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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Your Dishwasher, A Coronavirus Pandemic Workhorse

With families hunkering down and eating at home more often during the coronavirus pandemic, the dishwasher is definitely earning its keep. Politics may divide people online, but at home the proper way to load the dishwasher can spark domestic differences. Save yourselves from heated disputes with these commonsense directions for loading the dishwasher.

How the dishwasher works

Dishwashers have horizontal arms at the top and bottom that spin and spray heated jets of water. Many washers also have a telescoping sprayer in the center that pops upward through an opening in the bottom rack. Understanding how these sprayers work helps the recommendations for loading the dishwasher make sense.

Start at the bottom

Full-sized plates, platters, cookie sheets and large bowls belong on the bottom rack. When loading the dishwasher, place all items so they face the center in descending size order to ensure maximum cleaning power. With larger items, the greater the size, the closer to the outer sides or back you should place them so they don’t prevent the pop-up center spray arm from reaching smaller items.

When loading the dishwasher, place all flatware except knives into the utensil holder with handles down and the dirty ends up. If you have a lot of dirty utensils, however, alternate the utensils’ placement to prevent them from nesting inside each other. Knives should always be placed with the sharp edges facing down to protect you when you unload the dishwasher. Put forks, knives and spoons together in separate areas to speed unloading.

Up on top of the dishwasher

When loading the dishwasher, place glasses, cups, small bowls and plates on the top rack. Long kitchen utensils such as rubber and stainless steel spatulas belong there too. Long utensils are too tall for the bottom basket, plus plastic or rubber items shouldn’t be placed near the dishwasher’s heating element, which is on the bottom. Avoid putting large dishes in the top rack since they can interfere with the top sprayer arm. Cups or glasses with concave bottoms will drain best if you lean them slightly.

Do this, not that

  • Make sure the dirty side of all plates and bowls faces the center when loading the dishwasher.

  • Don’t place large dishes on the bottom front. Doing so will block the detergent dispenser on the inside of the door from the center sprayer.

  • Don’t place anything that could block the pop-up sprayer over the center opening on the bottom rack.

  • Rinse chunks of food off dishes before loading the dishwasher, especially if they are dried on. But scrubbing all dishes practically clean before loading is a waste of time, water and energy.

  • Don’t overload. Wedging dishes in tight means some won’t come clean.

  • Fine china and silver, wooden utensils and cutting boards, cast iron and nonstick pans don’t belong in the dishwasher.

  • If you’re not sure whether a dish or utensil could impede the rotating sprayers, load the item, push the racks all the way in, and then spin the sprayers to make sure they can work properly.

  • Use a specialized dishwasher cleaner or vinegar in the dishwasher once per month to keep the machine clean. Wipe visible food particles from the bottom of the machine. Rinse the filter frequently under hot running water and use a toothbrush to remove accumulated gunk.

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