How To Use A Dishwasher | The Student Friendly Guide

One of the things that you will have to get used to when moving into student accommodation for the first time is working out the best way to wash the dishes. You’ll find that most student apartments come with a fitted dishwasher, and this can become an invaluable part of your everyday life. 

Learning how to use appliances in your student’s home is a crucial part of growing up. We’ve put together this guide on how to use a dishwasher to help you gain control over that mountain of dirty dishes that will soon be piled high to the ceiling if you don’t do something about it!

What Are The First Steps Of Learning How To Use A Dishwasher?

a student confused on how to use a dishwasher

The manual that comes with the dishwasher will give you some indication as to what the best solution is for detergent. There are different options on the market as to how to use a dishwasher effectively, and you may need a rinse aid* alongside your detergent of choice.

* What is rinse aid? – Rinse aid helps to improve the performance of the drying cycle on the dishwasher. The liquid rinse is added automatically during rinsing, improving the cleanliness of the wash, and eliminating streaking.

Single-dose pacs – pacs, packets, tabs, or tablets, these detergents offer a specific amount of detergent with every single dose, making it easier for you.

Gels – the cheapest option on the market, gels won’t quite match the power of the single-dose detergent above, but it will do a good job.

Powders – Washing powder will clean your dishes well, but it is a pain to measure out exactly how much washing powder you need on every run of your dishwasher.

Step 1: Clean Off Excess Waste From Your Dishes

pile of dishes which need cleaning

Now, let’s move on to how to use a dishwasher. The first step is to scrape off any extra food and bits of debris from your plates into the bin, before you even think about loading them into the dishwasher.

Step 2: Load The Top And Bottom Racks

dishwasher being piled up

When placing the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, remember to place them dirty side down and never overlap them, as this prevents the water jets from reaching the inside and fully cleaning your dirty dishes.

Top rack – For the top rack of the washing machine, load items such as cups and mugs, bowls, wine glasses and bottles. If you are loading any plastic containers or lids, they must be placed on the top rack to avoid them warping.

Bottom rack – Large kitchenware like serving platters, dinner plates, stainless steel pots and baking dishes that are safe for the dishwasher, should be placed on the bottom rack. Big pots and pans should be positioned along the sides or at the back.

Any utensils should be placed in the utensil basket and always make sure that sharp objects such as knives are facing down and that there is nothing blocking the wash arms.

Step 3: Load The Dishwasher Tablets

tablets with cleaning product in

No matter what choice of detergent you are using you should always load the detergent into the detergent dispenser section of the dishwasher. 

Learning how to use a dishwasher for the first time you might assume that a washing tablet could be loaded in the same way as a washing machine, but if a dishwasher tablet is placed at the bottom of a dishwasher, it would most likely dissolve too fast to be effective.

  • Place the detergent into the detergent dispenser
  • Add rinse aid to the rinse aid dispenser, making sure that it doesn’t go over the line
  • Close the lid and press it firmly until it shuts with a click

Step 4: Choose A Wash Cycle

keeping your dishwashermachine clean

In most cases, your dishwasher will have three cycles or more to choose from. So, you can expect to see quick, normal, and heavy-duty wash cycles available when learning how to use a dishwasher. Depending on the size of the load and how dirty the dishes are, you’ll want to change the cycle accordingly. 

To set the cycle click on the relevant button on the front of the dishwasher. A quick cycle will use more energy, water, and a higher temperature to get quick results, a normal wash cycle will clean everyday dishes well, whilst the heavy-duty cycle should be used only for dirty dishes and kitchenware that is heavily soiled and needs a more intensive clean.

Step 5: Start The Dishwasher

press the start button on the dishwasher

This wouldn’t be any sort of effective guide on how to use a dishwasher if we didn’t include the step ‘Start the dishwasher!’ 

Check there is nothing blocking the wash arms before you choose the cycle, as we have mentioned, double check that you’ve put everything in correctly, that you’ve chosen the right cycle and then press start. A normal load will usually take around 2 to 2 and a half hours.

How Do I Know What Is Safe For The Dishwasher?

how tp use a dishwasher guide

There is not a hard and fast rule that is understood industry-wide about this question, but generally you can use common sense. Each producer of kitchenware items will have processes and guidance as to what is dishwasher safe and what isn’t. It is often printed on the bottom or sides of items.

Dishwasher safe items:

  • Ceramic dishware
  • Everyday china dishware
  • Drinking glasses
  • Strong wine glasses
  • Stainless steel
  • Hard plastic items
  • Silicone and metal utensils

Items that are not dishwasher safe:

  • Thin plastic
  • Antique china
  • Cast iron, non-stick and copper pots and pans
  • Knives
  • Wood
  • Crystal glassware
  • Insulated mugs

Should I Clean My Dishwasher? (And How Often Should It Be Cleaned?)

dishwasher which is clean

It is important to regularly clean your dishwasher to prevent the build-up of washing detergent and to eliminate bad smells. 

You can choose a dishwasher cleaning tablet and run a wash cycle or clean the inside of your dishwasher using vinegar and baking soda. We would recommend that you do so at least once a month to ensure that it remains in top condition.

What Should You Do If Your Dishwasher Breaks?

a broken dishwasher

If your dishwasher breaks, inform someone as soon as possible. It is important that if there are problems within your student accommodation, that the relevant people are alerted so that maintenance and repairs can take place. 

Don’t use a broken dishwasher as an excuse to let the dirty dishes pile up though. Get some washing up liquid, a sponge scourer, and fill the sink with hot, soapy water. Remember, always rinse away any suds before you place your now clean dishes to dry in the drying rack next to the sink!


This step-by-step guide on how to use a dishwasher is aimed at helping you stay on top of household chores in your student home. We are here to help, and you can read other guides we have put together like our ‘How to use a washing machine’ guide.