Important Issue of the Day: Forks in the Dishwasher, Handles Up or Handles Down?

my spoon is too big

So.. We’re loading up the dishwasher the other day, and I put the silverware into the dishwasher.. I noticed that there were some pieces of silverware in the little basket that were upside-down… or so I thought. They were handles up, so I turned them around, so that the fork tines were sticking up out of the basket.

And immediately a debate flared up in the kitchen.

There were two camps..

The handles down camp (my camp) claims that by having the business end of the silverware sticking out of the basket, they get cleaner. I mean, seriously, if you cram all of them in the basket like that, there’s no way that any self respecting water stream is gonna weasel his way in there and clean everything.

The handles up people claim something about the danger during unloading caused by the business ends bristling everywhere.. Yah, ok. I’ll probably get gored the next time I unload the dishwasher, but at least I’m being gored with a clean fork.

So yah.. anyone? Opinions? Can we all just get along?

ps. Yes, I know the image on this post has nothing really to do with the post, but I thought it was funny.

34 thoughts on “Important Issue of the Day: Forks in the Dishwasher, Handles Up or Handles Down?”

  1. Alex and I used to fight about this all the time. I’m firmly in the tines down camp. But in the interest of domestic tranquility, I relented.

  2. Home Comforts © 1999
    The Art and Science of Keeping House
    by Cheryl Mendelson
    (It’s an 845 page reference to all things domestic.)

    Chapter 9, Kitchen Culture, p112
    “Silver should not go in the dishwasher, but if you do put it in, place it so that it does not touch other metals, particularly stainless steel, as this may result in permanent marking or pitting of the silver. Load sharp things with their points down for safety. Don’t crowd the silver; water flow to each piece will be impeded, and it won’t come clean.”

  3. Martha Stewart says
    “Most dishwashers have an upper and lower rack, as well as a basket for utensils. Some models have a shallow third rack on top for utensils instead. These are nice, as they keep the utensils from touching each other and allow for even cleaning. If using a model with a basket, you should alternate your silverware pieces, one piece pointing up, the next down, etc., to get them as clean as possible.”

  4. Some more primary research:
    eHow. Set silverware handles down, except for knives, which should be handles up in the silverware basket.

    Wikihow. Place utensils with handles down in the utensil baskets in the bottom section of the dishwasher. Larger serving utensils can be laid horizontally across the top section of the dishwasher. Sharp knives are often dulled by the washing cycle by rubbing against other items.

    StartCooking blog. Naturally, silverware and utensils go in the special holder. Some people clump spoons together, forks together, and knives together. Others say, no, “nesting” the utensils means they don’t get cleaned properly — mix them up. Be warned: how one does or does not put silverware in the dishwasher can break up a beautiful friendship! It’s important, in my view, to put sharp, pointed things (like knives and forks) pointing downward. (There is nothing worse than being impaled by utensils while loading – or unloading – the dishwasher!)

    Cookthink blog. I’ve always been inclined to put all the used ends of utensils face down in the silverware basket. However, the used ends of forks and spoons should face up and benefit from the full force of the spray, while the knives — for safety reasons during the unload — should face down.

    See the About.com video here. Skip ahead to 1:50 in the video. “Place all silverware with their handles down, except for the knives, which should be placed with handles up for safety. ”

    Another about.com guide. The little tines of forks are notorious for holding onto residue in the dishwasher. Spoons that nest together during a cycle can remain encrusted with food. Alternate utensils pointing up and down to prevent this nesting effect. Always point knives downward for safety reasons.

  5. spines up, its the only way to be sure. except for knives… steak & cutting knives that is.

    quality knives should never go into the dishwasher, and if they do you need better knives… because you’re more likely to gouge yourself using janky knives than gouging yourself reaching for them in the dishwasher.

    other things that do/don’t belong in the dishwasher:

    do put in-
    wine glasses, including badass Riedels. it’s okay, no really.
    All-Clad stainless steel and copper-core
    synthetic cutting boards
    splatter screens
    wooden spoons
    keyboards http://plasticbugs.com/index.php?p=263
    mouthy children. no, really. shuts them up.

    don’t put in –
    proper, quality knives (Heinkels, Shun, Wustoffs, etc)
    All-Clad LTD, MC2 and Cop-R-Chef
    wood cutting boards
    orangutans. they no likey.

  6. Fascinating debate Dennis!
    I grew up with handles up, but in the last few years I have switched to handles down, except knives, with your same thought process in mind.

    Although sometimes I regress. Sometimes I do a little of both if there is a lot of utensils to get them to fit better and not be so crammed or nested. Avoiding nested utensils is really the main goal, right?

  7. You must live a charmed life to think this is important Dennis. However, if I must, I will say that the handles go up! If it doesn’t get your forks clean, then you have a different problem. You need a better dishwasher. Or maybe give them a good lick before you put them in there. I once heard that you can put a keyboard in the dishwasher and it would work fine once it dried out. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to heat dry it. Has anyone tested that?

  8. not that i use the dishwasher *that* much, being taiwanese and all. but when i *do* use it, i DEF put the handle side down. i always thought it would get cleaner that way!! :) i with you sinney….

  9. Once you’ve had fork prongs slide underneath a fingernail and slice the skin you’ll decide to put the handle up.
    OOooooowwwwwchy @#&!

  10. I personally don’t care about the handles issues, but my roommate really does. It’s hard to remember to face the handles all one way when I can’t even remember which is the preferred direction! I get in trouble a lot, but at least I’m loading the dishwasher!

  11. Damn. Missed a good debate. My take: handles down… with the exception of sharp knives (and I’m not sold on the sharp knives bit either…). I used to do everything up until a former roommate yelled at me for having the sharp knives up. But, honestly, I’ve never been hurt with them up, and so I’m sticking with up.

  12. When in doubt, read the Dishwasher’s Owner’s Manual:

    In their Safety Section, they will ALL tell you to put the pointy (sharp) end of a knife DOWN!

    As the manufacturers and the one’s always getting sued by users, they must already know something about this subject that the “handles down” folks don’t!

  13. i like em with the handles sticking up because they’re easier to grab and i won’t hafta touch where people’s mouths are gunna be. i mean isn’t that gross? i wouldn’t want to use a fork or spoon where someone’s fingers were all over it no matter how clean they say they washed their hands!

  14. Always late to the party, I am.

    If you own one of those spiffy stainless steel commercial dishwashers (the kind you see in restaurant kitchens), load your flatware handles up. These dishwashers are designed to do it that way, with VERY high pressure water sprays, heavy de-soiling chemicals, etc. If, however, you own a more mundane residential dishwasher, the handles go down for all but the knives.

  15. just read the instructions of your dishwasher. they had studied these things. The instructions of my dishwasher mention that spoons should be separated otherwise they will stick together and the water would not flow correctly. The most space among all the better flow of the water.

  16. Any person who would reach – without looking carefully at what they are grabbing – into a basket full of knives deserves every laceration they get. The argument that handles up is safer is an interesting one because it requires us to share the mindset that idiots should be protected from fork tines. Instead, I would argue that the occasional cutlery jab is the ideal remedy to a specific kind of stupidity. Seeing as every possible threat cannot be prevented in advance, day-to-day living requires a modicum of attention and thought. In preventing those who reach blindly into baskets of knives from being harmed, we do them a disservice, for this sadly lulls them into the view that every basket of knives – literal and metaphorical – has been adjusted into a tidy fan of handles by some unseen, over-protective aunt.

  17. Handels up!

    So when you remove clean pieces you don’t touch the clean surfaces that go in your guests mouths. That is what we learned in proffessional kitchens.

  18. Anybody with sense knows that the handles must be down to clean the utensils properly. I’ve been loading and unloading dishwashers for 30 years and have yet to so much as nick a finger with this method. For Pete’s sake people, let’s get on the same page with this. The handles-up people must be stopped.

  19. The correct way to load utensils in a dishwasher is handle side up. The dishwasher sterilizes everything that is inside it when it washes. But if someone has unclean hands, and is picking up the utensils after they are clean by the non-handle side of the utensils, then germs get right back on the utensil. There is no 5 second rule on touching utensils with unclean hands. That is how we get sick. It defeats the purpose of cleaning the utensils in the first place. If you are going to do that, why wash? Why not just rinse everything off instead? (sarcasm…) it just doesn’t make sense……

  20. I am with Jay Allen!! His post was from August so I’ve pasted it here for those who don’t want to look back. The only thing I’d care to add is that…

    If you’re unloading a clean dishwasher with dirty hands, filth in your mouth and possible illness from germs is the least of your worries as you must have that “specific kind of stupidity”!

    Jay Allen Says:

    August 16th, 2010 at 3:46 pm
    Any person who would reach – without looking carefully at what they are grabbing – into a basket full of knives deserves every laceration they get. The argument that handles up is safer is an interesting one because it requires us to share the mindset that idiots should be protected from fork tines. Instead, I would argue that the occasional cutlery jab is the ideal remedy to a specific kind of stupidity. Seeing as every possible threat cannot be prevented in advance, day-to-day living requires a modicum of attention and thought. In preventing those who reach blindly into baskets of knives from being harmed, we do them a disservice, for this sadly lulls them into the view that every basket of knives – literal and metaphorical – has been adjusted into a tidy fan of handles by some unseen, over-protective aunt.

  21. Just got in a huge argument with my wife about this. Apparently ( in her mind ) I’m ruining all our forks by putting them in handles up. The ends of some of the tines have gotten bent, but I think it’s probably something other than the dishwasher bending the forks.

    After 10 years of marriage though, I’ve learned enough to know when to give in and do it her way. Even if she is wrong. ;)

  22. It seems when you’re putting them “business side up” you allow them to fan out at the top, thus they have more area to receive the water & soap, as opposed to business side down where the are more restricted with less area. Sharp knives should always face downward to prevent ease of unloading without injury. It’s probably a good idea to not wash spoons in the same area with each other so as to prevent nesting also!!

  23. Oneida, makers of fine flatware, says about stainless steel flatware at http://www.oneida.com/customerservice/use-and-care:

    “If using a dishwasher, always remember to load forks and spoons handles down, tines and bowls up. Place knives in a separate basket with sharp ends down to prevent scratching and unwanted contact with other alloys.”

    Of course my wife disagrees, so we’ll do it her way!

  24. to the ladies and gents of the the handles up camp, be told that you are just wrong!
    the enigneers of a dish washer and the cuttlery basket had a reason to design the box in a way, that if you use the plastic thing with the holes in it (sorry, not a native speaker, no clue what that would be called) there is NO WAY to put anything handles up!

  25. I think I started a discussion once like this in the past … maybe it was this one. This is perhaps one of the great existential debates of the modern era … and unless we can resolve our differences on this simple debate, how can we hope to solve more weighty issues (societal problems or climate change, for example). So please, let us land on one solution and move on. Silverware must go in the basket handle down. It is simply more hygienic. End of story.

  26. Well if anyone were servsafe they would know that it’s handles up so the staff can pick them up without touching food contact surfaces witch will help prevent the transfer of pathogens such as norovirus…..

  27. If they were rinsed of debris and property soaked the cleanliness should not be an issue… You should not be throwing it in the rack with food on them that’s just laziness.If I would of seen this would fire you on the spot.

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