Experts explain how to get your utensils clean—while keeping them safe—in this appliance.

By Nashia Baker
March 02, 2021
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After preparing and eating a delicious meal, it's time to get every pot, pan, and piece of tableware sparkling clean again. And while certain pieces require hand-washing, your silverware can go right into the dishwasher. Simple, right? Not so fast: There's one key detail to consider as you load the dishwasher. Should you place your utensils point up or down? Turns out, this is largely based on personal preference, but there are some rules of thumb to follow, which is why we asked a few appliance experts to explain how to properly place your silverware into your machine to ensure your forks, knives, and spoons get as clean as possible, while remaining intact at the end of a cycle.

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Credit: Bryan Gardner

Think about hygiene...

While you can technically point your silverware either way when washing it in the dishwasher, Jessica Petrino, an educator and appliance expert at AJ Madison, notes that pointing your items down—with their handles up—is the more hygienic method. "You won't handle the part of your spoons and forks that will eventually go in someone's mouth," she says. The only downside of this approach? The more utensils you pile into the flatware holder in your dishwasher, the more crowded the space will be; be sure to spread them out as evenly as possible for the most thorough cleaning.

...and safety, too.

Loading and unloading a dishwasher can lead to a few safety hazards, too (namely because of pointy knives). To keep yourself safe, Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, advises pointing everything with a sharp edge facing down. Certain hazardous items, however, should never see the inside of this appliance. "Steak knives, carving knives, and butchering knives—where the handle is made of something besides one piece of metal—should not be put in the dishwasher at all," he shares. "The heat and force of the water can expand and contract the handles, causing them to break or come loose." Plus, loose handles or cracks in your silverware could attract bacteria.

Use your machine correctly.

The direction in which your flatware points in the dishwasher might be up to you, but it's more important to use the designated slots in your machine's utensil rack to prevent forks, knives, and spoons from sticking together; this will also keep them free of any water marks, Shimek says. And while rusting is uncommon, actively ward it off it by adding any silver-plated silverware and stainless-steel cutlery to separate compartments. "When different metals are placed next to each other, contact corrosion can happen, which can cause metals to rust," notes Shimek, adding that you should also give your tools a solid rinsing before placing them into the appliance. "Often times, foods with high acidity or salt can cause your silverware to rust, so rinsing before you load it in the dishwasher can help prevent the rust from forming."

Refer to your appliance manual.

Ultimately, you should look to the appliance itself when deciding how to point your silverware. Shimek advises sifting through your manual for loading instructions (some brands offer clear tips). Luckily though, most machines, and especially "newer models, are built to clean your dishes and utensils, regardless of how you place them in the racks," explains Petrino. And if you ever feel concerned about placing any piece of silverware in the dishwasher to begin with, do some research, she says—either on the utensil type or its brand—to make sure all is well before you run it through.

Comments (6)

Anonymous
June 8, 2021
To empty the silverware basket, take it out of the dishwasher and pour the silverware onto a clean towel placed on the counter. You can easily pick up each piece by the handle, without contamination, if you are that much of a germaphobe.
Anonymous
June 7, 2021
The best thing to do is to buy a dishwasher with a top tray for silverware. Initially only the most expensive models had this feature; however now more moderate priced dishwashers have incorporated this feature into their lines.
Anonymous
April 26, 2021
My mother worked in high end jewelry store and taught sterling knives should point down to prevent water from getting in handles
Anonymous
April 26, 2021
Those grids on top of the silverware baskets are optional. They are made to fold over and not be used if you should choose to put silverware tops down, which I do! I don’t want someone handling my very clean silverware tops with their hands! Gross! My silverware comes out sparkling clean with tops down.
Anonymous
April 26, 2021
Handles down - except for knives of course. As far as hygiene is concerned, I ALWAYS wash my hands before emptying the dishwasher. My hands are clean to touch the dishes just as they are clean to touch the food I'm preparing.
Anonymous
March 24, 2021
I have no choice in mine or any other dishwashers I’ve had All the holes in the grid baskets to put the silverware in are only large enough to accommodate the handles so that eating part is always up Are new ones different?