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Dishwasher Strategy

Martha Stewart Living, November 1997

Most of us give little thought to our dishwashers -- we just load the dishes, add the detergent, and turn it on. But a bit of planning goes a long way toward keeping your dishes and utensils in their best shape and getting them as clean as possible.

Most dishwashers have an upper and lower rack, as well as a basket for utensils. Some models have a shallow third rack on top for utensils instead. These are nice, as they keep the utensils from touching each other and allow for even cleaning. If using a model with a basket, you should alternate your silverware pieces, one piece pointing up, the next down, etc., to get them as clean as possible. Never allow stainless steel to touch silver -- this will cause an electrolytic reaction that will spot and pit the stainless steel. Since most silver-handled knives have stainless blades, don't wash them in the dishwasher.

On the bottom rack, load plates, staggering large plates with small ones, and put large cookware and pots and pans along the sides. Fill the top rack with mugs and cups, lined up between the rows of prongs -- not over the prongs where they might chip. Bowls go down the center of the top rack.

Before loading your dishes, you should take a look at where the water is coming from -- whether there are two water distributors or only one. With this knowledge, you can best arrange your dishes to get them as clean as possible. Also, remember to adjust the washing cycle depending on what you put in the dishwasher -- a heavy-duty cycle for pots and pans, a gentle cycle with cooler water for fine china and crystal.

Items That Should Not Go in the Dishwasher
Anything the manufacturer indicates is not dishwasher safe
Aluminum takeout or cooking containers
Gold-plated items
Pewter, brass, or bronze -- hot water can cause pitting or discoloration
Any wood or wooden-handled items -- they will lose their finish and the handles will loosen
Cast-iron or tin pots or pans -- they will lose their seasoning
Teflon or nonstick pots and pans
Metal utensils -- whisks, spatulas, etc.
Painted dishes, including old Pyrex -- their finish will fade over time
Cake pans -- they will lose the patina that keeps the cake from sticking
Rubber scrapers
Kitchen knives -- the joinery will loosen over time
Wooden cutting boards
Dishes made before 1960 -- they were not made to withstand the heat of the dishwasher

Items That Can Go in the Dishwasher
Plastic cutting boards -- the high heat helps to sanitize them
Mixing bowls -- load them upside down
Fine strainers and graters -- rinse first to dislodge food particles
Anything stainless steel

Items That Are Dishwasher Safe but Wear Better if Hand-Washed
China with gold leaf or painted patterns -- it will eventually fade or discolor
Milk glass -- it will yellow with repeated washings


Comments (15)

  • me7639 23 Oct, 2010

    Always put your flatware handle UP! This prevents people from grabbing the area that goes into your mouth with their possibly dirty hands. Prevents passing along cold and flu, etc. I mentioned this to Martha in person on October 18, 2010.

  • aliciapaiz 1 May, 2008

    I need to know how to clean the spray arms of my dishwasher, since the holes seem to be clogged. Any ideas?

  • lauriemousavi 21 Jan, 2008

    I've heard that its because of the food particles that may have been left on the blades.

  • snaphappy26 13 Jan, 2008

    If all stainless steel can go in the dish washer how comes mine keeps coming out with rust spots? and I don't put any silver ware in.

  • zoesazgrandma 7 Jan, 2008

    Do you put this in an empty dishwasher?

  • miprofgenie 6 Jan, 2008

    Just pour the vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher and turn it on. I also use it in the Washing machine.

  • adleanni 4 Jan, 2008

    in what compartment of the dishwasher does the vinegar go??

  • Hostaqueen 4 Jan, 2008

    Dishwasher hint: put a cup of white vinegar in the dishwasher every few cycles. It keeps your glassware shiny!

  • Hostaqueen 4 Jan, 2008

    Stainless steel and silver - whether plate or sterling - are not compatible in the dishwasher. Personally, I never put silver in the dishwasher. It's quick

  • Hostaqueen 4 Jan, 2008

    Dishwasher hint: put a cup of white vinegar in the dishwasher every few cycles. It keeps your glassware shiny!

  • cst 4 Jan, 2008

    I have a nice set of Calphalon Stainless Steel pots and pans and the instructions said not to wash them in the dishwasher because dishwashing liquid can discolor the pans. I will continue to wash my pans by hand.

  • CarrieMac 4 Jan, 2008

    rrred2000--If an item is made only of stainless, it can go in the dishwasher. If it is constructed of BOTH stainless AND silver (as in the good silver flatware that you use for special occasions) it should not go in the dishwasher. Most everyday flatware knives are only stainless.

  • Rhonda53 4 Jan, 2008

    I put my sink stopper (from the disposer side) and drain basket (from the other) into the dishwasher once a week or's amazing how dirty they get and how quickly!

  • rrred2000 4 Jan, 2008

    Wait...first Martha says, " Since most silver-handled knives have stainless blades, don't wash them in the dishwasher." but then Anything Stainless Steel is on the list of Items That Can Go In The Dishwasher. WHICH IS IT?

  • Dosidough 4 Jan, 2008

    The one kitchen tool I spent a significant amount of mony on is my knives. I never put my knives in the dishwasher. They can move around while being washed and the blades can warp, chip, or become pitted-- then they don't stay as sharp as long. It doesn't take long to run them through some hot, soapy water each time I use them.