Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Figuring out how to efficiently load a dishwasher

Trying to load the dishwasher...

Remember my plea for help in loading my dishwasher? I did find the manual online and their suggestion for loading it was even less space-efficient than what I had been doing. Apparently I'm supposed to be able to fit "service for 12" in this dishwasher, which sounds like a lot, but it's really not! Especially since I'd been used to running the dishwasher every 2 days.

Here's how I figured out the best loading techniques:

One day when I had just unloaded all the clean dishes from the dishwasher, I started re-loading it... only I used my clean dishes. I tried various ways of loading all my bowls (just bowls first). With nothing else to load, I could try putting them anywhere and everywhere!

Then, I took the bowls back out and did the same thing with the different plates (large and small), and then the same with the drinking glasses (larger and smaller ones of those as well).

A full dishwasher
This load didn't have many bowls, but you can see how I stack them on the side, which allows for more cups and containers to be stacked in the middle of the top rack. If needed, I can stack bowls on the other side as well, and still fit a bit of stuff in the middle. Yay! :)

Somehow stacking just ONE thing at a time allowed me to try all the possibilities and made so much more sense than just frustratingly trying to jam all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher each day! Now I have a good grasp of what can go where. I know that bowls CAN fit in the bottom rack if the top is too full for them, and I know just where they fit best when they do need to be on the bottom rack.

Tip: To find the most efficient way to load your dishwasher, practice loading clean dishes -- one type at a time!

The bottom rack
Since the two middle plates have to be smaller plates, I've found I can stick a bowl behind them (shown on the left) and it gets nice and clean!

Bottom rack of the dishwasher
If I have little plates or bowls for the bottom rack, I can also squeeze in a canning jar or two. We use canning jars regularly for homemade "frappuccinos". :)

Bonus tip: How I figured out the price comparison for my dishwasher detergent

I recently got some Finish Tabs, but at $0.117 per load, I wasn't sure how the tablets compared to my liquid Costco detergent which is about $9 for 250 oz.

Both detergents clean well. I think the Finish does a slightly better job of cleaning, but if I use enough of the Costco detergent, it does just fine. My question was... how MUCH liquid detergent am I really using, and is it still cheaper than Finish?! :)

So, I measured! And, conveniently enough, 2.5 ounces (which is about 1/3 cup or 5 tablespoons) fills both of the compartments in my dishwasher. That makes the Costco detergent about $0.09 per load, a good 20% cheaper.

Dishwasher door
I fill both compartments with detergent. As an aside, anyone know why there is a rust stain coming out of my rinse aid dispenser? It was light when we moved here, but keeps getting darker. When I open the knob, dark rusty water (?) comes out!

Another good part about liquid detergent is that if I do happen to run a not-as-full load of dishes (or a less-soiled load), I can easily decrease the amount of detergent. I know I could cut the Finish tabs in half (and maybe I will still try that, to see if half is enough like one person said!) but I don't like to touch the detergent with my bare hands, so pouring out less is easier than cutting a tablet in half. :)

Dishwasher tips -- lots more tips from a previous blog post!

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1. Making herbal tea in a French Press (Christine)
2. Substitute for cardamom
3. Tips for leftover sloppy joes (LeAnne)
4. Pita bread tip (Donna)
5. Keeping track of online recipes (Rachel)
6. Shopping for groceries in pajamas (Gretchen)
7. Keys to a clean and orderly kitchen (Michele)


For optimum cleaning of your silverware in the dishwasher, it's best to alternate placement of pieces. Place some right side up, some face down. This way your spoons and forks won't nest inside each other and the water/detergent can do it's job.

I'm not sure about the rust coming from the rinse aid compartment. Have you tried using straight vinegar in it? Might be worth a try!

I made a coffee cake that features cardamom, and the instructions said you can substitute cinnamon if you don't like cardamom. Being a huge cardamom fan, I'm dreaming of substituting the other way - how many things can I put cardamom in? ;-)

Are you using vinegar as a rinse aid? If so, it might be corroding the pipes because it sits for such a long time. Just a thought.

Great tip, Tammy! I really need to learn to stack my dishwasher more efficiently. Here is my kitchen tip on making herbal tea in a french press: Blessings!

Do you have iron in your water? I did a little searching online and it seems that can be the main cause for the rust stains.

Hi, Tammy! That is a such a great idea to practice loading dishes one type at a time. I will be trying this! Thanks for sharing!

I would like to share a tip this week for what I do with my Sloppy Joe leftovers. Thanks for hosting Kitchen Tip Tuesdays!

You probably have a cracked part in that rinse reservoir. Do you use it? Does it fill and retain all the fluid? I put vinegar in my rinse reservoir ~ cheap and cheerful. If it was a rust water problem, it would be on the bottom of your dishwasher where the water sits prolonged. Do you notice any water leaking from the door?

We had a new dishwasher installed because our new house's dishwasher broke right after we moved in. (may I suggest a homeowner's warranty paid by the seller was a GREAT idea?!??) The configuration is the weirdest I've ever seen, and I find myself doing one load of dishes per day for a family of 4. CRAZY. I'm gonna try your suggestion of clean dish configurations. Good idea!


When I got my dishwasher I read in the manual that you do NOT need to fill both detergent containers. I only ever fill one and it cleans just fine.

Clean the rust stain with Bar Keeper's friend and monitor how it re-appears.

I'd check to see if there is a spring or latch that releases the little dispenser door that is starting to rust. I had that problem once...

I have the same thing in my dishwasher. I did use vinegar in my rinse dispenser (this is a new washer and it started showing up a few months after using the vinegar.) I know vinegar causes rust on bare metal... but I didn't know I'd ruin it with vinegar. :o( At least I think I ruined it. I don't know how to fix it, so it just stays there with rusty water in it. I guess our dishes get rinsed with some rust as well? Bummer.
:o) Rachel

Here's how I keep track of online recipes I want to try:


I also use liquid dishwashing detergent.

My tip is how to shop for groceries from home:

Thank you,

My middle daughter did a science project with the different types of dishwasher soap. She used Cascade brand liquid, gel pac and powder. Her and her friend ran three cycles of each. What they found was that the gel pac not only works better but rinsed more completely. I can't remember which was the worst. Now I realize they probably should have done more testing but hey there where homeschool highschool girls who did the best they could with what they had. All that to say not sure how it would come out with other brands or with more test runs. Anyway just thought you would want to know. I personal now only use the gel pac because the idea of soap residue being left on our dishes does not appeal to me. Oh if you are wondering how they new which left the most soap behind my daughter licked the clean plate. Haha, not sure that is how I would have gone about it or how accurate but it worked for them.

Here's my post-
Keys to a Clean & Orderly Kitchen:

That's how I load my dishwasher, too! :)

Thanks! :)
Michele @ Frugal Granola

We have very hard water. We used to have to fill both compartments with detergent (we use Costco's brand too) to get our dishes clean, and even then we hard water build-up on our dishes- not pretty to have cloudy glasses! After experimentation, I only fill one compartment with detergent (I don't bother closing it), add 1c of vinegar to the bottom of the washer and start the washer. I also have learned to run the hot water in the sink until it is hot to get the hot water going immediately in my washer when I turn it on. I also use vinegar in the rinse compartment (no problems with rust though, maybe mine is all plastic parts? Wouldn't doubt it!). Our glasses, glass bowls, cookware, dishes etc. come out cloud free and I use half the amount of detergent. Of course, since I also make our cleaners and use vinegar instead of fabric softener, we go through about 1+ gallon of vinegar a week!

I am using LemiShine with my detergent and no more problems with hard water issues and the dishwasher. I got it at Walmart.

I'm not kidding. It looks exactly the same as the portable dishwasher we just bought, except of course the rust stain. We don't have that. Yet.

I'm so glad to have found your post because I've been having problems loading bowls into the dishwasher. I was afraid that if I started overlapping them in the top compartment then they wouldn't come out clean. But you've inspired me to test it out!

We always have huge items on the bottom rack. If there's not a couple of pots and pans down there, there's a couple of pyrex mixing bowls, or baking dishes. We usually only have 4 or 6 plates to wash, but with so many big items to wash, not much else can be washed in one load. We also usually have 5 big mugs that need to be washed, and those seem to fit better on the bottom. All in all I was starting to think the top rack was quite useless!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Oh, and by the way, we've been using homemade dishwashing detergent from day 1. I mix a cup each of Borax, washing soda, baking soda, and citric acid in an air tight container and put 2 teaspoons in the dispenser. Because our silverware has a really hard time coming clean otherwise, I also throw a teaspoon of baking soda on them before starting the washer. We have really really hard water here in Texas (a cup of water left to evaporate leaves an inch of dirt in the glass, I'm not kidding) so in the prewash dispenser I put 2 teaspoons of baking soda. For the rinse aid we just use distilled vinegar.

And guess what? We scrape dinner plates, but nothing is prerinsed and mostly everything comes out spotless. What isn't completely clean just needs a little handwashing to remove a little something that crusted on. A couple of weeks ago I made brownies and when the pan was empty, I put it directly into the dishwasher, crumbs and all, and the only part that wasn't perfectly clean was a corner that just appeared greasy. Everything else in that load can out perfectly clean!

The one thing that still gets me though, is the silverware. We're at a 75% success rate for those now but we'd like to make that 100%. We've tried every trick in the book. Most of the time I just leave the dirty silverware in the dishwasher for another wash. At the end of the week, I handwash the silverware that's still dirty. Any suggestions above and beyond putting the handles down, mixing them up so they don't nest, etc?


I have that exact same dishwasher too!
In fact, I found your site by searching for a solution to rust coming from the rinse aid dispenser. We are having the same problem. I don't suppose you ever figured it out?
Ours just started doing it a couple of days ago. We were having problems with water not draining from the bottom, so we cleaned the debris from the basket in the bottom, and did not mess with the door at all. It seemed like the problem was solved, but the very next time we ran it, the rust problem reared its head.
Well, at least I found some great tips on loading it efficiently. Out of 9 dishwashers I have had (we move a lot), this one has been the worst to load. Not loving it.

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