The 8 Most Brilliant Dishwasher Tips We Learned in 2021

published Dec 20, 2021
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The dishwasher is likely your kitchen’s humblest, hardest-working helper — keeping clean dishes in rotation day in and day out. Most often, we only pay attention to the trusty appliance when it isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. But a little attention to how best to use this faithful kitchen companion goes a long way to keep it humming and churning out the most sparkling dishes.

Here are this year’s eight most brilliant dishwasher tips.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

1. Try soap nuts as an eco-friendly dishwashing detergent. 

Fun fact: Soap nuts, which are most commonly used as a laundry detergent, also work well in the dishwasher. They can be used a few times and they don’t come in plastic or cardboard packaging, making them super Earth-friendly. You can easily pick them up on Amazon or Trader Joe’s. To use soap nuts in the dishwasher, toss four to six in a small muslin bag and put the bag in the silverware caddy. 

Credit: Kitchn

2. Remember to always put the dishwasher detergent pod in the dispenser.

It might be tempting to toss your detergent pod straight in the dishwasher drum, but this is a mistake. Putting the pod in the dispenser and closing it ensures that the water doesn’t begin dissolving your pod too early in the dishwashing cycle. Placing it in the detergent compartment means it’ll get released at just the right time in the cycle and your dishes will come out squeaky clean. 

3. Use Cascade Complete (aka, the best pod dishwasher detergent).

Rather than trying out multiple types of dishwasher detergent yourself, take the results of the showdown we’ve done and go for the best right off the bat. Cascade Complete, in addition to coming out on top in our tests, has garnered more than 76,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Testers describe sparkling clean dishes, even if they’re heavily soiled and the dishwasher setting is on eco-friendly. That means the power is in the detergent!

4. Load (most) utensils head-side up. 

For the dishwasher jets to spray utensils most effectively, forks, spoons, and butter knives should be pointing up. (Sharp knives should point down, for safety.) This is why many newer units force you to put your utensils into a holder through a grate or into individual slots. Achieve the same effect with an older dishwasher by putting your utensils in the “right” way. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

5. Unload the bottom rack first. 

While it’s common to unload the top drawer of the dishwasher first, doing so often results in spilling water that’s pooled in bowls or glasses onto the dishes below. That often means setting those wet dishes on a rack until they’re totally dry. To prevent this extra step, unload the bottom rack first. This way, if water from top-rack dishes spills, no dishes will get wet in the process. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. See if you can put your silverware rack on the door.

In a surprising twist, you may be able to eke more space out of your dishwasher by putting your silverware rack on the door of your dishwasher. This doesn’t work on all units, but if it does on yours, you just might be able to squeeze in more dishes than you thought — saving you time, money, and energy. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

7. Give rinse aid a shot.

If you’ve been less than thrilled with how clean your dishes look when the dishwashing cycle is done, the missing ingredient could be rinse aid. Rinse aid works by helping water slough off your dishes and glassware quickly, leaving you with dishes free of water spots and cloudiness. If it’s not already part of your routine, give it a try and you’ll be amazed at how crystal clear your dishes will appear.

8. Clean your dishwasher regularly. 

As with any machine, appliance pros have told us that regular maintenance means your unit will run its best and last longer. In addition, a clean unit, of course, means your dishes aren’t being washed in a dirty machine. Dishwasher maintenance includes tasks like cleaning out the filter and running a couple bowls of vinegar to cut down on hard water deposits. We promise — you’ll thank yourself later for doing it!

What are your best dishwasher tips? Tell us in the comments below.