Skip to main content

The best way to load a dishwasher, according to science

Electrolux EI@4ID50QS0 dishwasher both racks
Image used with permission by copyright holder
A few months ago, a semi-frustrated dad posted a YouTube video that featured him giving tongue-in-cheek instructions to his teens on how to load a dishwasher. It turns out most of us could use a similar video, as we have been performing this household chore all wrong.

It’s more about what’s on the dishes than whether they’re bowls or plates, according to a new study in Chemical Engineering Journal. University of Birmingham’s Dr. Raul Pérez-Mohedano conducted the research and recommends arranging the dishes in a circle, following the dishwasher’s rotating arms. These will be your filthiest dishes and encrusted with carbohydrates, like spaghetti. Meanwhile, dishes with protein stains, like from eggs, go around the edges of the dishwasher.

The researchers came to these conclusions after testing with a technique called Positron Emission Particle Tracking. The carb-stained plates get the benefit of being in the direct line of the appliance’s jets, and the protein-stained plates soak a little longer in the detergent, helping break up the gunk.

“The distribution of water inside a commercial dishwasher is very chaotic,” Dr. Pérez-Mohedano tells the Daily Mail. The jets hit very limited areas, and the rest of the water cascades back down, resulting in the majority of the water coverage.

“Current commercial dishwashers also show a problem of symmetry — while the ejection of water is produced in a circular movement, the distribution of the crockery follows a rectangular pattern,” says Dr. Pérez-Mohedano. “This automatically produces areas where the impact of water is going to occur for longer.

Depending of the soil type to remove, the best procedure to follow varies. For example, cleaning of protein-based soils, such as egg yolk, requires of an initial swelling/hydration stage, which is typically driven by high alkaline conditions at the beginning of the wash cycle… Other types of soils based on carbohydrates, like tomato paste, require less chemistry and more mechanical action.” Less chemistry and more mechanical action would make a great album title.

Naturally, cramming too many dishes in the machine impedes the jets and nothing gets quite as clean.

The researchers worked with engineers at Whirlpool and Proctor and Gamble on the study, so we’ll see if future dishwashers reflect these findings. Both Electrolux and Samsung have dishwashers with unique takes on the spray system, so we’re guessing manufacturers are well aware of the problem.

We really wish the study had said something about whether it’s better to load utensils handles up or down, though.

Editors' Recommendations

Jenny McGrath
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jenny McGrath is a senior writer at Digital Trends covering the intersection of tech and the arts and the environment. Before…
Heatworks Tetra is a self-contained, no plumbing needed countertop dishwasher
heatworks tetra self contained countertop dishwasher 2

Heatwork’s new dishwasher, the Tetra, offers two interesting advantages to kitchen-havers who are looking to save. First, this countertop dishwasher is transparent, so you can see exactly how the dishes are being cleaned. Second, it’s designed to be used entirely without plumbing -- there’s no need to hook it up to a water line before you start using it. All the Tetra needs is about 3 liters of water which are used in the washing cycle and disposed of as gray water afterward.

That allows the Tetra to save a considerable amount of water for smaller cleaning jobs, and it’s significantly more affordable than many larger dishwasher models. That’s an interesting prospect for those living in smaller apartments, dorms, or campers where dishes still need washing, but space and money are key considerations.

Read more
This portable dishwasher can go wherever you go to clean and sanitize dishes
capsule countertop dishwasher cleans disinfects with uv light  portable personal kickstarter 4

While renting a home or apartment can be a perfect situation for those who aren’t ready to buy yet, rentals do often have their limitations. The landlord might not want stuff up on the walls, that ugly industrial carpet is probably threadbare, and -- oh yeah -- it doesn’t have a dishwasher.

Enter Capsule. This desktop tower-sized device is a personal dishwasher, food washer, and UV sanitizer, all in one countertop device that doesn’t need plumbing -- unless you want to hook it up to the sink.

Read more
The best top-load washers

Laundry may not be the worst chore on your to-do list, but if you can make it easier and get more done at once, why not? Front-load washers might be trending in homes all over the country, but some people prefer a top-load washing machine. These top-load clothes washers are reliable workhorses that can clean large loads with ease.

The best top-load washers have a range of features, but not every model is going to be right for you. When searching for a top-load washer, you'll encounter a lot of options from a number of different brands. Which model is best? Check out our list of the best top-load washers for 2021, starting with the powerful Whirlpool Smart Capable WTW7120HW.

Read more