The Wall Street Journal: You’re loading the dishwasher wrong

Jennifer Vargas usually catches her husband in the act late at night. “After I’ve started the dishwasher, he’ll open it up and start rearranging everything,” says Ms. Vargas, a public-relations executive in Crestwood, N.Y. “It drives me crazy.”

Her husband, Levy Vargas, an operations director, says his stacking method gets better results. “Jen is more blasé, and I’m more agitated by incorrect loading,” he says. “If I don’t think it will come out clean, I’ll start moving stuff around.”

It should be simple: Pile used plates, bowls, coffee cups, glasses, forks, spoons and knives into the dishwasher and turn it on. Yet loading the dishwasher is one of the most contentious household chores. Not only is it the rare task often shared by multiple family members, but it is also done in the home’s most central room—the kitchen—where it can be scrutinized, debated and redone.

The stakes of how we load the dishes are higher than ever, appliance makers say. Energy-saving dishwashers use less water, and that heightens tensions about how much pre-rinsing is needed. People also argue about whether utensils should be loaded with handles up or down, which rack should hold plastic containers and how full the load should be.

“The dump and turn-on is not my approach. I’m much more orderly,” says Martha Stewart, lifestyle guru and chief creative officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc MSO, +0.81%  . She credits the longevity of many prized dishes and utensils to rules she has honed for loading the 17 dishwashers inside 21 kitchens across her properties.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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