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How to load your dishwasher this Christmas

Save time and hassle and get cleaner pots, pans and glasses on the busiest day of the year in your kitchen

Christmas dinner is the biggest meal of the year, so it stands to reason that it also results in the biggest washing-up job. Get clever with your dishwasher this year to avoid having to scrub and scrape your way through stacks of washing up.

As is often the case, planning is key – the best dishwashing strategy can be summarised in three key steps.


Head to our dishwasher reviews to find out which models are best for the mammoth task.


Step one: prepare as much food as you can in advance to reduce the amount of washing up you’ll need to do on Christmas Day itself.

Step two: before you sit down to eat your Christmas feast, stick your dirtiest cooking dishes on an intensive wash (as long as they’re dishwasher-safe). This should get roasting trays and pans off the to-do list.

Step three: use a delicate wash after dinner to clean your posh dinner plates, cutlery and glassware. Depending on your dishwasher, you may be able to add champagne flutes into this wash, too.

Read on for the most efficient way to stack so that you can squeeze everything in and still get it clean, plus our top Christmas dishwashing tips.

First dishwasher load: pots, pans and trays

Graphic showing the first dishwasher load of Christmas: pans, pots and roasting trays

For your first wash we recommend going for an intensive program. This washes at a higher temperature and water pressure, allowing the dishwasher to really clean the grimiest pans and trays, as long as you follow these rules:

  1. Remove excess grease and oil or it could solidify and block the filters or drains. Collect any excess and dispose of it in your regular food-waste bin.
  2. Check what your roasting trays are made of. Stainless steel is safe to go in; cast iron is a no-go. Aluminium is fine if it’s been anodised, meaning it has a protective layer of oxide. If not, harsh detergents can cause it to turn black.
  3. Place dishwasher-safe roasting trays face down to give your dishwasher the best chance of dislodging baked-on food. Some dishwashers even have a separate, larger spray head for heavy-duty jobs.
  4. Use adjustable racks for taller items. Check your instruction manual for whether your dishwasher has an upper rack that can be lowered or raised. Others use a runner system that requires you to remove the rack and adjust the runners.

If your dishwasher is on the noisy side, and you need to eat in the kitchen while it’s going, hopefully all your cracker pulling and Christmas fun will drown out the din of the wash cycle.

If not, it might be time to invest in a quieter dishwasher. We check noise levels for every dishwasher we review.

Find a quiet dishwasher that’s also great at cleaning and drying by reading our round-up of the best dishwashers.

Second dishwasher load: plates and glasses

Graphic showing the second dishwasher load of Christmas day: plates, cutlery and champagne flutes

With Christmas dinner come and gone, you’ll have stacks of dinnerware to deal with – from plates and cutlery to gravy jugs and glasses. Many champagne flutes and wine glasses are dishwasher-safe these days, too.

  • Avoid the temptation to overload your machine. Leave spaces between dishes and cutlery to allow water and detergent to spread around. Try alternating larger and smaller plates next to each other to aid this.
  • Consider using a tall gravy jug, rather than a short and wide one, as it will take up less space in the dishwasher.
  • Use a delicate program for wine glasses or champagne flutes. This will wash at a lower temperature and water pressure to better protect the glass.
  • If you’re using crockery with delicate gilding, you may want to wash this by hand. Even delicate dishwasher settings can fade the decorations or cause a bad reaction.

Christmas dinner dishwashing tips

How to get ahead

Prepare vegetables on Christmas Eve and parboil the spuds for your roast potatoes. You can even get them crisped up early on Christmas morning, avoiding the need to clean a crusty pan later in the day, if you follow our roast potato recipe.

Run your first dishwasher load of the day as soon as you’re done with breakfast, so it will be empty of any breakfast plates and ready to take a full load of cooking pans and trays.

Get a clean dishwasher and warm plates

If you have a delay timer, set it so your dishwasher finishes your pre-dinner wash just before you plate up. That way your plates will be pristine and hot, straight out of the dishwasher, so your Christmas dinner stays warm for longer.

How to wash champagne flutes

Wash champagne flutes in the top rack, using a gentle program. You might worry that this will cause them to go cloudy over time, but modern dishwashers and detergents prevent this from happening, even in hard-water areas. Just make sure your salt and rinse aid are topped up beforehand.

As your flutes will come out dry, you won’t have to worry about carefully drying them with a tea towel once you’ve had a few sherries, or leaving them precariously drying on your drainer.

If your dishwasher doesn’t have a delicate or glassware program, we’d recommend washing crystal and delicate china by hand.

Even the best dishwasher may struggle to get things clean without a decent detergent. Use our dishwasher tablet reviews to identify the best we’ve tested.

Scrape plates, but no need to rinse

Most dishwashers now have a quick rinse at the start of each program. This means you often only need to knock off lumps of leftover food before loading. Pre-rinsing could waste water unnecessarily.

The exception to this rule is if you’ve left your dishes sitting around all day before washing. If so, do give them a rinse before putting them in the dishwasher for the best chance of getting everything clean.


A dishwasher is for life, not just for Christmas. Read our tips on how to load your dishwasher for everyday use.


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