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Martha Stewart: Should You Point Silverware Up or Down in the Dishwasher?

To get the full story, check out my full-length feature in the AjMadison Learning Center:

Experts explain how to get your utensils clean—while keeping them safe—in this appliance.

After preparing and eating a delicious meal, it's time to get every pot, pan, and piece of tableware sparkling clean again. And while certain pieces require hand-washing, your silverware can go right into the dishwasher. Simple, right? Not so fast: There's one key detail to consider as you load the dishwasher. Should you place your utensils point up or down? Turns out, this is largely based on personal preference, but there are some rules of thumb to follow, which is why we asked a few appliance experts to explain how to properly place your silverware into your machine to ensure your forks, knives, and spoons get as clean as possible, while remaining intact at the end of a cycle.

Think about hygiene...

While you can technically point your silverware either way when washing it in the dishwasher, Jessica Petrino, an educator and appliance expert at AJ Madison, notes that pointing your items down—with their handles up—is the more hygienic method. "You won't handle the part of your spoons and forks that will eventually go in someone's mouth," she says. The only downside of this approach? The more utensils you pile into the flatware holder in your dishwasher, the more crowded the space will be; be sure to spread them out as evenly as possible for the most thorough cleaning.

...and safety, too.

Loading and unloading a dishwasher can lead to a few safety hazards, too (namely because of pointy knives). To keep yourself safe, Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, advises pointing everything with a sharp edge facing down. Certain hazardous items, however, should never see the inside of this appliance. "Steak knives, carving knives, and butchering knives—where the handle is made of something besides one piece of metal—should not be put in the dishwasher at all," he shares. "The heat and force of the water can expand and contract the handles, causing them to break or come loose." Plus, loose handles or cracks in your silverware could attract bacteria.

Use your machine correctly.

The direction in which your flatware points in the dishwasher might be up to you, but it's more important to use the designated slots in your machine's utensil rack to prevent forks, knives, and spoons from sticking together; this will also keep them free of any water marks, Shimek says. And while rusting is uncommon, actively ward it off it by adding any silver-plated silverware and stainless-steel cutlery to separate compartments. "When different metals are placed next to each other, contact corrosion can happen, which can cause metals to rust," notes Shimek, adding that you should also give your tools a solid rinsing before placing them into the appliance. "Often times, foods with high acidity or salt can cause your silverware to rust, so rinsing before you load it in the dishwasher can help prevent the rust from forming."

Refer to your appliance manual.

Ultimately, you should look to the appliance itself when deciding how to point your silverware. Shimek advises sifting through your manual for loading instructions (some brands offer clear tips). Luckily though, most machines, and especially "newer models, are built to clean your dishes and utensils, regardless of how you place them in the racks," explains Petrino. And if you ever feel concerned about placing any piece of silverware in the dishwasher to begin with, do some research, she says—either on the utensil type or its brand—to make sure all is well before you run it through.



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