Woman loading dishes into dishwasher

HOW TO LOAD A DISHWASHER: YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE

Since introducing its first residential dishwasher in 1949, KitchenAid has created countless innovations to make clean up easier than ever. But even the best dishwashers can’t produce optimal results if they’re not properly loaded. Use this guide to learn the best way to load a dishwasher so dishes come out sparkling, load after load.

After reading through these simple step-by-step instructions, you’ll know the proper rack and spot for every platter, saucepan, wine glass, spatula and dinner plate in your kitchen arsenal. You’ll find tips on how to properly load a dishwasher with two or three racks. And be sure and consult your Owner’s Manual for any special instructions for your specific dishwasher model.

Woman picking up dirty bowl to load into dishwasher

HOW TO LOAD A DISHWASHER PROPERLY

Before you begin loading, remove any leftover food, bones, toothpicks and other hard items from your dishes. Remove labels from jars or containers. Load from back to front on both the upper and lower racks and unload from bottom to top so any water pooled on upper rack dishes doesn’t drip on dry lower rack dishes. Place items facing the center of the dishwasher and angled down toward the spray jets. Placing them at an angle will not only help with cleaning but it will also help ensure proper draining and drying.

STEP 1: LOAD THE UPPER RACK 

Place mugs, cups, drinking glasses and stemware face down along the sides of the upper rack. Position these items between the tines, not on them to keep them more secure. Some dishwashers come with stemware holders to provide protection for wine glasses and champagne flutes. KitchenAid offers dishwashers with 2, 4 and 6 stemware holders to keep your favorite glasses safe.

Small bowls and plates should be placed between the tines and angled downward toward the center of the dishwasher. Be sure to avoid “nesting” or overlapping bowls to help ensure optimal cleaning.

Large utensils, spatulas and ladles should be laid flat on the upper rack. Avoid placing these items in the utensil holder as they can potentially block a lower level spray arm. Smaller utensils can also be loaded on the upper rack as well; just make sure they’re placed so they won’t fall through an open space in the rack.

Plastic containers should be loaded on the upper rack, away from the heating element to avoid warping or melting. And only wash plastic items that are marked “dishwasher safe.”

STEP 2: LOAD THE LOWER RACK 

Load larger items like plates, large bowls, dishwasher-safe casserole dishes and stainless steel cookware in the bottom rack of the dishwasher. 

Place soiled pans, bowls and casserole dishes on their sides. This is especially important for older dishwashers that might only have a spray arm in the bottom of the tub that could potentially get blocked by a face-down dish.

Make sure plates are placed between the tines and there is room between plates. If possible, alternate large and small plates to improve surface area. The soiled surfaces of plates should be angled toward the jets at the bottom of the dishwasher.

Interior view of a loaded dishwasher

When loading pots and pans make sure handles are pointing away from spray arms so cleaning isn’t impeded.

Platters and dishwasher-safe cutting boards should be placed along the perimeters of the lower rack. Make sure they don’t block spray arms and avoid placing them in the front of the rack as this could prevent detergent from dispersing properly.

STEP 3: LOAD THE UTENSIL HOLDER 

With the exception of knives, cutlery should be loaded in the utensil holder with handles down. If your utensil basket doesn’t have covers, alternate the handle placement of forks and spoons to avoid nesting, which can keep water and detergent from hitting all surfaces. Place knives and skewers with blades down to protect your fingers from getting nicked or cut when emptying the dishwasher.

Illustration of a properly loaded dishwasher

1. For more information on loading the FreeFlex™ Third Rack dishwasher see your Use and Care Guide.

 

DISHWASHING TIP:

“Is this clean or dirty?” is a question that gets asked about the dishwasher countless times a day in households across the world. Many dishwashers come with a clean indicator light that will light up to signal that dishwashing is complete and remain illuminated until the dishwasher is opened.

View of a loaded dishwasher with its door open

HOW TO PROPERLY LOAD A DISHWASHER WITH THREE RACKS

Today’s dishwashers offer more loading flexibility than ever with adjustable racks that move up and down to accommodate tall or odd-sized items and third racks to hold more dishes. KitchenAid offers Third Level Utensil Rack Dishwashers designed to hold large, flat items like spatulas and serving utensils to free up space in the lower racks. The KitchenAid® FreeFlex™ Third Rack Dishwasher is the largest third rack dishwasher available2 and provides great, versatile loading options. In addition to prep bowls and coffee mugs, this is the only dishwasher that can hold glasses up to 6" tall.

See the KitchenAid® FreeFlex™ Dishwasher in action and get a closer look at the amazing loading possibilities it delivers.

HOW NOT TO LOAD A DISHWASHER: 3 COMMON PITFALLS

1. LET THE DISHWASHER DO ITS JOB 

A dishwasher’s job is to wash the dishes, so you don’t have to, but many people still get carried away with pre-rinsing. If you’ve bought a dishwasher within the past 10 years there’s no need to do this. Seriously. Not only is over-zealous pre-rinsing a waste of time and resources, it can actually interfere with the cleaning process. Most modern dishwashers have built-in sensors that measure the soil-level of your load. If your dishes don’t have any soil on them the dishwasher might be cutting your cycle short, leaving your dishes less than sparkling. In addition, the detergent will be most effective if there’s a bit of food for it to cling to and wash away.

2. GIVE DISHES SOME SPACE 

We’re all concerned about the planet these days but keep in mind that overloading your dishwasher may not be helping in the way you want it to. Dishes need a little space – if water can’t reach something it won’t get clean – so by all means, avoid stacking and nesting to prevent washing your dishes a second time.

If you have a large household or do a lot of cooking or entertaining and are consistently running larger loads, the KitchenAid® FreeFlex Third Rack Dishwasher is designed to take on large loads.

3. MAKE SURE IT’S DISHWASHER SAFE 

Before you put anything in your dishwasher make sure it’s dishwasher safe. Here are some things that need hand washing:

  • Wooden cutting boards, bowls and utensils – They’re porous and they might warp
  • Cast iron and non-stick pans – Hot water and detergent can destroy their coatings
  • Silver or enamel – Heat and detergent can ruin these finishes 
  • Fine china – Some dishwashers have cycles specifically designed for fine china but keep in mind that these items can break or chip easily

Be sure to browse Stainless Steel DishwashersBlack Stainless Steel Dishwashers and Front Control Dishwashers so you can focus more on cooking and less on cleaning.

 

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1. For more information on loading the FreeFlex™ Third Rack dishwasher see your Use and Care Guide
2. Among leading brands based on usable volume.