by Lindsay Wilcox
In order to increase the efficiency of your dishwasher and save yourself the trouble of washing dishes by hand, you'll want to know how to load your dishwasher racks properly and be aware of which dishes should not be washed in even the best dishwasher. Save money on your water, soap and dishwasher repair and cut time spent in the kitchen when you follow these tips on loading the dishwasher.
Clear dishes first. Even if your stainless-steel dishwasher doesn't require that you pre-wash dishes before loading them, you'll want to scrape off large particles that could clog the dishwasher. Smaller grains, such as rice, may also be difficult for even the best dishwasher to remove, especially if they've hardened to a plate or pan.
Rinse if necessary. Determine how your dishwasher runs best. If you have an older table-top dishwasher or portable dishwasher that uses water pressure from your faucet, you may find that you get cleaner dishes if you rinse them before stacking them in the dishwasher. A new built-in dishwasher or integrated dishwasher, however, will usually have enough pressure to clean your pots and pans thoroughly.
Put plastic items on top. The heating element in a portable dishwasher and most other dishwashers is located in the bottom. Since plastic can melt and warp easily, it should always stay as far away from the heating element as possible; plastic can also damage the heating element, so avoid costly dishwasher repair, too, by only using the top rack. Plastic measuring spoons and other small utensils that can slip through dishwasher racks should be placed on higher ledges or placed on larger utensils.
Place cups, glasses and small bowls in the upper racks. Lean bowls against one another so that soap and water can easily clean the centers and drain out. Make sure glasses are stacked face-down so that water will not pool or create streaks and water spots. Avoid overloading the top rack in your built-in dishwasher, as plastic cups or utensils could dislodge and melt on the heating element. Glass goblets can also shatter from the dishwasher's vibration if placed too close together.
Stack plates in the slots on the bottom rack. Arrange plates so that they face toward the center of your table-top dishwasher, and make sure there is plenty of space between each plate so that food residue is easily removed. Smaller plates should be placed closer to the center of the appliance so they aren't dwarfed by larger dinner plates.
Stick dishwasher-safe pans in the bottom rack. Avoid blocking the water flow by placing cookie sheets, skillets, pans and cutting boards in the racks meant for plates and in the space behind those racks in your stylish stainless-steel dishwasher.
Load utensils carefully. Use your dishwasher's utensil basket to stack knives, spoons and forks, along with metal measuring spoons and other small tools. Place utensils handle-down to avoid touching surfaces where food is eaten and to avoid being cut by knives and other tools. Avoid putting ultra-sharp cutlery in an integrated dishwasher or other style of dishwasher, as knives will wear down after awhile and may damage the surface of the appliance.
Pay attention to dishwasher-safe labels. Some plastic items, including storage containers, are not meant for the dishwasher and may even damage other dishes or the appliance itself. Protect your new semi-integrated dishwasher from harm by washing potentially toxic items, such as paintbrushes, filters or tools, in the sink so they don't contaminate other loads. Wooden dishes and cutting boards or other dishes that have wooden handles may also damage your semi-integrated dishwasher.