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How to load your dishwasher

By Emma Featherstone

Watch our video guide to find out which dishes should go where and what to do with large items so you can make the most of your dishwasher.

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The way you load your dishwasher can make a big difference to how efficiently it cleans your dishes, especially bigger items and those covered in tough-to-shift grime.

To make sure you end up with a perfectly clean load of dishes every time, take a look at our dishwasher loading guide video above and follow our tips below to help you to get the best from your dishwasher.

Whether the dishwasher is a Best Buy or not will also make a difference. Even the most efficiently loaded machine will leave you with grimy dishes and will rack up your energy bills if it's a Don't Buy. 

See all our dishwasher reviews to find the best. 

Fill up your dishwasher

You’ll be able to get an awful lot of dishes inside a full-sized dishwasher, and the most efficient dishwasher come Christmas dinner-time is always a full one. The loading plan in the manual will help you to fit everything in.

But don't overload it

Leave spaces between dishes and cutlery for the water and detergent to spread around the dishwasher. Sticking to the spaces provided in the dish-racks and cutlery baskets is a good idea.

Scrape plates - no need to rinse before adding to dishwasher

Knock off lumps of leftover food before loading the dishwasher: this gives your dishwasher the best chance of getting everything clean. Scrape your plates clean, rather than rinsing them, unless you're going to leave plates sitting around all day before you run your dishwasher cycle – in which case, give them a quick run under the tap. 

Large items at the back and sides

Load large items, such as baking trays or turkey platters, at the side or back, to make sure they don't get in the way of the flow of water and detergent.

Roasting trays face-down

The best way of cleaning away baked-on food from roasting trays is to load them face-down towards the lower spray arm. Some dishwashers have an attachable large spray-head for heavy-duty jobs like this.

Cups and glasses up top

If you drink out of it, it should go on the top, facing down. Put glasses along the side supports if possible, as the water jet isn't so powerful here. Cups can go in the middle. 

Safeguard your plastics

Place plastic items on the top rack. The heating element in most dishwashers is on the bottom, so placing plastic items in the bottom rack could cause them to warp. And make sure any plastics are popped securely on to the rack – the last thing you want is for a strong spray of water to cannonball your plastic lunchbox down onto the heating element.

Face the middle

All items should face towards the middle of the rack. That's where the jet spray comes from, so do this and you'll ensure a thorough wash. 

Durables downstairs

Durable dishes, as well as pots and pans, belong on the bottom rack, where the jets are most powerful. 

The key to loading cutlery

It’s safer to load your knives pointing down. Forks can be loaded handles-first. 

If like-for-like items sit too close together they might not be cleaned properly as there is no space for the water. This issue, known as nesting, can happen with cutlery baskets where spoons (for example) lean into each other. Place some cutlery upright and some facing downwards, so that water can rinse over all surfaces. 

Mix it up

Mix up the size of plates and bowls place together to add space for the water. 

Turn bowls upside down

Don't place bowls upright, because they'll carry over all the soil-laden water from one fill to the next. 


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