do only run the dishwasher when it’s actually full – you’ll not only be saving money, but the planet as well.

(I know, that came out way too corny – but I’m sure you understand my meaning perfectly regardless)

How do You Load Your Dishwasher? 

I’d love to know if you practice any of the above procedures when loading your dishwasher.

Are you like me and just throw things in there hoping for the best, or are you more of a Tom, approaching the task with a whole lot of rhyme and reason?

J. 

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