How do I get the most from my dishwasher?


My husband always reloads the dishwasher after I do it. He maintains he has a better sense of space. Checking with friends, many have heard the same putdown from their partners. I think I load a dishwasher correctly, but after perusing advice online and reading my own machine’s manual, I realize neither of us does it right.

First off, don’t bother rinsing your dishes. It wastes time, effort and water. Just scrape off the mucky stuff and load. Jams, sauces, ketchup and the like will rinse off. Remove clumps of food that are larger than a dime as they can clog the drain.

Don’t put large pans or dishes by the door. This can prevent the washing arm from spinning properly and the detergent drawer from opening.

Load plates and larger items on the bottom rack. Smaller items, such as glasses and bowls, go on the top. Make sure that mugs, bowls and pots are facing down so that the water will flow out, but don’t hang them on the spokes – place between them, otherwise they bounce around.

Knives should be loaded handle up to prevent cutting yourself, but forks and spoons go handle down for more efficient cleaning. Mix up the cutlery so it doesn’t nestle together. Keep silver and stainless steel apart as it might produce a reaction where the silver will pit if they touch. My mother believed that putting a little ball of aluminum foil in with the silver kept it cleaner, and it certainly seems to.

Don’t overload the dishwasher as this affects the flow of the water. There should be space between the dishes to allow water to circulate. Better to do two loads.

Always check that the washer arm is free to spin. That is the biggest issue in dishwashing. If it does not spin, it will not clean.

Never put good-quality knives or anything wooden in the dishwasher. The knives will blunt quickly, and wood will end up splitting or cracking. Don’t machine wash bronze or copper either, as the heat and detergent will harm the metal.

I don’t put any pots and pans in the dishwasher as they take up a lot of room and are easier to hand wash. If you prefer to, stainless steel and aluminum should be fine, but check the manufacturer’s booklet first. The jury is out on non-stick pans; I wash by hand, but some manufacturers say they are dishwasher-safe.

Is rinse aid needed? It is full of chemicals that help your dishes to dry more quickly, but I don’t think we need more chemicals. And today’s dishwasher pods already contain a rinse aid, so if you are using them, don’t add more.

When it comes to loading the dishwasher, however, I have stopped arguing with my husband. I just let him do it.