5 Ways You’re Loading The Dishwasher Wrong

Loading the dishwasher improperly can lead to dishes not getting fully clean and requiring rewashing. It can also result in damage to dishes or the dishwasher itself over time. Avoid these common dishwasher loading mistakes:

1. Not Rinsing Dishes First

It’s tempting to skip rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. However, any large food particles left on them can get caught in the spray arms or the filter, reducing cleaning performance.

Give dishes a quick rinse or wipe to remove leftover food and debris before placing them in the dishwasher. Pay extra attention to heavily soiled items like pans used for cooking. Taking a minute upfront to rinse will help ensure your dishwasher can work most effectively.

Pro Tip: Use cold water for rinsing, as hot water can bake food particles onto dishes, making them harder to remove later.

2. Overcrowding the Racks

Stacking too many dishes too closely together is one of the most common dishwasher loading errors. Overcrowding prevents water from reaching all surface areas for thorough cleaning. It also increases the chances that water pressure will physically move dishes during the cycle, leading to damage.

Make sure there is adequate space around each item for water to circulate. Avoid placing bowls or pots inside one another. Angle items so water can reach into crevices. Only load the top rack until there is clear space left and no dishes are protruding through the bottom.

Leave at least 1-2 inches between dishes for best results. If it seems like you don’t have enough room, try washing bulky items like pots and cookie sheets by hand instead.

3. Blocking the Spray Arms

Dishwasher spray arms need sufficient clearance to rotate freely and target water properly. Large items like cutting boards, baking pans, and bowls can physically impede the arms when loaded incorrectly.

Make sure tall or wide items do not block the central spray arm from rotating. Avoid placing anything directly over the top of the spray arms. Angle bowls and pans so there is open space underneath for water to pass through.

Check that spray arms can move without obstruction after loading. If needed, adjust dish placement to provide a couple inches of gap around the arms’ path.

4. Forgetting to Use Rinse Aid

While detergent helps loosen food debris during the wash cycle, rinse aid is key for getting dishes squeaky clean and spot-free during the final rinse. Without it, water beads up and leaves mineral deposits behind.

Make sure to fill and check the rinse aid reservoir regularly. Follow your dishwasher manual’s guidelines for how much rinse aid is needed per load. If dishes are coming out with cloudy film or spots, try increasing the rinse aid dispensing amount.

Proper use of rinse aid makes a significant difference in drying performance and polished end results. Don’t forget this important step!

5. Overloading Flatware into Baskets

It’s convenient to throw heaps of silverware directly into the designated basket. However, overfilling can cause water flow problems and lead to improperly cleaned utensils.

Arrange flatware in an organized fashion with ample space around each piece. Intermix items so water can contact all sides. Use basket sections or dividers if available.

Try not to overload flatware over the top of the basket. If needed, wash some pieces by hand or invest in an additional cutlery basket to create more space. Taking a little extra time to load efficiently will mean cleaner results.

Dishwasher Loading Tips

Beyond avoiding common mistakes, following general dishwasher loading best practices will set you up for success:

  • Place items in stable positions so they don’t tip over or shift during the cycle. Heavier items like pots and pans should go on the bottom rack.
  • Make sure all dish surfaces are exposed to water flow. Angle bowls, cups, etc at a slant.
  • Reserve the top rack for delicate and lightweight dishware like glasses, cups, and small plates.
  • Load items with soiled surfaces facing inward to the water sprays.
  • Don’t block or obstruct the detergent dispenser.
  • Check manufacturer guidelines for how to best use any specialty racks or basket inserts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dishwasher Loading

Loading your dishwasher properly may seem confusing at first. Here are answers to some common questions:

Should I hand wash knives before putting them in the dishwasher?

Yes, it’s best practice to handwash sharp knives before loading them into the dishwasher. The jostling action of a dishwasher cycle can chip knife edges and points. Quickly wash knives beforehand to protect quality and safety.

Where should I place pots and pans?

Pots, pans, and other bulky dishes should go along the bottom rack. Make sure they are securely positioned and not blocking spray arms. If size permits, you can place smaller pans or lids onto the top rack as well.

How can I prevent water spots on glasses?

Using rinse aid is key for minimizing spots, along with making sure glasses are loaded carefully onto rack tines. Don’t overload glasses, and keep them separated so water can penetrate in between. Avoid nesting glasses inside one another.

Should plates go on the top or bottom rack?

Plates are best loaded vertically into slots along the bottom rack. This keeps their surface areas exposed while providing secure support. Larger plates may be angled if they don’t fit perfectly vertically.

What’s the best way to load bowls?

Sit bowls at an angle along the bottom rack, braced on rack tines to keep stationary. Tilting them prevents water from pooling inside. Make sure bowls aren’t tightly stacked or blocking spray arms.


Your dishwasher can only perform as well as how you load it. Following these guidelines on common loading mistakes to avoid along with general best practices will ensure your dishes come out pristine after every wash. Take a few extra minutes upfront to optimize your dishwasher’s cleaning power by correctly loading flatware, plates, pans, cups, and delicate items. Proper organization and spacing for water circulation is key. With a bit of added attention, you can keep your dishwasher running sparkly and spot-free for years to come.