17 Ways You’re Loading Your Dishwasher Like a Total Amateur
A cleaner kitchen starts right here and now.
If you have a dishwasher in your home, consider yourself lucky—you never have to stare down a sink full of dirty dishes, wincing as you scrape last week’s now-unrecognizable dinner from the bottom of a bowl.
However, just because you have a dishwasher doesn’t mean you’re necessarily putting it to good use. In fact, you might just be committing a handful of cardinal sins when it comes to getting those cups and plates spot-free and sparkling. Instead of running yet another pots and pans cycle and hoping for the best, brush up on these ways you’re loading your dishwasher wrong—and find out how to correct course immediately.
You’re grouping each type of silverware together.
It may seem easier to keep all of your knives in one of your dishwasher’s silverware compartments, all of your forks in another, and all of your spoons in a third.
The only problem? Doing so often means your silverware nestles together—your forks wind up with their tines pressed up against one another and your spoons are left, well, spooning. When this happens, it impedes the flow of water, making it harder for each item to get adequately cleaned. Instead, mix up the silverware in each compartment of the cutlery basket and don’t crowd the rack.
You’re putting large items at the front of the machine.
That soap compartment on the front of your dishwasher does serve a purpose. Unfortunately, when you put large items—like sauce pots, baking pans, or cutting boards—near the door of your dishwasher, it can block the soap from being adequately distributed among your dishes, meaning only the items at the front of your dishwasher get thoroughly washed with soap. The rest are just get a suds-free bath.
You put your dishes in without scraping them first.
While it’s true that you don’t need to scrub your dishes (or even really rinse them) before putting them into your dishwasher, scraping actual food off them is a good idea. If you’re leaving food on your plates before loading them, it can clog your dishwasher’s filters and hoses, which are meant to remove residue, not whole chunks of steak. Over time, this can lead to your dishwasher working less effectively, and result in a whole lot of dishes you need to rewash.
You’re grouping plates by size.
If you want to allow for maximum movement of water in your dishwasher, it’s best to alternate small and large plates inside your machine. This lets the water get to every item in your dishwasher, cleaning everything evenly, rather than just bouncing off your biggest dishes.
You put plates with carb residue around the dishwasher’s perimeter.
Think your plates are getting equally clean, no matter where you put them in your dishwasher? Think again. Researchers at the University of Binghamton have discovered that plates with carbohydrate residue are best positioned to get thoroughly clean if they’re loaded around the perimeter of the dishwasher.
You put protein-coated dishes in the center of the rack.
On those days you’re eating eggs or having a chicken stir-fry, put your plates in the center of your dishwasher. The same University of Binghamton study revealed that such positioning in your dishwasher is most advantageous when it comes to removing protein-based leftovers.
You’re dishwashing your sharp knives.
That professional-quality chef’s knife you got for your birthday doesn’t belong in your dishwasher. The jets from your dishwasher can bang your knife around, dulling the blade, and potentially even loosening the glue used to keep its handle together.
And if you’re letting your kids help out with the dishes, having a sharp knife in the dishwasher presents an unexpected source of peril in the kitchen. One study published in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion reveals that sharp objects were among the most common causes of dishwasher-related injury (not that you needed science to tell you that).
You’re washing wooden cutting boards.
Unless you’re looking to ruin that wooden cutting board, don’t even think about putting it in the dishwasher. The hot water from a dishwasher can easily warp that pricey kitchen tool. Worse yet, a review of research published in Food Microbiology suggests that, despite some reports to the contrary, wood cutting boards almost always harbor more bacteria than their plastic counterparts, and many of the pre-washing activities people do, like scraping them, can contribute to bacterial growth—as can the warm temperatures in your machine.
You’re using your dishwasher to clean children’s plastic dishes.
If your kids have plastic cups and dishes, wash them by hand instead of popping them in the dishwasher. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, BPA and phthalates—two substances found in certain plastics that have been linked to everything from obesity to hormonal changes—can leach into food when plastic containers are exposed to high heat.
You’re putting plastics on the bottom shelf.
If you’ve got plastic food storage containers, cutting boards, or plates of your own that need washing, make sure to keep them on the dishwasher’s top rack. When placed on the bottom rack, these items are closer to the high heat and powerful spray from the dishwasher’s jets, which can warp them and cause the plastic to degrade more quickly.
You’re putting spatulas in the utensil basket.
Putting a spatula in the utensil basket of your dishwasher might seem to make sense, but it could keep your other dishes from getting clean. In addition to potentially blocking the soap door, large items like spatulas can also get jostled during a wash cycle, potentially impeding the movement of the dishwasher’s jets. For the safest (and cleanest) bet, put your spatulas on the top rack instead.
You’re dishwashing your cast iron pans.
That beautifully-seasoned cast iron pan should never, ever see the inside of your dishwasher. While there are some dishwasher-safe varieties of cast iron, the vast majority are not meant for the high heat and abrasive detergent used in most machines, which can remove the seasoning and increase the chances your pan will rust.
You’re leaving bowls and cups on their sides.
Putting your cups and bowl into your dishwasher willy-nilly can leave you with some surprisingly gross results. If your cups and dishes aren’t fully upside down (or adequately secured in the rack), the jets inside your dishwasher can flip them onto their backs, meaning they end up collecting dishwater and food residue instead of actually getting clean.
You’re adding too many items to a single load.
Less is more when it comes to loading your dishwasher. A crowded machine means that water can’t move around as freely as it would in one with fewer items in it. One study published in Chemical Engineering Journal reveals that crowding can actually make your dishwasher less efficient, leading to dishes that aren’t thoroughly cleaned when you remove them.
You’re not running your dishwasher at a hot enough temperature.
Opting for milder temperatures on your dishwasher cycle won’t get your dishes as clean as you might hope. According to a study published in the Saint Martin’s University Biology Journal, in liquid environments, E. coli grew at greater rates at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit than at 113 degrees, indicating that if you want to get those dishes clean enough to eat off of, your dishwasher should be seriously hot.
You’re using the bottom rack for glass items.
Those wine glasses and fragile items you’re attempting to get squeaky clean have no place on the bottom rack of your dishwasher. Items placed on the bottom rack are closer to the jets, meaning they’re more likely to move around during the wash cycle—and, as such, are more prone to chipping or breaking.
You’re not cleaning your filter on a regular basis.
You clean the filter on your water pitcher, your aquarium, and your pool, so why aren’t you doing the same for your dishwasher? If you want to make sure your dishes are spotless every time, you should be cleaning your dishwasher filters regularly—at least a few times a year, if not every few weeks, depending on what model you own. And make sure you’re giving those rubber seals around the door to your dishwasher a thorough wipe down with a bleach-and-water solution on a regular basis, too—researchers have found that they’re a veritable breeding ground for bacteria. And when you want to make every room shine from top to bottom, start with these 20 Genius House-Cleaning Tricks That Will Blow Your Mind.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!