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Home & garden.

Updated: 14 Mar 2022

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.

'how we test' dishwasher box

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.

Dishwasher adjustable racks

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?

Dishwasher safe symbols

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.

ItemDishwasher safe or not?
AeropressDishwasher safe on the top shelf
Avent bottlesDishwasher safe on the top shelf
Baking traysNot dishwasher safe (unless it's stainless steel)
Bamboo cupsDishwasher safe
Bobbles bottles and capDishwasher safe
Bodum double wall glassesDishwasher safe
Brita water jug and filterNot dishwasher safe