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DYDT: Loading the Dishwasher

Updated at the Bottom

There is only one correct way to load our dishwasher.  I say this because I just explained it to Josh, and he looked at me as if I were crazy.  But I’m not crazy.  I’m right.  And every morning, I need to fix the order of utensils and plates in the dishwasher because he loads it wrong.

This makes perfect sense.

Bowls and cups go on top because one of the Three Stooges had a bowl haircut on his head.  See, the top of the dishwasher.  You may slide two bowls into the back two slots on the lower level, but you only use those slots once the upper slots are filled.

On the bottom level go the plates and utensils and large items that you don’t want to hand wash for some reason.  There are two lines of slots to hold the plates.  All the small plates go in one line and all the large plates form the other.  BUT which size plate gets the left side or the right side depends on which type of plate there are more of in the sink when we begin loading the dishwasher.  If we have a lot of small plates, they get the left side, and vice versa.  The left side needs to hold the larger amount of plates first so the ones on the right side don’t roll to the left side when you accidentally close the dishwasher too quickly.

There are six slots for utensils.  On the far left should be the small spoons and on the far right should be the large spoons.  The spoons are always on the ends because spoons are rounded, and it is easy to remember where they go because rounded corners are a safety feature on certain counters.  One in from the left should be the small forks, and one in from the right should be the large forks because they prick food and prickly personalities sometimes need to be held back from the edge lest they lash out at people.  In the center left-side slot are category-less utensils: serving spoons, the random old spoons I use to stir my coffee, chopsticks, etc.  In the center right-side slot are the knives.  Only butter knives.  Sharp knives do not go in the dishwasher.  Ever.

I like having an order because I can unload things faster if all the same items are clumped together.

It wasn’t that Josh was incredulous over the idea that certain items should go in certain parts of the dishwasher, but he couldn’t see how he could remember my order based on those descriptions.  And I was like, how. could. you. not?  Seriously, round spoons, soft round edges — it makes sense.  Bowls on top because bowl haircuts belong on your head which is at the top of your body: easy to remember.

I am so lucky that he loves me and keeps me.

Do you have an order to your dishwasher for easy unloading or are items inserted wherever you find space?


Blanche additionally asks another important question: do you load your utensils with the handles up or down?

I hadn’t even considered another way: we load utensils down.  So the head of the utensil is sticking up and the handle is poking down.  Like a bouquet of utensils.  Is there any other way?


1 Katherine A { 06.30.13 at 8:07 am }

It’s funny that you should mention this, because while I don’t have a dishwasher, as soon as you talked about needing a very specific order it reminded me of one of my parents. At one point, my brother and I were assigned to load the dishwasher as one of our chores. We had a few basic rules, but as long as we followed those, we figured we were good. One of my parents, however, had a very, very specific order as to how the dishwasher was to be loaded – similar to yours. There was so much time spent unloading and reloading the dishwasher by said parent that eventually, my brother and I were actually banned from putting dishes in the dishwasher – as long as we rinsed them off and placed them neatly on the counter, we were good, and then my parent took over loading the dishwasher the right way. So while I’m not that specific, I definitely can understand where you’re coming from…

2 Blanche { 06.30.13 at 9:24 am }

There is absolutely a correct way to load the dishwasher, unfortunately I bought a new dishwasher in a rush and it does not allow me to load it that way. Actually, it is pretty awful for loading – it is not really laid out to where anything fits properly unless you are using a full 5 piece place setting of fine china for every meal. Lesson learned – the top rated dishwasher is not the most user-friendly dishwasher!

But I want to know: do your utensils load with handles up or handles down? (This ranks in importance with how toilet paper rolls are installed!)

3 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 06.30.13 at 9:24 am }

When I read your post, I was put in mind of a friend I had in high school who was an atrocious mess– her room was a complete disaster zone, but *she* knew where everything was, and if you moved the half-empty Coke can she had used as an ash tray last week to, you know, put your *fresh* Coke can down, she’d freak because you were “messing with [her] system”. *I* didn’t understand her system, but I learned quickly enough to respect *her* system. She had one, it made sense to her, and that was really all that mattered. Since then, I’ve been known to just tell people, “Don’t mess with my system!” when they might be doing something that they are unaware is causing some form of chaos in my world. So, not that I think that you are a mess or that your system is nonsensical, just that you *clearly* have a system, and clearly, your system is very important to you. Don’t mess with Mel’s system!

I have a way that I think the dishwasher should be loaded, but mine is based first on the ease with which you can unload the dishwasher (dishes/cups go on the side of the dishwasher closest to the cabinet where they live, and forks/knives/spoons go each in their own slot and in the order that they would be placed in the drawer– can you believe that H just drops silverware wherever he’d like: forks with knives, small and large spoons all sweaty up next to each other! Eeew.). Secondly, after available slots have been occupied by the Law of Least Movement By Dishwasher Unloader, it goes by Dish Tetris: this shape will fit perfectly in this space between these others. Sometimes I might break the first rule if I can manage to fit more dishes in the dishwasher by following the second rule. Rarely, but it does sometimes happen. Usually, I can make the two rules jive without having to break either one.

Which is why *I* fit twice as many dishes in the dishwasher as H. And why it takes me half the time to unload it as it does after H has loaded it.

So yeah. Your system would not work in my head, but I can see why it makes sense to you.

4 Jo { 06.30.13 at 10:17 am }

While I have an order, it is much less specific than yours. Cups that will fit and bowls/small containers on top. Sharp knives and spatulas lie flat on top (we have a cradle for the knives so that they stay together. The bottom is for plates, tall pitchers, and tall plastic cups that don’t fit on the top. Also, large containers. I always hand wash my pots and pans. Utensils have a specific order that corresponds with the silverware drawer organizer, and I DO get annoyed when Mo doesn’t group them correctly. (In case you care, it begins on the far-left with butter knives, then usually two for spoons, then forks. The rest of the slots are for random utensils such as you listed above). I am betting that lots of people have some sort of system, whether they want to publicly declare it here or not! 🙂

5 a { 06.30.13 at 10:21 am }

I totally play dish Tetris! There are a few things I habitually put in the same spot, but I’m more married to the concept of putting as much stuff in as possible than to putting it in its “correct” place.

I do, however, prefer to mix up the silverware so that they don’t all line up together, and thus retain food particles. And I put sharp knives in the dishwasher because we don’t have the kind of sharp knives that you shouldn’t put in the dishwasher. I should get new knives.

6 a { 06.30.13 at 10:25 am }

Also, re: the update – yes, I even mix up the directionality of the silverware handles. It’s all kinds of crazy up in here!

Well, except the sharp knives. Those always go tip down.

7 Lindz { 06.30.13 at 10:31 am }

Yes I have a system. No, my DH doesn’t understand it (although there are fewer rules). The system is dictated more by the layout of the dishwasher with an eye to fitting as many things as possible in. So I agree with the commenter above that the question isn’t “do you have a system”, but rather tines up or tines down.

Personally, I’m a tines down person because who wants to get stabbed by a fork when trying to unload?

8 Caryn { 06.30.13 at 10:39 am }

You load your utensils all in one spot facing up!?!?!

NO! NO! NO! Utensils must face down! Then when you go to unload them you are grabbing the handles. That you never touch the tines of a fork or bowl of a spoon in any context supersedes all other rules!

With that rule in mind, you need to evenly distribute all utensils across the slots. Ideally there is a knife, fork and spoon in each slot. If you have to double up, small forks pair with large forks and small spoons pair with large spoons. You can also make sure the spoons don’t next together by strategically placing a utensil of a different type between them. The goal her is maximum flow of water around all surfaces.

Does this make it harder to unload the utensils? Absolutely, but cleanliness always trumps convienence. I am good with the rest of your rules as long as there’s sufficient space for water to flow over all surfaces of each dish. I would only add that bowls must be loaded so that they’re angled down. For some reason, that defies all laws of physics, my teen manages to have half her blows tipped up. There is nothing worse than opening the dishwasher and finding pools of water in bowls. She thinks she can dump the water and put it away anyway. Shudder! Clearly those bowls need to be rewashed!

9 Caryn { 06.30.13 at 10:42 am }

Dish Tetris! YES! Maybe if I explained it in those terms the teen will get it right. 😉

10 Tigger { 06.30.13 at 11:20 am }

Our dishwasher sounds like it’s loaded like yours, but a few changes.

Bowls go on the top left side. Cups go on the right side, tall cups to the far right, smaller ones on the next row…so that the water can get over them and to the tall cups. Large utentils are slid between the center “pole” and the cups.

Bottom row is tall plates towards the back, because they are heavier, and smaller to the front. Big pans and cookie sheets go to the far left side of both rows. Utensils get mixed up, because I don’t want all the spoons to slide together and not be able to get cleaned. Same goes with the forks. And I load them handle up, because it means that I am less likely to get poked or sliced as I reach in to get something or to unload them. It also means that if the child gets too close, he will also not get cut because he doesn’t know that knives are sharp!

11 Tigger { 06.30.13 at 11:23 am }

Oh! Caryn! Absolutely! Mix them – one knife, spoon, and fork in each of the 6 holders as much as possible. Try to make them as even as possible too!

a: My husband is the same way and it drives me insane. I make him unload the dishwasher if he’s the one who loaded it!

12 Another Dreamer { 06.30.13 at 11:54 am }

I’m one of the few people still in the caveman era, but I don’t have a dishwasher. Everything is washed by hand. That said, I have a specific way I layer them in the sink, wash them, then stick them in the strainer to dry. I think it’s the most efficient, allowing for max capacity of the strainer. My husband gives me funny looks when he washes something out of kindness or puts things in the sink, and I tell him that’s not how they go.

13 It Is What It Is { 06.30.13 at 12:31 pm }

While, yes, generally there is an order to things (glasses, cups, small plates, plasticwear and oversized utensils on top, plates and bowls on the bottom), I’m flexible just so as everything that needs to be washed fits.

As far as utensils go, they say (the ‘they’ being dishwasher mfg) to put utensils facing up (handles down), however, they must have never been stabbed between their fingernail and nail bed with the tine of a fork. So, in our house, it’s spoons up, everything else (knives, forks) DOWN!

14 JustHeather { 06.30.13 at 1:58 pm }

Yes, I have an rough order of how my dishwasher is loaded. Hubby sort of follows it (by accident), but mostly just puts things in willy nilly. While plates, pots/pans, bowls and the silverware holder is on the bottom, glasses, baby bowls and other small things go on the top.
After I do certain things in a specific place and order, then I play Dish Tetris (love the term!).

The way our silverware container is, utensils go handle down, except for sharp (steak) knives. Bigger knives go on the tip top shelf .

15 Michele { 06.30.13 at 2:28 pm }

THANK YOU!!! Peter is always loading the dishwasher “wrong”. I swear, I am right, and it cleans better when it is loaded the “right” way. I will actually reload a full dishwasher if it isn’t done in the way I do it. Top is for cups and for bowls that don’t match the pattern of our dishes (the patterned dishes are more like deep plates and fit better below). The bottom are for plates and the rare bowls. They get one row apart. Bigs are in back, smalls in front. Silverware is organized with all the spoons, knives, and forks together, eating part up.

16 Sarah { 06.30.13 at 3:40 pm }

There has been many a night when I have emptied and reloaded the dishwasher because my husband cannot accept the correct and proper way to load. I have explained, even drew a diagram, over and over, and he still doesn’t get it. Drives me insane. And as for silverware, I always load with handles up so it’s easier to grab them without touching the eating surface and put them away. I have dogs and I don’t want them licking the clean silverware, but the handles are OK. My system is logical and extremely efficient, but for some reason, my husband just doesn’t get it.

17 Betty m { 06.30.13 at 5:30 pm }

I’ve been giving references for my old nanny. When asked about things that I didn’t like about her I have mentioned the one thing that drove me crazy which was her inability to load the dishwasher properly. I think her potential employers think I am nuts.

Oh and knives sharp end down always. There was a, probably apocryphal, story doing the rounds in the UK not long ago about a woman who tripped and impaled herself on the knives in her dishwasher. It didn’t end well.

18 Benedicte { 06.30.13 at 6:02 pm }

My husband is even worse…plates should have an empty spaces between them…certain bowls at certain place…to avoid the frustration of seeing everything I put in the dishwasher moved..and since he is doing the dishes..and the cooking….i just don’ t put anything in the dishwasher unless ” intructed” where to put it!

19 Siochana { 06.30.13 at 7:53 pm }

I load the dishwasher however I feel like it and then hubby redoes it according to the “right way” in his head. lol. If he gets around to it. My utensils are always down. Otherwise you’d get your hands dirty putting them in, right?

20 Megan { 07.01.13 at 12:00 am }

My husband and I had a fight over utensil direction years ago. I said they should be head up so that the dirty parts are more open to the spray. He said they should be head down so that he does not impale himself on the tine of a fork and die while unloading the dishwasher. I gave in and did it his way because I love him (and he was determined that if I did not load those deadly forks head down that it meant I wished him bodily harm), although it irked me every damn time I did it because 1. my way is right, and 2. oh my gosh is he really so unable to pay attention to what he’s doing when he unloads dishes that he will injure himself on the utensils? Seriously.

Anyway, fast forward like 6 years (SIX years of me loading the dishwasher his way and being annoyed about it). We move into a new house and have to replace the dishwasher. Husband is looking over the owner’s manual for the new dishwasher and happens to notice that they recommend placing utensils head up so that the dirty parts are more open to the spray (like I told him, lo, those many years ago), and from that moment, without a glance back at his head-down ways, he started loading utensils head up.

When he instructed me about what he had learned from the manual so that I could begin loading the utensils the correct way, it took every ounce of will I had not to stab him with a fork.

21 Sara { 07.01.13 at 3:01 am }

I was 100% with you until you got to handles down for the utensils. Seriously? How can you live like that?

22 Mommy-At-Last { 07.01.13 at 5:17 am }

I hear you, except that whether the utensils got upright or head down depends on whetehr it is a one piece or two piece. If it is a one piece (i.e. a solid from top to bottom) then it goes upright. If it is 2 piece (i.e. the handle is made from a different material) then it goes head down, so the water doesn’t gather in the handle. Also if it is sharp then it goes head down so you don’t accidentally cut yourself on it when unloading (yes I learnt this one from experience).

Are we all control freaks, who over think everything?

23 Cheryllookingforward { 07.01.13 at 8:32 am }

I try to be respectful about people who load their utensils differently. When helping out at friends or inlaws, I note the direction of the handles and put them in so the homeowner will be happy. Why can’t my inlaws do this for me? I want to unload as quickly as possible and that means just grabbing as many utensils as possible at once. But when they come over, there’s always a knife sticking up in the middle of everything waiting to stab me.

As for everything else, I have my own way of loading and DH pretty much agrees with it. I don’t care if things are int he “wrong” place. If someone started re-loading the dishwasher as I was filling it, I would just stop and walk away. Load it yourself if it bothers you that much. I can’t understand why someone would want to do that chore twice. That is why I stopped helping to do dishes at my in-laws years ago. I can clear the table like a champ, but I’m not going to mess up the rigid cleaning system they have.

24 Turia { 07.01.13 at 10:22 am }

Oh man.

DH has completely ceded control of the dishwasher and how to load it to me, because I have a system, and I can fit more into it, and it really REALLY bugs me when it is loaded the wrong way.

DH could care less. He is not going to learn my system, but he is also not going to be offended when I come in and reorganize the entire dishwasher to fit more in it before we run it. And so I am in charge of the dishwasher and I have made my own rod for my own back. But marital harmony continues.

The larger issue is we have time of use pricing, which means we only ever want to run our dishwasher after 7 p.m. This means that DH wants to run it every night whether it is completely full or not, whereas I always think we should be able to stretch two days out of it, with maybe a little more hand washing of some things (and less “using a new glass with every single meal/drink of water”, which my DH does and which drives me nuts). So sometimes the dishwasher gets run in the middle of the day, when electricity is twice as expensive, and then we’ve wiped out any savings by not having run it the night before. So now we do generally run it each night, but I still get twitchy when I know it isn’t very full.

25 loribeth { 07.02.13 at 10:31 am }

I have a preferred way of loading, & dh (mostly) follows it. I think we both secretly redo each other’s arrangements when the other is not around. ; )

26 Battynurse { 07.02.13 at 11:46 am }

Mine seems to loaded however stuff will fit. Except the utensils which go in handle up. That way when I’m unloading I grab the handle, not the part I eat off.

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