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The Art of Loading Dishwashers

Some people seem to regard loading dishwashers as a competitive sport, using the first item they insert to block the maximum possible number of moves by the next player.

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I remember writing something about this topic several years ago, but still it comes back to haunt me. The problem is that my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) and my son (Joseph the Commonsense Challenged) both seem to regard loading the dishwasher as a competitive form of tic-tac-toe.
Why? (Click image to see a larger version — Image source: Max Maxfield)
To an outside observer (or an inside observer in the case of your humble narrator), it would appear they both perceive an empty dishwasher to be a challenge, and they are determined to use the first item they insert to block the maximum possible number of moves by the next player, which — once again — would be yours truly. I have to confess that I simply do not understand the rationale here. It seems obvious to me that the world would be a better and happier place if everyone were to use an optimal packing strategy so as to facilitate the maximum number of dishes to be washed at the same time, thereby conserving energy and minimizing water usage whilst also ensuring the little rascal isn’t obliged to run 24/7/365 because of gross inefficiencies in the loading technique. And, whilst we’re on this topic, why on earth would anyone orient plates in a dishwasher such that their dirty sides face toward the outside walls? Even if it doesn’t actually affect the ultimate outcome, surely it’s common sense (which isn’t as common as it used to be) to load the dishes such that their dirty sides face inwards toward the spinning jets of steaming hot water. I seem to recall someone commenting to my previous column on this topic saying that, whenever he and his wife happened to be in the market for a new dishwasher, he took a set of their plates, cutlery, and a select collection of other utensils down to the store with him to make sure that everything fit as required. “Genius!” I thought, quickly followed by, “Now, there’s an engineer!” What do you think? Is this just a case of engineers (who have a clue) versus non-engineers (who don’t), or is it a left-brain versus right-brain kind of thing, or is some other factor at play?

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Milan Lazich

I have my own practices for dishwasher loading (which I of course consider best practices).

– Start loading in the back.
– Put the largest items in the back and/or around the outside so that smaller items are not blocked from the water jets.
– Make sure spoons and forks are separated/alternated to avoid nesting, which could prevent some surfaces from being cleaned.
– And finally — and not everyone agrees with me on this — rinse items thoroughly before putting them in the dishwasher. I have two reasons for this. First, I trust the dishwasher to sanitize but not necessarily to scrub. Second, the more food particles the dishwasher has to remove the more clogged the dishwasher’s filter is likely to become.

OK, let the disagreements commence.

Aubrey Kagan

The new dishwasher thing? That was me! I also take a few suitcases when when I am buying a new car to see how they fit in the trunk.

Aubrey Kagan

I also take test drive past my house to see if and how the car fits in the garage.

Aubrey Kagan

I seem to remember some upper market cars (think Jaguar or Bentley) offering some incentive like that many years ago.

But buying a suitcase is not trivial. How easily does it roll with different weight distributions. What angle does the case make with the ground vis-a-vis the length of the handle so that your heel doesn’t kick against it when you’re dragging it behind you. Can you live with a clam shell design that requires you to open it on a bed as opposed to the suitcase stand in an hotel room? I am still figuring on whether to take a bunch of clothes or a carefully constructed system of weights.

Aubrey Kagan

There is another question that causes family rifts. Does the cutlery go business side up or down. Logically it is claimed it should go up since the dirty end is more exposed to the water jets. In fact my son’s dishwasher’s cutlery rack has slots so spoons and forks can’t go dirty side down (it looks like it is the same thing in the dishwasher in your photo). I disagree on two counts: First of all you get you hands dirty when populating the rack. And secondly I contend that depopulating the rack means you touch the business end with your germy fingers, partially negating the cleaning process.

Dan Krones

In our house safety is a factor. For the dishwasher it is always business side down for knives to lower the risk of injury. Doing this for years we occasionally get a dirty knife but the gunk is usually the formation of cement caused by a dried avocado or something that would not have come clean anyway.

Ian Johns

My pet peeve has always against those who load business side up. Whilst avoiding knife or fork tips & possible injury it’s unavoidable to touch the business end. Germs?

Antoinette Sottak

I’m not an engineer but definitely approach dishwasher loading like one – I’m so happy to see I”m not alone in my pursuit of maximum loading for efficiency and cleanliness. I had someone tell me when they load the silverware they do it in a way that makes unloading easier – so they put all the forks in one section, the spoons in another and knives, etc. Effectively when you unload you grab the bunch and put them away in their respective compartments. However, I found that when you do this some of the utensils don’t get cleaned because they stick together. But it is an interesting theory in terms of efficiently for unloading.

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