10 Dishwasher Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

loaded dishwasher

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Sometimes we take our dishwashers for granted, but they are machines that have to be operated properly in order to perform at their best. Are you making any of these common dishwasher mistakes?

Dishwasher Detergent

Not only is it important to choose the best dishwasher detergent, but it is also essential to follow the directions when using detergent. Don't think that adding extra detergent to the dishwasher will get the dishes extra clean. In reality, it can leave a film of detergent on the entire contents of the dishwasher. Use the right detergent and use it the right way.

placing detergent in the dishwasher

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska


It's great to maximize space when we fill the dishwasher, but too often we overcrowd our dishes. This not only prevents dishes from getting clean but can also damage them as they bump into one another. Space the dishes so that each one has the space it needs to get clean.

Too Much Food

Today's dishwashers are amazing at removing food residue without the need to prewash our dishes, but even the most advanced dishwasher can develop trouble when too much food is left on dishes. While we may not need to prewash our dishes, scraping them is a necessity to keep the dishwasher running smoothly.

scraping off food before loading dishes into the dishwasher

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Non-Dishwasher Safe Items

We may be tempted to run everything through the dishwasher, but some items just aren't supposed to be subjected to our miracle machine. Avoid putting wood, copper, cast-iron, delicate glassware, and other non-dishwasher safe items in the dishwasher. Wood splits and cracks when exposed to dishwasher temperatures, humidity, and water. Delicate glassware can break in a dishwasher, making for a big mess to clean up. Some metals like cast-iron and copper are not meant to be washed in the dishwasher and can become damaged as well as cause damage to other dishes.

Top Rack vs. Bottom Rack

It really does matter where dishes are placed in the dishwasher. There are a lot of items that are dishwasher-safe only when placed on the top rack. To get thoroughly clean, many other dishes need to be on the bottom rack. Put glasses, bowls, cups, and oversized serving utensils on the top. Plates, pots, pans, and utensils should be on the bottom. Some items can melt, warp, or break if they are put in the wrong places.

deciding which rack to load dishes on

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Blocking the Sprayer

It's a good idea to know how the sprayer in your dishwasher works. For best results, you want the sprayer to be able to reach every corner of the dishwasher and clean every dish. If there is a large bowl or pan that blocks the path of the sprayer, the end of a cycle will reveal dirty dishes. Double-check that your sprayer has a full range of motion and isn't being blocked.

Nesting Utensils

The little tines of forks are notorious for holding onto residue in the dishwasher. Spoons that nest together during a cycle can remain encrusted with food. Alternate utensils pointing up and down to prevent this nesting effect. Always point knives downward for safety reasons.

Partially Filled

While a partially filled dishwasher may seem like a better idea than an overloaded one, it's a waste of resources. Instead of using twice as much water and detergent over a couple of loads, wait to wash your dishes until you have a full load, or hand wash small loads. Partially full loads also allow dishes to bang and bump into each other with more force, increasing the risk of breaking and damage.

partially-filled dishwasher

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Dishwasher Maintenance

Every once in a while your dishwasher may need a little maintenance of its own. Check your owner's manual for information on how to maintain your dishwasher. To clean the inside of the dishwasher, occasionally run an empty dishwasher with a cup of baking soda and 1 1/2 cups of vinegar. This not only cleans the inside of the dishwasher but also freshens it as well.


Be sure to unload the bottom rack of the dishwasher first. The tops of cups and bowls on the top rack can sometimes pool water during a cycle. If you move them first, you'll dump and splash water onto the clean dishes below. Wait and unload the top rack last.