A stainless steel dishwasher in a modern kitchen.

How to load a dishwasher properly

A properly loaded dishwasher can help ensure better cleaning with each cycle. Check out this guide for tips on using the racks and how to properly load a dishwasher for clean dishware and cookware after every wash.

Loading a dishwasher diagram

The top racks and bottom racks of dishwashers may be configured differently depending on which model you have. The diagram below offers examples of dishwasher loading techniques for 10-placement and 12-placement dishwashers. Refer to these examples as guidelines for positioning and placement to properly load a dishwasher.

Dishwasher diagram for a 10-place load. Dishwasher diagram for a 10-place load.
Dishwasher diagram for a 12-place load. Dishwasher diagram for a 12-place load.
Dishwasher diagram of a loaded third rack. Dishwasher diagram of a loaded third rack.

Dishwasher loading guide

These guidelines are key for a properly loaded dishwasher and sparkling clean dishes.

1. Face dishes toward the center

Place dishes with their dirty sides facing the center of the dishwasher. The appliance washer jets, located on the rotating spray arm in your appliance, spray upward to wash and rinse dishes.

2. Angle dishes downward

Placing items at an angle not only helps with effective cleaning but also assists with proper drying and draining. Larger items, like mixing bowls and pans, should be placed in the back of the bottom rack and angled to face the center of the dishwasher. Small plates can be loaded to fill any gaps for a full load.

3. Avoid overcrowding

Ensure separation between items and avoid overcrowding the dishwasher, which can sometimes lead to trapped spray arms and leaks. While bowls may fit well together in your cabinets to save space, stacking these items in your dishwasher makes it difficult for the jets to thoroughly clean them. Instead, use your dishwasher tines to separate items for an optimal cleaning cycle.

4. Place items between the tines, not over them

Dishwasher tines are the protrusions on the upper and lower racks that hold and separate your dishware. To properly load a dishwasher, secure items between the tines on the rack to prevent them from knocking into one another or toppling over during the washing cycle. Select Whirlpool® dishwashers feature Folding Tines for flexibility to create the space you need for larger dishes or to hold down smaller items, like lids and measuring cups.

5. Don’t pre-rinse dishes

Save yourself time and energy and refrain from pre-rinsing dishes before loading your dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent is designed to interact with food particles on your dirty dishes, so rinsing them beforehand may actually inhibit the cleaning cycle. Whirlpool® dishwashers are designed to help you get the clean you need, and select models feature a Soil Sensor that determines how dirty your dishes are and adjusts the Normal cycle to help ensure an optimal cleaning.

6. Don’t block the sprayer arms

The sprayer arms contain the jets that wash and rinse your dishes, and blocking them can affect the washing performance in your loads. If your appliance has more than one sprayer arm, like this dishwasher from Whirlpool brand, be mindful when loading your top and bottom racks in order to prevent blocking them.

7. Only load dishwasher-safe items

Make sure that the items you’re loading are dishwasher safe and be aware of what cannot go in the dishwasher. Hand washing is typically recommended for:

  • Nonstick cookware

  • Kitchen knives

  • Fine china

  • Crystal and delicate glassware

  • Wooden or silver dishware

  • Cast iron pans

Washing these items in the dishwasher may ruin the finish or cause damage. If your cookware comes with a guide or washing recommendations, make sure to follow those.

A properly-loaded upper rack of a dishwasher. A properly-loaded upper rack of a dishwasher.

What goes on the top rack of a dishwasher and how to load it

Items suitable for the top rack include: cups, mugs, drinking glasses, stemware, plastic items and containers, small bowls, small plates and large utensils.

  1. Place mugs, cups, wine glasses and water bottles upside down along the sides of the top rack from front to back. 

    • If you have a fold-down shelf with stemware holders, secure the stems of wine glasses and champagne flutes in the stemware holders for extra protection during washing.

  2. Position small bowls and plates between tines. Angle them so they’re facing down and toward the center of the dishwasher. 

  3. Plastic containers and lids can be washed in the top rack, provided that they are dishwasher safe. Similar to small bowls, place plastic containers facing downward.

    • Plastic items should always be placed in the top rack to keep them away from the heating element on the bottom of the dishwasher. Plastic can become warped if it gets too hot.

    • Ensure plastic items fit securely in your top dishwasher rack and are not small enough to fit through gaps. Plastic items that fall through can block one of the washer arms or land on your dishwasher’s heating element.

  4. Long utensils like spatulas or ladles should be laid flat on the upper dishwasher rack. 

    • Make sure these utensils cannot slip through the rack or otherwise block the spray arms.

To help you load more and run less, select dishwashers from Whirlpool brand feature a convenient 3rd Rack designed for hard-to-fit items like measuring spoons and flat utensils. Some Whirlpool® dishwashers also have Adjustable Upper Racks that can be raised or lowered to fit tall items.

How to load a dishwasher bottom rack

Items suitable for the lower rack include: Large bowls, dinner and lunch plates, serving platters, silverware, dishwasher-safe baking dishes and stainless steel pots and pans.

  1. Place dinner and lunch plates between the tines on the bottom rack and angle the dirty sides toward the washer jets.

    • Don’t stack dishes on top of each other. This causes nesting and prevents dishes from being cleaned evenly. Alternating larger and smaller plates can help prevent nesting.

  2. Position large bowls between tines or along the side, back or front of the bottom rack. Face the inside of each bowl toward the center of the dishwasher and angle them downward.

  3. Larger cookware items like pots, pans and baking dishes can be placed along the sides or back of the lower rack. These items should be angled down to ensure better cleaning and drainage.

  4. Flat pans or platters should be placed on the side or back of the lower rack away from the dishwasher door – placing them in front of the door can block detergent from reaching other dishes.

  5. Load silverware into the silverware basket. Take care to avoid nesting when loading as this can cause some utensils to clean inefficiently.

    • Place knives with the handles up and blades down to protect your fingers and hands when unloading.

    • Spoons and forks should be placed with the handles down to ensure proper cleaning.

    • Some silverware baskets have lids that can be flipped up or removed if your silverware handles do not fit into the slots in the lids.

How to load a dishwasher 3rd rack

Select Whirlpool® dishwashers with a third rack are designed to load hard-to-fit, small items, such as:

  • Mugs

  • Bowls

  • Silverware

  • Flat utensils, like spatulas

When loading, angle mugs and bowls downward to face the spraying arms for an optimal clean. To help you free up space for large items on the bottom rack, like mixing bowls or pots, discover Whirlpool® dishwashers with a 3rd Rack.

Once everything is loaded and secure, remember to fill your detergent dispenser to the necessary level based on your water hardness (hard water and too much detergent can cause your glasses to get cloudy from the dishwasher). If you aren’t sure what your hardness is, you can fill your detergent dispenser about half way. Then, select your wash and dry settings.

Clean dishes start with a clean dishwasher

Practicing routine maintenance, like cleaning your dishwasher and filter, can go a long way in keeping your appliance up and running. Affresh® Dishwasher Cleaning Tablets1 can also help clean inside your dishwasher and cut through any build-up that could affect its performance.

Explore Whirlpool® dishwashers

Whirlpool® dishwashers are designed to care for your dishes, so you can spend more time caring for your family. With convenient features, like Adjustable 2nd Racks and 1-Hour Wash Cycles on select models, get the most out of your dishwasher and save time loading and washing dishes.

Learn more about using a dishwasher

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1. affresh® brand products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.