13 Things You Should Never Do When Loading or Running the Dishwasher

published Jan 4, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Of all the household tasks we do every day, loading the dishwasher seems to be among the most straightforward. Sure, there may be the odd irritated reshuffle when your partner loads it the wrong way again, but on the whole it’s dishes in, dishes out … day after day after day. 

But as with so many other seemingly mundane things, there’s something to be gained from becoming intentional in how we use our dishwashers. Knowing the dos and don’ts of running the dishwasher means our dishes get cleaner, our dishwashers perform their best, and maybe, just maybe, we can convince our fellow household dishwasher users that our method of loading is the official right way after all. 

Along with some tips on loading, here are 13 things you should never do when running the dishwasher.

1. Don’t start your dishwasher without performing the rattle test.

To ensure that your dishes won’t clank together and cause potential chips and breaks, gently rattle the dishwasher racks before you turn it on. Make adjustments to prevent mishaps. 

2. Don’t hand-wash things that can easily go in the dishwasher.

Hand-washing consumes more water and energy than using the dishwasher. So load ‘er up, and use your dishwasher for anything and everything you can.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Don’t forget to add these things if there’s room. 

If you have room in your dishwasher once you’ve filled it with dishes from a meal, putting some additional items in maximizes kitchen-cleaning efficiency. Grab your microwave turntable, spoon rest, and sink strainers and run them through the dishwasher. You can even put your metal or plastic dish drainer on the top rack. As an added benefit, it’ll secure any small, loose plastic or small items you have on the top rack. 

4. Don’t block the sprayer arm.

While you and your housemates might disagree about how to load a dishwasher, one thing is for sure: Don’t block the sprayer arm. A big bowl on the bottom rack, for example, can easily block the spray, and then the rest of your dishes won’t get cleaned. Move the bowl off to the side or put it on the top rack. Note: Not only do you want to keep clear of the sprayer arm, but you also want to face dishes inward, so that they’ll get sprayed.

5. Don’t prewash your dishes.

Definitely scrape any large food scraps into the garbage can before putting them in the dishwasher, but don’t prewash. Prewashing your dishes means that your detergent won’t work the way it was designed to and your unit may run a light cycle because it thinks your dishes are cleaner than they really are. 

6. Don’t forget to crack the door after a load.

To keep the interior of your dishwasher from developing moisture issues, crack the door after every cycle. You can do this after you unload so the unit has a chance to dry out, or consider doing it before you unload the dishes so that any lingering moisture can evaporate. You can open the dishwasher all the way to make drying faster.

7. Don’t be so fast to automatically run the drying cycle.

Speaking of drying! Some experts suggest air drying instead of running the drying cycle in order to save on energy. If you have time to wait, considering skipping the drying cycle and letting the dishes dry on their own. Or use a towel, and dry them by hand.

8. Don’t load glasses over tines.

Placement matters when it comes to how you put your glasses in the dishwasher. Rather than putting your glassware over the top rack’s tines, place them so they sit between the tines. You’ll be able to fit more glasses, and they’ll get cleaner with less chance of breakage. 

9. Don’t put flimsy plastic on the bottom rack.

Plastic food storage containers can easily melt if they’re on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Yes, even if you skip the dry cycle. Instead, put them on the top rack.

10. Don’t skip the rinse aid.

Rinse aid isn’t an extra, unnecessary product; it’s an integral part of successful dishwasher use. Rinse aid helps water sheet off your dishes, causing them to dry faster and without hard water residue. If it isn’t already part of your regular routine, add it in. 

11. Don’t use too much detergent.

Less is more in so many applications, including the amount of detergent you use in the dishwasher. Actually, using too much detergent can cause over-sudsing, clogged drains, and lead to undue wear and tear on your machine.

Related: We Asked 3 Plumbers to Name the Best Dishwasher Detergent — They All Picked the Same One

12. Don’t forget to clean it.

If your dishes aren’t coming out clean or your unit smells musty or yucky, it may be time to clean it. A dirty dishwasher won’t clean your dishes the way you expect it to. Once you do a deep cleaning, add regular dishwasher cleaning maintenance tasks (like cleaning out the filter) to your kitchen cleaning routine. 

13. Don’t put anything questionable in the dishwasher.

Not sure if something is dishwasher-safe? Look for any markings at the bottom of the item, but when in doubt, you’re better off hand-washing it. Yes, we know we said to limit how much you wash by hand, but it’s better than potentially damaging the item in question.

Do you have any dishwasher tips to add this this list? Tell us in the comments below.