Dishwasher Cutlery Racks & Baskets: Which Is Best?

Everyone has his or her own idiosyncratic approach to dishwasher loading and unloading. My particular quirk is that I am extremely lazy and haphazard; everything gets shoved in at random. But at our rental house this summer, the dishwasher wouldn't comply with my approach. It was equipped with an extra top shelf dedicated to utensils. I had to insert each spoon, knife and fork in it's own slot! What do you think of this alternative to the standard cutlery basket? What are the pros and cons of the various dishwasher systems for storing and washing flatware and utensils?

1. Old School Standard--The Basket: What is nice about the basic removable cutlery basket is that it fosters a nice, careless attitude toward the tedium of dishwasher loading. You can quickly stuff the utensils in any which way, which is nice. However, if you have an older, less effective dishwasher as I do, this means that the occasional knife or spoon comes out encrusted with last night's meal. Eww. Moreover, laziness on the front end comes back to haunt you when it's time to unload: Any time you saved initially is lost while you sort through the random jumble of forks and spoons to put them back in the drawer. It is important, therefore, to have a system for loading cutlery that simplifies unloading and also prevents pieces from nesting together, which interferes with cleaning. You could alternate the spoons and forks (some handle-up and some handle-down), while always putting knives sharp-end down, of course.

2. Inside Door Basket: This approach is similar to #1. But unlike the standard removable basket, the door basket may be fixed, which can be inconvenient. On the upside, having the basket attached to the inside of the door does free up more space in the main compartment.

3. Dedicated 3rd-Level Cutlery Tray: Dishwashers are increasingly being made with an extra top-shelf cutlery and utensil tray. This approach makes loading more time-consuming (no more cramming those forks in the basket) but does save time on the back end: unloading is much easier when you can see what you're dealing with. This extra tray is also perfect for stashing those hard-to-place oversized utensils like ladles, whisks and spatulas. In some dishwashers the third tray can be flipped over, with one side with little slots for flatware and the other side fitted with larger slots for big utensils.

Owners may complain that the extra tray cuts into the space available in the shelf below, making it impossible to load tall glasses. In some models, like this Miele one, the tray is adjustable by height, which is helpful. Ideally, the tray should also be removable. The best case scenario, in my mind, are the dishwashers that have a removable cutlery shelf in addition to a standard cutlery basket. This way, you could put some cutlery (e.g., spoons and knives) on the special tray and keep the forks down below in the basket. With less overcrowding, everything gets cleaner and unloading is easier. If you have a load full of tall wine glasses, for example, you can simply remove the top tray to create more space.

What kind of dishwasher do you have? And how are the cutlery and utensils stored ?

Image: Miele

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