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You're Loading Your Dishwasher Wrong. Here's the Right Way

Don't just throw everything in there and hope that it gets clean. These tips will get your dishes sparkling clean each and every time.

Sticking a rack tine through a spatula or other large utensil can keep it in place during a wash.
Alina Bradford/CNET

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Hate washing up? You might need a new dishwasher or maybe you're the problem.

The way you load your dishwasher has a big effect on how well your dishes, plates, spoons and forks get cleaned after your Friday night lasagna dinner.

Yes... loading a dishwasher isn't rocket science, but give these tips a try next time you load that cleaning machine up:

Let the dishwasher do the washing

Leave most of the washing to the dishwasher. Just scrape off the big stuff from the plates first, then load them on in. Don't worry about rinsing, as it can actually trick the dishwasher's sensors. Learn more about why you should skip rinsing here.

Plates go on the bottom rack

Load the plates on the bottom rack, but make sure they have a little space between them. Touching can block the water jets and can also cause chips in a plate's finish.

Bowls go up top

Put bowls on the top rack. Make sure the bowls are tilted down so they don't gather water.

Keep cups upside-down

Same for cups. Put them on the top rack in between the tines, if possible. They should be upside down so they don't fill up with water, but tilt them slightly so that water doesn't pool in any indentions on the bottom of the cup.

Put spoons and forks in their cup

This sounds obvious, I know, but some people ignore the fact that there's a special cup for utensils. If you're one of these people, stop it. Throwing a handful of utensils on the top rack will not get them as clean as putting them in their designated cup. Besides, putting them in the cup prevents them from dropping down and blocking the sprayer arms.

Keep silverware away from stainless-steel utensils

Always put silverware except for knives in the designated cups with the handles facing downward. Don't let real silverware and stainless-steel utensils touch, though. During washing, a chemical reaction can cause pitting in the metal.

Knife points go down, handles up

Put knives in the silverware cup with the points inside of the cup and the handles upward.

Stop spoons and spatulas from falling

Big serving spoons and spatulas are best placed on the top rack so they don't fall and block the dishwasher's spraying arms. A handy trick is to thread a tine through the hole in the handle to keep the item in place during the wash.

Wash larger pots separately

Small pots can be placed on the bottom rack, but make sure do larger pots in a separate load. Larger pots can block water jets, leaving the dishes on top dirty. Also, make sure that all pots are angled down so they get the full benefit of the jets.

Keep plastic containers away from the heat

Put plastic storage containers on the top rack so they don't get warped by the heating element.

Put large pans and dishes away from the door

Make sure not to put any large pans or dishes by the door. This can block the detergent from deploying.

Don't forget a prewash check

Before you start the load, do a quick check of the floor below the sprayer arms. Make sure there isn't any food, spoons or other items that could block the filter or the sprayer arms. Foreign items down there can gum up the works and make your dishwasher not work properly.

Now you can start loading that dishwasher the right way, and get clean dishes every time.

Read moreBest Dishwashers for 2022

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Editors' noteThis article has been updated since it was first published on Feb. 24, 2017.