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10 Things You Should Never Do to Your Dishwasher

Along with your washer and dryer, your dishwasher is a star among domestic appliances. This machine saves you from cracked hands and hours spent laboring over sudsy water. Just load the dishes in the racks, push a button, and walk away. Simple enough, right?

While this process seems foolproof, many people make some common mistakes with their dishwashers that lead to dirtier dishes and damaged machines. To keep your plates clean and your appliance running well, avoid these 10 dishwasher faux pas.


Cooking creates a lot of dirty dishes. After a big meal, you might find it tempting to shove every platter and pan in the dishwasher at once. However, an overloaded dishwasher can't properly clean anything. Dishes will rest against each other and the jets won't be able to access every surface.

To avoid washing those plates again, run your dishwasher when it's full, but not packed. Don't under-load it either, as this wastes water and your dishes might get knocked around when there's too much space between them.

Using Extra Detergent

You don't always have to top off that detergent compartment. More soap can sometimes cause more problems. Too much detergent leaves a gunky film on your dishes, which means you'll end up re-washing them.

Read the label on your dishwasher detergent and follow the directions for how much to use. If you use pre-filled dishwasher detergent packs, you should still put them in the designated detergent compartment and not on the bottom of the machine.

Obstructing the Sprayer

Take a look inside your dishwasher and get an idea of how the sprayer arms rotate. When you load the washer, make sure nothing big or bulky blocks these arms from moving. Your dishes won't get clean, and you could end up damaging your machine.

Including Unsafe Items

Read the label on that hand-painted china before you put it in the washer. If something says it's not dishwasher safe, don't put it in anyway to see what happens. Along with potentially destroying the item in question, you could also damage your machine.

Common hand wash-only materials include:

  • Crystal
  • Cast iron
  • Wood
  • Copper
  • Some plastics
  • Aluminum

You will also need to hand wash insulated mugs, such as thermoses, and nonstick pans.

Packed Flatware

When you load flatware into your dishwasher, make sure the various pieces don't nest together in the basket. If forks or spoons lie directly on top of each other, the sprayers can't access their full surfaces to clean them. You'll find yourself pulling out dirty utensils after every cycle and wondering what happened.

This rule also applies to plates and bowls.


Your dishwasher is not a garbage disposal, and you shouldn't stick a plate in there with half a sandwich still on it. However, you also don't need to practically hand wash your dishes before you load them into the dishwasher.

Over-rinsing your dishes is unnecessary, and can negatively affect pH levels during the wash cycle. Simply scrape your dishes off and let the washer do the rest.

Leaving the Washer Dirty

It might clean your dishes, but your dishwasher won't clean itself. Don't count on the standard wash cycle to clean out the washer's interior.

Maintain your machine by cleaning out the filter about every six months. To clean out the system, fill a small dishwasher-safe cup with vinegar, place it upright on the top rack, and run the machine on its hottest water setting.

Unloading the Wrong Rack First

When you put your clean dishes away, unload the bottom rack first. If you unload the top rack first, it won't do any damage. However, water tends to collect in cups and bowls on this rack, and you could end up dumping water onto the items below. Unload the bottom first to avoid the splash.

Hand-Washing Instead

Contrary to popular belief, it is not more economical to hand wash your dishes. Dishwashers actually use less water than if you were to wash all your dishes by hand. If you have a dishwasher but don't always use it in favor of hand washing, consider making a switch.

Using the Wrong Cycle

If every time you run your dishwasher you just press the start button and walk away, you might want to examine your cycle options. Modern dishwashers often come with a variety of cycles for different purposes. Take a look at the ones listed on your machine and get an idea of what they do.

Common cycles include:

  • Heavy Duty: For heavily soiled dishes. This wash cycle is longer than normal and uses greater water pressure. Also called Pots and Pans.
  • Quick Wash: For light loads of dishes. This cycle lets you wash only one rack at a time so you use less water.
  • Gentle Wash: For delicate dishes you can still put in the dishwasher. Uses shorter wash times and less pressure.

Avoid these 10 common mistakes and let your dishwasher make your cleanup process all that much easier.