We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Coronavirus Read our latest advice
Reviews based on facts
Our rigorous tests find the facts, and our impartial reviews tell you the truth about how products perform. First month £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel anytime.
Try Which?
8 January 2021

How to load your dishwasher

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.
Aaron West

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 find out below which of your most-washed items are dishwasher safe.

See our shortlist of the best dishwashers

Video: how to load your dishwasher

Our top dishwasher loading tips

1. Scrape plates, no need to rinse

Knocking off lumps of leftover food before loading the dishwasher will give it best chance of getting everything clean. But most dishwasher programs will pre-rinse your dishes, so you don’t need to.

2. Face the middle

The dirty side of every item should face the centre of the dishwasher rack.

The jet spray from the dishwasher arms comes out like a garden sprinkler, so make sure it won’t be blocked, or facing away.

3. Don't overload your dishwasher

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.

Overloading your dishwasher (as in the image below) will make it more difficult for your dishwasher to get everything clean.

4. Mix up plates and bowls

Leaving spaces between dishes and cutlery allows the water and detergent to spread around.

You could even try alternating between larger and smaller plates next to each other to help with this.

5. Bowls always face down

It sounds obvious, but never place bowls upright. Water will just collect in them, meaning they won't clean properly.

6. Large items at the back and sides

Load large items, such as baking trays or turkey platters, at the side or back. This will make sure they don't get in the way of the flow of water and detergent, preventing other dishes getting clean.

7. Use adjustable racks for large items

Most dishwashers now have adjustable top racks. This is really useful for fitting in large items or long-stemmed wine glasses, but it isn’t always obvious that you have one at a glance.

To check if your dishwasher has an upper rack that can be lowered or raised, look out for a lever mechanism on the sides (as in the image below). 

Some also use a runner system that requires the basket to be removed and the runners to be adjusted.

8. Roasting trays on the bottom rack

The best way of cleaning away baked-on food from roasting trays is to load them in the lower rack – this is where the water pressure and temperature is highest. Some dishwashers have a separate spray-head for heavy-duty jobs like this.

9. 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 and mugs can go in the middle.

10. Safeguard your plastics

Plastic items also go on the top rack. The temperature is lower here, so there's less chance of them warping or becoming misshapen in the heat.

12. The key to loading cutlery

The reason your cutlery doesn't always get clean could be because like-for-like items are sitting too close together, meaning there's no space for the water. 

This issue, known as nesting, can happen when spoons lean into each other. To solve this, place some upright and some facing downwards, so that water can rinse over all surfaces.

The exception to this rule are knives. It's safer to just load them pointy-side down.

What's the dishwasher safe symbol?

There's no standardised symbol to say whether a piece of crockery, glassware or plastic is dishwasher safe. But two of the most commonly used symbols are pictured above. 

Many items are dishwasher safe in the top rack only. This is because the top rack cleans more gently, and at a lower water pressure than the bottom rack, so more delicate items will be safer there. 

If an item is dishwasher safe in the top rack only, it should state it on the sticker at the bottom, or on the box it came in. 

If you're not sure, it's better to be safe than sorry and wash it up by hand.

What is dishwasher safe and can go in?

Here's a list of commonly searched-for items and whether the manufacturer says it is dishwasher safe – in alphabetical order.

Item Dishwasher safe or not?
Aeropress Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Avent bottles Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Baking trays Not dishwasher safe (unless it's stainless steel)
Bamboo cups Dishwasher safe
Bobbles bottles and cap Dishwasher safe
Bodum double wall glasses Dishwasher safe
Brita water jug and filter Not dishwasher safe
Bronze cutlery and flatware Not dishwasher safe
Bubba mugs Not dishwasher safe (unless entirely made of stainless steel or Tritan plastic)
Chilly’s bottles Not dishwasher safe
Circulon Bakeware Not dishwasher safe
Circulon Pans Dishwasher safe
Copper pots and pans Not dishwasher safe
Corningware Dishwasher safe
Dr Brown's baby bottles and nipples Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Duplo Not dishwasher safe
Emma bridgewater Dishwasher safe
Enamel dishes Most are dishwasher safe, but check the label
Enameled cast iron Not dishwasher safe
Fine bone china Dishwasher safe on a delicate/gentle/glassware program
Gorilla super glue Dishwasher safe
Green toys kids toys brand Dishwasher safe
Hydratem8 bottles Not dishwasher safe
Keep Cups Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Kilner jars and lids Dishwasher safe
KitchenAid stand mixer glass bowl Dishwasher safe
Lock and lock plastic containers Dishwasher safe
Mason jars and lids Dishwasher safe
Medela bottles Dishwasher safe
Melmac or melamine plates or dishes Not dishwasher safe
Munchkin 360 bottles and cups Not dishwasher safe
Nalgene bottles Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Nonstick pans Not dishwasher safe
Nordic ware Not dishwasher safe
Nuby sippy cups Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Nutribullet blades and cup Dishwasher safe on the top shelf
Oven shelves or racks Dishwasher safe
Pet dishes Most are dishwasher safe, but check the label
Pewter Not dishwasher safe
Plastic takeaway containers Dishwasher safe
Polycarbonate Dishwasher safe up to 60°C
Pressure cooker lid Not dishwasher safe
Pressure cooker pot Dishwasher safe
Printed or sublimation mugs Dishwasher safe
Royal doulton fine china Dishwasher safe
Royal Doulton glasses and crystal Not dishwasher safe
Royal Doulton plates Dishwasher safe (apart from the giftware, or silver, nickel, stainless steel and aluminium plates)
Sigg bottles Not dishwasher safe
Silicone baking pans Dishwasher safe
Silicone ice trays Dishwasher safe
Silver or sterling silver dishes or cutlery Not dishwasher safe
Slow cooker dish or crock pot Dishwasher safe
Smiggle bottles Dishwasher safe on the top shelf without the lid
Sophie the giraffe Not dishwasher safe
Stainless steel Dishwasher safe
Stove and hob burners Not dishwasher safe
Swell bottles Not dishwasher safe
Tefal actifry bowl and lid Dishwasher safe
Tefal cookware Not dishwasher safe
Tommee tippee bottles and teats Dishwasher safe
Tupperware Dishwasher safe (unless it was made before 1979)
Wooden chopping boards Not dishwasher safe
Yeti mugs, tumblers Dishwasher safe

View all Dishwashers