The Right Way to Load a Dishwasher

The Right Way to Load a Dishwasher via Clean Mama

In my house we all (except for the toddler) load and unload the dishwasher and it most definitely doesn’t look like this all the time but when it does, it’s so much easier.  So today, I’m going to share a couple tips to loading up a dishwasher that will get your dishes cleaner and make it easier to unload and put away the dishes.  Everyone’s looking for an easier and more efficient way to do things, right?   (If you don’t have a dishwasher, you might want to check out this post.)

First things first, rinse the dishes – yes, the dishwasher is designed to get all the food off the dishes, but a quick rinse ensures that the dishes won’t need to be rewashed.

Stack dishes up on the counter according to type if you aren’t ready to load the dishwasher yet (i.e. you need to unload the dishwasher).  This is a time saver when it comes to loading the dishwasher up because everything is all set to be placed together in the dishwasher.

Rinse Silverware in a Colander While Prepping Dishes for Dishwasher via Clean Mama

Use a small colander to rinse silverware and to keep contained after meal times.  No knives down the disposal and it’s easy to put the silverware in the dishwasher basket, just bring the colander over to the dishwasher and load the silverware up.

The Right Way to  Load a Dishwasher via Clean Mama

Lower Dishwasher Rack detail via LCena Mama

Keep a standard format of glasses on top and plates and bowls on the bottom.  Arranging the same glasses and plates together simplifies the putting away of the dishes – stack or group on the counter above the dishwasher and put them away.

Wash your sponges in the dishwasher nightly to keep them germ-free.  (Did you know that the kitchen sponge is the dirtiest thing/place in most homes?  Yikes!)  If you have a ‘sanitize’ cycle on your dishwasher use this every time you run the dishwasher to kill germs on dishes, sponges, etc.

Make sure that the arms aren’t blocked by a large pot or pan to ensure that the dishwasher is able to spray and get everything clean.  It’s so annoying to open the dishwasher and realize that half of the dishes were cleaned and the other half wasn’t – take a second to double check for blockages.

Get your dishwasher started out right by running the hot water in the sink so the dishwasher starts hot.  This way the water is hot from the start and can rinse and clean your dishes effectively.

The Right Way to Load a Dishwasher details  Clean Mama

This isn’t my first bossy-pants post – check out The Right Way to Vacuum and The Right Way to Do Laundry.  Want to know how to clean your dishwasher?  This post gives you a simple and natural method.

This post is part of the Modern Day Homekeeping series here on the blog – go here to see all the posts in this series.





  1. Awesome! Thank you for sharing. Where are your dishes from?

  2. Great post Becky – I am going to share it with our 14 year old son and have him read it and LEARN! Ha! He’s always telling us that he doesn’t KNOW how to fill the dishwasher! LOL! Do you have a source list for your pretty aqua blue bowls – those tiny ones are so cute and the small bowls are just the size I’ve been hunting for. It seems like all the bowls I find these days are HUGE and really mess up portion control. Thanks!

  3. Something that saves me time unloading is to group silverware together. When loading, I put all forks in one basket, knives in another, etc. It took a while to get used to but now I just know what goes where and then I can just grab a handful of like silverware and deliver to the silverware tray to put away instead of having to sort it.

    • Great tip Emily!

    • I personally don’t like doing that because the silverware tends to “spoon together” and not get as clean. At least, I’ve found that to be true in the 3 dishwashers I’ve used.

    • I used to always do this until my “smarty pants” friend pointed out that I am just sorting BEFORE I wash instead of after! LOL! I also worry about my spoons “spooning” together! LOL!

  4. Melanie Barker says:

    Where did you get the aqua bowls they are fabulous!!!!

  5. I love the colander for silverware! Going to try that out! Love your aqua dishes!

  6. I think we should be more conscious of conserving water and not rinse the dishes prior to washing. I believe scraping the dishes will remove most of the food left on the dishes without wasting water.

    • I read recently that rinsing was actually a waste and that something must be wrong with your dishwasher if it wasn’t effectively getting off stuck on food. This was from a reputable “home care” website. I do rinse out my oatmeal bowls. That stuff is cement if it dries!!!

    • I usually run a little hot soapy water into a bowl and use the dish brush to sort of rinse and scrape the dishes. That way I use less water. We are in a severe drought her in Northern California. — on that note, I also keep a jug on the counter so if someone doesn’t finish a glass of water it goes into the jug not down the drain then we use it to water plants.

  7. Wait….you can actually wash sponges in the dishwasher!? Regular cheap-o sponges!?

  8. Oh my goodness, that changes everything! I hate hand-washing, mostly because I cringe thinking of all the germs on the sponge (how clean can it be getting my dishes?). Will be throwing my sponges in the dishwasher from now on (but still avoiding hand washing as much as possible….because I still hate it, lol!)

    So happy to stumble on this post…thank you! 🙂

  9. ina gichrist says:

    My glasses and mugs scratch if too close together and my silverware knives get rust spots. Do they face up or down in the basket? I play ‘adult Tetris’ when stacking my dishwasher…I put at least double the dishes more than you do! Pots, pans, but no Tupperware because they get water spots. Thanx for a great blog

  10. Hi Becky,
    I love your dishes and organized stacking method, thank you! Are the mugs Fiesta as well? I’m looking for white ones that don’t chip easily and microwave without getting getting hot.
    Thank you!

  11. anita dotson says:

    I was Just wondering if the plates are heavy?…..I really just like the plates that are light to pick up.

  12. Great tips!
    I tend to do what you had stated how to do the dishwashers the right way!
    Glasses, mugs and little containers or bottle lids at the top and the rest in height order at the bottom! The joys of being a clean :o)

  13. Great article! My boyfriend puts everything in the dishwasher and then only five or ten dishes are actually cleaned. I will send him this article.Thanks!

  14. Wow… great photos. It’s great to have pictures with correct loading of dishes. So… it’s so complicate to load a dishwasher machine?! Anyway lovely photos and clean blog style.

  15. I frequently have ‘frost’ on my glasswear and plastics when using the powder dishwasher detergent. I use vinegar in the rinse compartment and keep the powder to 1 tbsp in the wash compartment and nothing in the open compartment. Help.

  16. Now if only I can get my husband to do it this way. Or do it at all! Again, I’m so glad I found your blog.


  17. I love this and am going to have my kiddos read it too!!!! 😀

  18. It’s always a little disaster in the kitchen when I have to use my dishwasher! Most of the time I prefer to wash the dishes by hand, because I do a great mess with the dishwasher. I ‘m just not a tech person, my husband otherwise is doing great with that stuff. May be it’s high time for me to start doing things right. Thank you for the great tips you give!

  19. This looks great! I have a dishwasher BECAUSE I do not want to hand wash dishes, pots, etc.

  20. That’s how I do it too but I have all the plates facing the same way (left) I’m not sure why. It’s just something I do. My new dishwasher has a flatware caddy that you hook up spoons and forks in. Love it! No more spooning!

  21. Just a few tips of mine to add: To conserve water when pre-rinsing your dishes,keep a little plastic tub with hot,soapy water to swish the dishes through before you load them,instead of rinsing with running water. When I wash lot of pots and pans by hand after a big gettogether,I dry them for about 10 minutes in the oven,saves time (and my back)for me. I save used paper towels that were used to dry hands with and put them in a pretty jar next to the sink,and use them to wipe up spills on the floor. Hope these ideas help someone. 🙂

    • Mary Turner says:

      Thanks for the great tip.Often won’t use paper towels, because it seems waistfull. Now if the dishwasher would only work better. Thank you again.

  22. Thank you for this post. Everyone in my house thinks I’m crazy when I say “that is not how you load a dishwasher “.

  23. Your posts may be bossy sometimes, but you are right almost every time. Many people have to re-wash their dishes after the dishwasher, simply because they haven’t loaded it properly in the first place. And then they blame the machine, forgetting about their own fault. And one simple act, like loading everything properly and in its place would save people so much trouble!

  24. Bowls actually shouldn’t be overlapping like that and cups should be stacked on the tilted side of the rack to allow for water to run off. Also rinsing is a myth. It just wastes more water. 🙂

  25. Great post & tips! Thank you for sharing.

    All I can add is that to eliminate the cloudiness problem (we have city water) I use LemiShine (any grocery store, WalMart, Target, Meijer, etc. has it) is what I call my “miracle secret”. Amazing stuff! No more film on black utensils, plastic bowls or glasses! Before I discovered it I had tried EVERYTHING & even the vinegar didn’t completely eliminate it (though did help the most of everything else I had tried to that point). Also, of the dozens of detergents I’ve tried over the years, including liquids, powders, tablets & ‘make your own’, the best I have found is the Finish Quantum Max. Don’t know why but it’s even better than any of the other Finish products, in my opinion. I do still do the routine empty machine cleaning with cleaning vinegar & a little baking soda which I do about every 3 months (it’s just 2 of us so our machine is not used every day like many do, otherwise I would do it monthly as I did when all my kids were still at home).

    As for the ‘to pre-rinse or not to pre-rinse’ debate….I have no problem with however anyone chooses to do their own dishes in their own home-but for ME, well, I admit I have a bit of an issue with germs, cleaning, and general OCDish type stuff….so yes, I not only pre-rinse my dishes, but I have one of those sponges (& a brush as well) that you fill with dish soap that I use every time I finish with a dirty dish before putting it into the sink (or dishwasher if it’s empty, which it generally is). It literally takes 2 seconds-same or less than scraping with a spatula & actually uses LESS water because I don’t then have to wash (& rinse, lol) both the dish AND the spatula. Where my hang up on this issue is, however, is with people like me where it is just myself & my son who live here, our dishwasher is rarely run two nights in a row, so if we were to just put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher without rinsing them after using them, then it could be a day or two before they are washed & the likelihood that at least some will come out with dried food still stuck on them is greater, so why not take the 2 seconds to just scrub them with the sponge or brush that has the soap in it right when we’re done with them & that way I KNOW that won’t happen? I’ve tried the no pre-rinse thing & have had food particles on dishes that actually WERE pre-rinsed from dishes that had not been….so to me, that is the more wasteful way of doing things. But that is just my way & what makes me happy. I am careful & conscientious of water usage as we have to pay for it anyway, so it’s certainly not that I enjoy wasting water or anything like that. I guess I just wonder what others do who may be in the same situation where they don’t run their dishwashers every day either like me? Do you leave the food on anyway & chance it? And if so, do they all always come out just as clean as when you do run it every day, or when you rinse the food off? Just curious what others experiences may be as compared to my own.

    Again, thanks for sharing this. And I also love your dishes!! I am particularly fond of anything teal/aqua in color as I am an ovarian cancer survivor, so I tend to gravitate toward things in that color range. Beautiful dishes. 🙂

  26. Could you please explain how and where do yo wash the pots and pans? Is it in another run of the dishwasher ???

    • Most pots and pans are hand washed, but I have some stainless steel pots and pans that can go in the dishwasher. I put them on the bottom rack 🙂

  27. Where can I find a colander like the one you have pictured? I love the size but can’t find one??

  28. I’m not understanding what the “right” way is? Is the right way to put like with like? My dishwasher looks completely different, so without explaining why, I’m very confused.

    • There are a variety of steps in the posts that detail the ‘right’ way 🙂 Hopefully you’ll find a tip or two to help you!

  29. I have a question that I hope some of you can give me your experience with. I recently had to buy a new dishwasher and it literally takes 3 hours to run and that’s not counting the dry cycle. None of my others took this long. Does anyone else have a dishwasher that takes this long or should I be calling for help?? I know this is a little off topic but I’d really appreciate everyone’s input. Thank you!!

    • It sounds like you are running it on a particularly long cycle. Do you have a “regular” or “quick” wash? You may want to check your dishwasher manual and check the timing of each cycle. I am almost sure that is what is happening–it’s probably being run on a heavy duty, or extra-long cycle. I just got a new dishwasher, too.

  30. Does anyone have any tips on how to keep plastic containers & lids from moving around in the top rack? Every time I wash them, they end up flipping over & filling with water. Thank you for any ideas.

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