11 Smart Dishwasher Hacks for Extra-Easy Party Cleanup

We've partnered with Food 52 to share smart, doable tips for keeping your home spick and span this season. Here, we're sharing our most clever dishwasher hacks to help you cut down on holiday party cleanup.

If you’re hosting this holiday season, your home will likely be filled with people, food, festive spirits—oh, and lots of dirty dishes. Once everyone heads out, you're likely to discover your sink is piled high with dinnerware, utensils, and serving platters, all of which need to be scrubbed down.

However, post-party cleaning doesn’t have to be a multi-day process. Here are some of our best tips and tricks for using your dishwasher to make holiday cleanup extra easy, whether you’re hosting five people or 50.

Get A Head Start On Party Prep

There’s so much to do when you’re hosting a holiday event. Not only are you in charge of cooking, but you have to clean, organize, rearrange, and decorate your home. It can take days!

While your dishwasher can’t set the table for you (maybe one day), there are a few ways it can help streamline pre-party preparations. For instance, there are a number of non-dinnerware items that can safely be washed in the dishwasher, saving you the hassle of wiping them down by hand. Just put these items through a gentle cycle:

  • Vacuum attachments
  • Plastic cleaning brushes and kitchen sponges
  • Oven knobs
  • Microwave turntables
  • Fan grills and/or air vent covers
  • Vases
  • Fake flowers and plants (yes, it really works!)
  • Toys made from hard plastic

Here’s another cool trick: Don’t feel like scrubbing down five pounds of potatoes? Your dishwasher can help with that too! Place produce on the top rack and run a cold cycle (with no detergent) to rinse off fruits and vegetables ahead of the big event.

Fit More Dishes Per Load—Without Compromising Cleanliness

Dishwashers can only accommodate so many dishes, which can leave you running multiple loads after holiday gatherings. However, there are a few ways you can fit more plates per cycle without overloading your dishwasher.

Adjust The Rack Height

Many people don’t realize that nearly every dishwasher has an adjustable top rack. That’s right—simply raise the height of the upper rack to give yourself more room for large plates and serving dishes on the bottom. You’ll want to check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to properly adjust your dishwasher’s rack if you’ve never done it before.

Put Pans & Platters Around The Edges

If you have casserole dishes, serving bowls, and platters that need cleaning, they’ll take up a huge part of the bottom rack if you put them over the tines (they're the vinyl- or rubber-coated prongs that keep dishes in place) like normal. Instead, try loading large items around the edges of the dishwasher—just make sure they’re not blocking the detergent tray from opening.

The benefit here is two-fold: First, when they’re on the sides, large dishes won’t block the spray from reaching other items. Second, you’ll still be able to fill up the inner area of the basket with plates and other dinnerware.

Move The Utensil Basket To The Middle

Need more room for large dishes? Most dishwashers have a removable utensil basket, and you can often place it in the middle of the bottom rack to free up more room around the sides.

Dishwashers with a “third rack” make it even easier, as you can load all your utensils into the shallow upper rack, which is specially designed for silverware. This leaves plenty of room in the bottom rack for pots, pans, and other holiday necessities.

Face Dinnerware In The Same Direction

With older dishwashers, it was often advised to angle plates toward the center to allow the spray arms to clean them more thoroughly, but with modern appliances, this isn’t necessary—the powerful jets can clean off dishes no matter which direction they’re facing. To that end, you can often squeeze a few extra dishes into each load by lining up plates and bowls in the same direction.

Skip The Rinse To Save Time

If you’re planning to start the dishwasher right away, there’s really no need to pre-rinse your dishes. Sure, you should scrape off large pieces of food so they don’t clog the filter, but your dishwasher can handle gravy or mashed potato remnants that got left behind.

Get Started During The Party

If you can slip away to the kitchen for a minute during the festivities, you might be able to get ahead on dishwashing.

Take Advantage Of The Speed Cycle

Running low on mugs or silverware? You can toss lightly soiled items in the dishwasher during the party and run them on an express cycle. While it varies by dishwasher, this setting generally takes around 30 minutes to run, so you’ll have clean dishes again before your guests even need a refill on their drink.

Clean Cookware During The Party

If you really want to get ahead, load up the pots and pans you used to prepare the meal while the party is still in full swing. By starting this cycle in advance, it will be ready to unload once people start heading out. However, when going this route, make sure your dishwasher is relatively quiet—nothing disrupts the atmosphere of a party like a loud, clanking dishwasher.

A Few Final Tips On Holiday Dishwashing

Say ‘No Thanks’ To Loading Assistance

This tip actually comes from one of our readers: “Do not allow guests to ‘help’ by loading the dishwasher. They will put things in that you do not want washed, as well as load the dishwasher in ways you do not want it loaded.” To this end, it’s easier to say, “No, thank you,” and save yourself the hassle of reloading later.

Give The Dishwasher Rack A Gentle Shake

Here’s another pro tip: When washing delicate glassware or dinnerware in the dishwasher, try the shake test before you hit “Start.” Essentially, you want to give the rack a little jiggle to see if any of the items move around or bump each other when agitated. Rearrange as needed to keep everything secure.

For even speedier, more efficient dishwashing, check out Miele's Crystal dishwasher. Perfect for everything from large holiday serving dishes to delicate glassware and china, Miele's fully-integrated dishwasher features a sleek hidden control panel, versatile and secure basket design, a cutlery tray for even more room, and Clean Touch Steel that's fingerprint-resistant. Oh, and did we mention it's Energy Start® qualified?

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