How to win the dishwasher war: Which way up must the knives go? To rinse or not to rinse?

Amidst a host of serious accusations, there was one more relatable domestic drama that emerged from the otherwise grim Ryan Giggs trial this week. Because it seems that whether your spouse is a postman or a Premier League footballer, there’s one thing that can prove a bone of contention: the dishwasher.

Do you place the bowls on the top or bottom shelf? Which way should the cutlery be pointed? And do the plates clean better on the left or right-hand side?

Giggs told the courtroom the dishwasher would often be on three or four times a day. ‘I would be opening the dishwasher and the tablespoons would be the wrong way round,’ he said. ‘It would wind me up.’

So, to help couples up and down the country who are experiencing their own disputes over the correct way to stack a dishwasher, the Mail has collated the expertise of those in the know — from manufacturers of appliances and detergents to professors who have carried out extensive studies — to give you a definitive guide to getting the most out of your dishwasher, and ensure perfect plates and gleaming glassware every time . . .

It seems that whether your spouse is a postman or a Premier League footballer, there’s one thing that can prove a bone of contention: the dishwasher


All the experts agree a manual ‘pre-wash’ isn’t necessary. Make sure you scrape all food scraps into the bin, but there is no need to rinse your dishes under the tap.

The fact is, modern appliances work better with dirt to remove and may be tricked into washing less thoroughly if dishes don’t have the expected level of residue on them. Most dishwashers use sensors that measure the level of grime in the water from the first rinse cycle and, if you’ve pre-rinsed your plates, the dishwasher may set itself to wash less intensely and end up missing some spots.

Not only that, but the enzymes in your detergent work by binding to food debris and dissolving it — if there’s not much dirt to bind to, they can’t clean effectively. Just make sure to remove and clean the appliance’s food filter at least once a month.


The debate as to whether the cutlery basket should be filled pointed ends down or up rages on. Some recommend placing forks and spoons handle down, while others say tips down is essential in order to stay closer to the water jets.

One thing everyone can compromise on? Knives should always go blade down for safety reasons, says Richard Tarrant, of BSH Home Appliances Corporation. Other experts advise sorting cutlery into groups, packing knives with knives, forks with forks and so on, in order to make unloading easier.

But Richard disagrees, saying this risks cutlery ‘spooning’ together, so the full surface will not easily be cleaned.

If you have a cutlery tray, however, as some newer machines do, you can safely slot the knives next to the knives and so on, as the sections keep each item suitably separated. But should the handles face in towards the middle of the washer, or out?

If you do have a cutlery tray, make sure to follow the guidelines on your machine, say the experts at Siemens, as depending on the configuration of your appliance the tray may be shaped so as to secure the cutlery handles in either direction.

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There is some potential benefit to mixing it up, so all the most heavily soiled areas are not in one spot. However, Siemens does recommend stacking knives serrated edge down and placing ‘spoons and ladles at an angle. This will prevent water accumulations and stains’.

Interestingly, multiple consumer tests have not shown either a basket or a tray to have the edge when it comes to how clean your cutlery comes out of the dishwasher.

All the experts agree a manual ‘pre-wash’ isn’t necessary but make sure you scrape all food scraps into the bin

All the experts agree a manual ‘pre-wash’ isn’t necessary but make sure you scrape all food scraps into the bin


‘Your dishwasher’s most powerful spray jets are positioned down in the depths of the body. So, any heavy-duty items such as pots, pans, big plates, colanders or large bowls should be placed neatly in the bottom rack to get the most effective clean,’ say the experts at Neff.

‘The water spray is stronger here, so the dishwasher will clean them more effectively and you will get a better wash result,’ adds Siemens — although be careful not to allow any items to protrude through the bottom of the crockery basket. ‘This will ensure that the spray arm does not get blocked, and the dishwasher will be able to wash the dishes properly.’

Ben and I have FOUR but still get in a lather

In the house of Ben and Marina Fogle, dishwasher-stacking is a contentious job

In the house of Ben and Marina Fogle, dishwasher-stacking is a contentious job

MARINA SAYS: Not much about my husband annoys me. As my mother says, similar outlooks lead to a happy marriage. And we are happily aligned, except when it comes to dishwasher etiquette.

Both of us are dishwasher fans — so much so that to keep our busy family kitchen from overflowing with dirty crockery, we have four of them.

Although it raised a few eyebrows when we installed the Fisher & Paykel appliances, we were happy if it meant we never had a lack of dishwasher space. Yet when it comes to stacking them, our approaches couldn’t differ more.

I stack in a way that would make tidying guru Marie Kondo proud. This surprises Ben, as I’m not a particularly organised person. But dishwashers are different: it’s plates at the back, bowls at the front, water glasses to the side, wine glasses supported by the clever little stem support.

The cutlery needs to be placed carefully in the basket, not just chucked in. And it’s crucial that no ‘nesting’ of cutlery takes place, preventing the jets of water from being able to clean them. Ben chucks it all in as if it were bound for the tip.

There will be pans with plates on top, facing the wrong way. And he even drops knives in point-up, risking serious bodily harm to the poor person who unloads them. He seems to think of the dishwasher as a magical box that will miraculously deliver clean plates even if it’s stacked any old how.

But if the plates aren’t washed properly, your dishwasher will punish you with grime and globs of food cemented to your dishes that are practically impossible to get off.

Sometimes I’ll open a dishwasher so badly stacked, with bowls upright rather than facing down, I think he’s winding me up on purpose. Is he intent on cleaning the already clean bottoms of the bowls? Or does he think there are invisible jets that come from the top?

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Unwilling to deter him from getting involved in stacking, I now subtly check his work. I don’t make a big thing about it — men often don’t take this kind of criticism well — but I’ll find a rogue fork that needs to be added, then check the stacking is up to my standard.

I won’t sacrifice the art and joy of a well-stacked dishwasher, even if my beloved husband thinks I’m utterly crazy.

Marina says that to keep her busy family kitchen from overflowing with dirty crockery, they have four dishwashers

Marina says that to keep her busy family kitchen from overflowing with dirty crockery, they have four dishwashers

BEN SAYS: Who knew that the dishwasher could be such a divisive machine? White goods are supposed to make life easier, not harder.

We have a pretty egalitarian house in which all chores are shared equally. But dishwasher-stacking is one job that has always been contentious.

A plate, bowl or spoon placed in the ‘wrong’ part of the dishwasher is guaranteed to annoy Marina. It’s as if her brain sees it entirely differently to mine — a sort of dishwasher dysmorphia.

Maybe she has an invisible map in her head, from which it is ‘perfectly obvious’ where each utensil and piece of crockery belongs. But I can’t see it.

You see, while I pack the dishwasher, Marina stacks it.

I have lived with this perplexing habit of hers for 15 years. Each evening I will pack the dishwasher while Marina hovers behind me, taking everything out and placing each dish, bowl and item of cutlery in a different place, re-stacking it to her exacting standards.

I have tried to understand her convictions but it’s still very confusing. After all, when you put clothes in a washing machine, they all just get washed.

Marina will argue that her technique is about filling the dishwasher to maximum capacity — but I can fill one with more dirty dishes than she can.

As neither of us will make the other sit down to a ‘class’ in dishwasher-packing, it has become a slightly weird silent dance.

No words are spoken. I place a plate in, then Marina re-places it in what to me looks like precisely the same place.

These microscopic adjustments make Marina very happy. I think it may be her Austrian/Germanic exactness.

Dishwashers aside, you should see how cross she gets when I unpack the shopping into the fridge. Now that’s a whole other level of obsession . . .



Further from the initial spray and the strongest concentrations of detergent, slightly more delicate and less soiled items belong on the top rack of the dishwasher, say Siemens.

Put glasses and plastic items here, where it’s not as hot or the jets as powerful. Position hollow vessels such as glasses and bowls upside down or at an angle so that water cannot collect in them and never stack dishes on top of one another, as this will prevent upper parts from being sprayed with water from below, and the dishes will not be cleaned properly.


Research conducted by chemical engineers at the University of Birmingham, supported by Whirlpool dishwasher manufacturers, led scientists to come up with a dishwasher stacking technique not previously covered in an instruction manual.

They found that stacking according to the type of food debris resulted in cleaner crockery. ‘Cleaning of protein-based soils, such as egg yolk, requires an initial swelling/hydration stage, which is typically driven by high alkaline conditions at the beginning of the wash-cycle,’ said Dr Raul Perez-Mohedano, who led the study. ‘Carbohydrates, like tomato paste, require less chemistry and more mechanical action.’

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Essentially, this means carbohydrate-based stains such as potato and tomato need the full force of the water jets to get clean, while protein-based foods such as dried egg yolk need more contact with the chemical detergent.

That means stacking the protein-soiled plates towards the outer perimeter of the dishwasher, where water travels slower but detergent has more time to act, and placing carbohydrate-soiled dishes towards the centre of the machine, where the fastest-moving jets of water can clean them off.

It’s also vital to ensure the dirty side of every item faces the centre of the dishwasher, where the dishwasher jets spray from.

The team at Bosch say 3-in-1 tablets only reduce the amount of rinse aid and salt needed overall — they don’t totally replace them

The team at Bosch say 3-in-1 tablets only reduce the amount of rinse aid and salt needed overall — they don’t totally replace them


‘An average dishwasher temperature runs its main cycle at about 51-60c,’ says the team at detergent brand Finish. ‘This is because the temperature of water in the dishwasher needs to be hot enough to ensure that the detergent is dissolved and activated, while also removing any leftover food and grease.’

During the rinse phase, the water temperature should rise to 80c for the sake of food hygiene, effectively sterilising the contents of the dishwasher.

Finish says that if your dishwasher water temperature is not running hot enough, you’ll know ‘via tell-tale signs, such as if your dishes do not come back as clean as they should be, or if your dishwasher detergent tablet has not fully dissolved’. If you suspect your water temperature isn’t high enough, contact a technician — and always run a hot or intensive cycle every six months or so, along with a dishwasher cleaner, to keep fat and grime from building up and your appliance running smoothly.

This is particularly important if you regularly use an ‘Eco’ mode, which runs at a lower temperature, meaning fat builds up faster.


The newer ‘triple action’ or 3-in-1 dishwasher tablets promise to do the job of rinse aid, dishwasher salt and detergent, but is it really wise to rely on these alone?

The answer is, probably not. The team at Bosch say these tablets only reduce the amount of rinse aid and salt needed overall — they don’t totally replace them, so you should always keep both topped up.

Even the tablet manufacturers agree that in hard-water areas, it’s advisable to use separate rinse aid and salt along with their tablets.

But most important — don’t overload your dishwasher. If you do, your detergent won’t reach every item.

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