How To Pack A Dishwasher

How To Pack A Dishwasher

Read this short fiction with a coffee.

It is not so complicated but there are a few simple rules to follow to make it easier on yourself and your household and the dishes too — because this is the way they like it. It’s uncommon knowledge that they negotiated fair and square in the postwar boom of the 1950s, when utilities in the home began to become common, their own carve outs. What follows is a rare case of exported inanimate American unionism amongst the crockery. These are not guidelines so much as rules. Following them haphazardly is how dishes are broken. Not out of clumsiness but out of spite.

First remove any hard foods but note that rinsing is not necessary. Then follow this guide, derived from the text of the negotiations in Ohio in 1952.

And remember: it never takes as long as you remember.

  1. Bowls.

The first to enter the machine. Face them down on the lower shelf in the vertical stands, two spikes between each, running from the center to the edges either left or right depending on whichever way is longer. The bowls arranged their first placements with the places who wanted right of why but who relented when they were presented the point that pride of place belongs instead to those standing tall and firm and not slouched over in a land already broken in instead of still being discovered by those early settlers in the state of the machine left over by the last hosts.

  1. Plates.

Small ones on the sides opposite to the bowls. If there’s room on the bowlside the plates do enjoy the sentinel watch behind their round cousins, reminded there as they are of their simple, vital purpose. For best results, group plates by matching designs. They are horrible gossips and they’re unafraid to play games with their alternately multicoloured kind.

Large plates, though, where they would stop the rotating spray arm, are washed by hand. Instead: stack them high towards the rim of the sink, run hot water all the way over, and dollop detergent in the middle and let it cascade over from the top down. Work your way through one by one, topside and bottom, making sure to rinse them clean of suds afterwards. For best results, towel off each plate as you let them rest to dry. They’re not fussy about how they’re dried.

To know whether a plate is considered small, medium, or large, consult the text of the arrangement.

  1.  Cutlery.

The following list applies to each category of cutlery in turn. In no particular order, as per the Convention:

  • Knives, with non-metal material handles.

Steak knives are often the easiest point of reference for this category. For knives with handles of bone or wood, handwash. Do not place wood into dishwashers in general because it makes task, in particular, dispartial to forestry management plans and they can be impulsive in their rebellions. This upsets the French in particular and that’s not good for anyone in continental Europe or, despite their modern independence, ancient New World French territories.

Knives as a general rule are to be placed blade down into your cutlery basket, one to a slot. For those of you with dishwashers that have cutlery trays as a top shelf instead: simply purchase a new dishwasher.

  • Knives, made of a single piece of steel.

Butter knives are the best reference here. Like their upper class aspirations, these knives are to be stored blade down. This is because, despite our fallible instincts, human hands are often more disgusting than human mouths. This is potentially a bad time to remind you that kissing has a medicinal effect for both parties because the mixing of germs levels out your immune systems and makes you stronger across the board. Holding hands does not work quite that way.

Knives blades down then. Heat and sprayed water capable of finding their way in through the holes in the cutlery holster. Exposure to the artificial elements designed to strip the cutlery back to their roots, to base materials, removed from the grubby influence of people and all the things they touch throughout their days, their weeks, their lives that they’d never disclose.

  • Spoons.

Ladles forth, upwards, facing the cleansing water like crescent moons reflecting the timeless strength of the sun back down upon us enough to make of the night stories and witching hours. The spoons of course are not this romantic but they’d like to be. Lord Byron their patron saint and the cuddling method named for them because they’re so melancholic that the way they lie like that in the drawer is less about the spoon next to them and much more about that spoon in particular.

Self-indulgent, self-absorbed, narcissistic in the unflattering rounded way of seeing people only as they are in the convex. At odds with the bowls, tucked tight and facing down, but the bowls don’t push back and the spoons do by simply throwing their contents back into the source. Often a bowl but not always. The plates do not respect the spoons. Barely even do they like:

  • Forks.

Tines up. This is the least negotiable of the declarations and if you want to eat anything that lolls about in spoons and you aren’t, like almost all of us, any good at eating with your hands then always stork your forks tines up. That they look like fingers capable of scratching and digging and wounding in a harder, more difficult, less believable way than the knives is not a mistake and it’s to their continued confidence. Do not ask me to vouch for you if you do this incorrectly. Come the cutlery reckoning you will have to answer for yourself.

  • Tongs.

If your cutlery basket can flip open to reveal the guts of the thing rather than presenting only eyelets through which the stems of the utensils above can go, you can then place your tongs into places where they fit. Small tongs belong best here as they don’t threaten the other cutlery with their mechanisms, simple as they are. The catch on a tong is the least polite part of it but they’re raised from their welding to be more conscientious on the smaller sets than the bigger ones.

Place large sets of tongs along the top shelf, one column inset from the edges where the mugs and the glasses go. We’ll get to that.

  1. Pots and pans.

As the largest and most dominant of the kitchen staples, your pots and pans are the most aware of their place inside the dishwasher but, mercifully, they’ll not get on your case about it. They’ll just char a little, scrape away the stainless steel bottoms of themselves, leak aluminium poisons into your food over time. They’ll dance about on the hot places a touch so they’re not perfectly centered so it all takes a little longer.

As a rule of thumb: if you have your bowls and plates already stacked around a cutlery basket already full then just place one pot and one pan inside the dishwasher. The pot sits off to the side away from the cutlery basket while the pan can sit in just behind it at an angle that lets its handle rest diagonally away from it, towards the front of the machine. The handle of the pan should be layered atop everything else as a pièce de résistance. This is for the pan’s ego.

Small pots are allowable on the top shelf of a dishwasher if necessary but do not place them there if you have other pots or pans on the bottom shelf. Pans can go here too by the rules of physics but they don’t like it. They won’t say anything but they’ll let the other pans know in certain terms. They are social creatures, these dishes, so make sure to keep them as close to each other as possible. This includes the cupboards in which they live. These spaces are full of stainless steel life and conversation and ever-evolving hierarchies and dramas that would put the Real Housewives to shame were we able to speak their silent silver language.

When you have many pots and pans to wash — such as in the wake of a dinner party with an ambitious friend you’ve been meaning to impress, or when your boss comes finally around, or when you have that date you’re in the process of winning all the way around — you should simply remove the cutlery basket and run just the pots and pans together on the flat bottom shelf and consider it an investment in the morale of your core cookware and in the quality of those instruments so that, when you need it, they don’t fight back.

  1. Utensils.

Now: the top shelf.

Large tongs, ladles, spatulas, colanders, cooking tweezers, skimmers, large spoons, spaghetti spoons: unpretentious workhorse utensils that need almost no special consideration. They go, for ease amongst everything else, in the middle columns of the top shelf in no particular order but generally as the first, bottom, layer so they’re closer to the water jets. This is more because the rest of your dishes are much pickier and it’s keeping these tender balances intact that is the fundamental part of managing kitchen politics even — and perhaps especially — if you live alone.

Note that large knives belong in the class too. Anything that doesn’t fit into a cutlery basket can slide right into those inner columns, away from the sides where possible, because that’s the domains of the cups and the mugs. We will get there, I promise.

Tupperware and Pyrex is best overlaid atop these utensils, upside down, and they will become good friends and be cooperative when you need them to be. Workhorses, again, proud of their basic purpose. Would that we were so lucky.

  1. Glasses.

Refer to “cups” below as a piece of specific semantics. There are distinctions to be made between the kinds of vessels that can occupy the same kinds of spaces. Cups, mugs, and glasses all serving that same precious container function of holding liquids in different ways. Someone a long time ago made them unfortunately aware of the human need for water and even champagne flutes, of all things, have retained their smugness about that though there are few of us alive who drink water from flutes for anything but a lack of options.

To correctly place your glasses, simply pick one of the outer sides of your top shelf and place along it as many glasses as you can. Do not, for your own sake, put any of the glasses on a separate side if any cups or mugs — stone, ceramic, what have you — will go there alongside. In that event, place your glasses on the next innermost column atop your utensils if they’ll stand there stable and firm without breaking. Affix them to the rising tines from the base of your top shelf so they at least have an axle around which to spin if they do want to take themselves for a riskless joy ride.

For any wine glasses you consider to be “fancy”, simply hand wash. This is to avoid glass fragments inside your dishwasher, which has the same moral effect as someone dying in your office but having to still make it to 5pm would, and to save yourself the embarrassment of guests having once enjoyed a particular set of glasses you no longer own.

  1. Cups/mugs.

As above: stone/ceramic/what have you. This section applies to anything with a handle that’s made to hold liquid for drinking that’s not blown of glass. Porcelain and china can mix. Steel and stone too. But not any of these and glass. This is because your mugs believe themselves to be above your glasses by virtue of their strength, their shock resistance, their relative fortitude both physical and moral. They are loath to have this tested by falling, and both shattering, from the height of a standard bench. But they hold this belief nevertheless. Dishwashers are not violent machines but your ceramics will take the bullying advantage of their finer, more fragile counterparts and make breakages.

And if they can’t break the glasses, they’ll break themselves. Setting their handles loose, cracking themselves in small places hidden with a well-placed hand but not unignorable. Arrogant creatures but as functional often as they are beautiful and useful and they’re aware of it. This placement the most important one to the stacking of your dishwasher lest your spread the murderous fear of your carelessness about the mugs. Good ceramics and good glasses are expensive to replace anyway.

If you must, you can place your mugs on the bottom shelf but not your glasses. The mugs like this but only as a last resort. They are prepared to go toe to toe with the plates and bowls made of their same stuff. Adrenaline inside of them rising and stronger, better mugs removed from the dishwasher for it. But sometimes they lose. Glasses down here simply become too timid from that same fear, less able to take it, and the next time you pour wine within them they will run from that too with the alcohol stoking again their terrors. Then no one has a good time.

But why should you do all this?

Beyond the satisfaction of the dishes, these kinds of simple disciplines leave for your mind space to remember what’s important. The soft shape of your lover; the ways they like it after dark; the hours of your kids’ births as a fun fact for them later on; the shape of the moon when they came into the world; the ways your friends like their coffee after a long night out. The things easy to forget when you’re otherwise filled with whether the plates go first or the bowls or how many pans or pots or other useless, intricate ideas that weigh you down instead of freeing you up and elevating you beyond the day-to-day and into the effortless application of your best.

†Published as, “Dishes, The vs. State of Ohio, 1949.”

Back to blog
1 of 3