You can skip this step if you're running the dishwasher immediately after loading, in which case you can get away with just scraping off the food and loading the dishes. If the dishes will be sitting for any length of time, it's best to rinse them. Small grains such as rice may be difficult to remove if they're stuck to the plate.
The heating element in the bottom of the dishwasher makes it more likely to melt or warp plastic loaded onto the bottom rack. Secure plastic items to prevent hot water from blasting them and flipping them over onto the heating element.
Angle cups as much as possible to keep water from pooling on the base of upside-down mugs or cups. Place them between the prongs, not on top, to avoid water spots. Carefully arrange wineglasses to prevent breakage; do not allow them to bump into each other. Glasses may also shatter from the vibration of the dishwasher if they're placed too close together.
Face them all towards the middle of the dishwasher. Pots and pans should be angled down for best cleaning results. Watch for long-handled utensils that may slip through the rack and prevent the spray arm from functioning freely. Tuck flat pans and platters along the sides and back of the rack, not by the door. This may block the detergent from reaching the dishes. Make sure no large pots or pans block the water source.
Alternate handles with some up and some down when loading silverware to avoid nesting forks and spoons. Separate your stainless and silver (or silver-plated) flatware. A reaction could occur to cause the silver to pit.
Wash potentially toxic items, such as paintbrushes, in the sink to avoid contaminating the other items in the load. Be sure plastic items are dishwasher safe to avoid damaging the item itself or even the dishwasher itself.
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