I grew up without a dishwasher in the house, so nobody really ever taught me how the whole thing was supposed to work. After a few years on my own in dishwasher-equipped apartments, I've got the big lessons down (it only takes one occurrence of covering your entire kitchen floor in 2-foot-deep suds to know that dish soap and dishwasher detergent are not the same thing). But there are lots of finer points of machine-washing life that even experienced homekeepers might not know.
Here are seven mistakes that almost everybody – novices and experts alike – makes when loading and unloading the dishwasher.
Loading it One Piece at A Time
Nobody wants dirty dishes to pile in the sink, but it is the best strategy for an efficient load. You'll be able to use the space in the dishwasher the best if you load it all at once, starting with your largest dishes and filling in the space with the smaller pieces.
Not Sorting the Flatware First
This one isn't a major faux pas, but rather a simple tip that makes dishwasher life a little easier. As you load your flatware into the silverware caddy, keep forks with forks and spoons with spoons. It makes easy work of unloading clean pieces into the drawer.
Letting Your Spoons Spoon
Perfectly nested spoons might save space, but it means that water and detergent can't clean between them. Instead, alternative your spoons (and maybe the forks, too) between heads up and heads down.
Putting Good Knives in the Dishwasher
If you have nice knives (that you'd like to keep nice), keep them out of the dishwasher. The Kitchn tells us that "the abrasive detergent, high heat, and jostling with other dishwasher items will cause the blade to dull prematurely and give your knife nicks in the edge."
Loading Cookie Sheets in the Wrong Spot
Your big, flat trays and pans should be on the sides of the bottom rack, never the front. You don't want them to block access to the detergent dispenser.
Ignoring the Sprayer Arm
That arm in the center of the dishwasher is the source of all the magic that makes dirty dishes clean. Your job is just to make sure that every dish has a clear path to the sprayer arm. That means loading plates so that they face the center of the dishwasher (and the arm), but also taking care not to overload the dishwasher. You might need to run it more often, but it will pay off in the long run when you don't have to rinse afterwards, or ever run the cycle again.
Unloading the Top First
Like socks that go missing in the dryer, upturned cups are a given in the homekeeping world. Those cups collect gross dish water, just waiting to be spilled all over the clean dishes below. To avoid having to set the dishwasher for a repeat performance, unload the bottom rack first, then handle the cups up top.