16 Issues That By no means Belong in Your Dishwasher


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Let’s all thank you for dishwashers. These modern marvels can handle sauce-smeared plates, coffee mugs, and baked-on forks.

But not everything belongs in the dishwasher. So check out these tips before you wash, and everything will be clean after a big meal.

1. Cast iron pans

frying panSedovaY / Shutterstock.com

Cast iron pans are popular for their heat retention. But they require special care: cast iron cookware must be seasoned with oil on a regular basis, which is immediately removable in the dishwasher.

Fortunately, wiping and washing them off after cooking is often enough. To remove stubborn food, I recommend a chain scrubber.

As I explain in “6 product swaps that will help me avoid trips to the store”:

“Instead of buying disposable scouring pads, my new favorite tool is something that looks and sounds like it should be in a medieval knight’s castle. A chain mail scrubber is a simple piece of stainless steel shaped into interconnected rings – some have an ergonomic silicone core, while others are all chain mail. Use a chain scrubber to remove stubborn food debris.

2. Wooden cutting boards

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Heat and water can warp and crack your board, and the resulting cracks can breed bacteria. Hot water, soap, and elbow grease are said to work wonders. If you’ve used the raw meat board and are concerned, try a disinfectant solution of 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water. Wooden spoons should also receive the hand washing treatment.

3. Moscow mule cups

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Moscow Mules are trendy cocktails made from vodka, lime juice and spicy ginger beer. They are often served in special and stylish copper cups, usually lined with another metal for safety.

Throw them in the dishwasher, however, and the vital lining could flake and wear out and tarnish the stylish look. Hand wash them and they will be there to toast for many years to come.

4. High quality knives

Woman chops celery for saladmiya227 / Shutterstock.com

Sure, your simple, inexpensive butter knife goes in the dishwasher. But for those fancy, expensive knives that are kept in a cutting block, stay sharp and hand wash them.

Handles are often made of wood, which, like cutting boards, can warp or tear. Blades can be made of carbon steel and can therefore be prone to rust. Detergents can discolor or damage the blade, and jets of water can knock it around, dull or break the blade.

5. Fancy china

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Antique, hand-painted, or gold leaf patterns can discolor and fade in the strong chemical bath of a dishwasher. So the safe bet is to keep these fancy dishes for the hand washing pile – especially if it’s a pattern that you hopefully want to pass on to future generations.

6. Certain reusable plastic containers

Strawberries in a plastic container for groceriesLaura Riquelme / Shutterstock.com

Plastic storage bins can be a lifesaver for leftovers, pre-chopped ingredients, freshly picked fruit, or just about anything a small temporary apartment of your own needs.

But just as with apartments, the quality of such containers varies greatly. Some of the thicker, sturdier cardboard boxes are dishwasher safe, but store them with their lids in the top basket – if they touch the heating elements in the bottom of your machine, they can melt.

7. Aluminum baking molds

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Some aluminum baking pans are dishwasher safe – check the label or packaging when buying a new pan to be sure. But if your item isn’t specifically labeled dishwasher safe, don’t risk it.

Many pans can become dull and dark from the chemicals and heat of a dishwasher. And while the biscuit crumbles like this sometimes, a little hand washing can prevent this from happening.

8. Crystal barware

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Fine crystal can sparkle like sunlight on a snowy field, catch the light and emit it in rainbows. If mistreated, it can also shatter like an icicle on the sidewalk.

Stay with the sparkle – wash the crystal wine goblets or punch bowl from Grandma Eliza or the champagne flutes from your wedding by hand. Dishwasher heat, friction, and detergents can dull or scratch the surface.

9. Gold-plated cutlery

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If your fancy cutlery – or one of your formal dinnerware – is as good as gold, you’re in luck as a leprechaun. To keep the gold rush going, carefully hand wash each piece. It’s likely delicate and the gold plating can peel off in the dishwasher.

10. Everything with a label

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Hot water attacks paper labels with the ferocity of a guard dog chasing the postman. If you want the label to last, hand wash your glass or other item. In the dishwasher, the label can slide off in pieces and get stuck where you don’t want it, clogging your dishwasher’s spray arms or pump.

11. Anything repaired with glue

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As these labels prove, anything attached with glue is a risky dishwasher. Hot water can dissolve glue. So when you’ve carefully glued a handle back onto a beloved mug or bowl, keep it away from the hot little hands of the dishwasher.

12. Items with dimensions or words printed on them

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It doesn’t always happen, but items with dimensions or words printed on them can lose their legibility in the hot, steaming belly of a dishwasher. Most glass measuring cups are strong enough to hold their marks for years, but plastic cups may not be as sturdy and soon this 1/4 indicator could look like a 1/1.

And don’t even think about loading up the Class of 1989 beer mug that you brought back from the 30th anniversary of the reunification.

13. Non-stick pans

Fried egg in a panParpalea Catalin / Shutterstock.com

Non-stick pans are a jewel of an invention. The cookware is lined with a special coating so that food (mostly) comes off immediately and does not stick – hence the name. They are generally quite easy to hand wash.

So if you end up with a dirty device, don’t try the dishwasher. The heat from the machine can wear off the coating and wash the “not” straight out of your “nonstick pan”.

14. Flour sieves

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Here’s a shocker: you don’t actually need to wash flour sieves if you’re just using them to sift flour. The mesh screen part does not work well in dishwasher hot water, and screens are often made of thin, cheap metal that rusts and punctures easily. (And if the handle is made of wood, as shown above, that’s another reason to stay away.)

In general, you can just rinse or wipe the flour. But if the strainer is absolutely clogged, let it sit in a sink with soapy water for a while, dry it as best you can, and place it on a baking sheet in your oven to dry. Or blast it briefly with your hair dryer. You want to make sure there isn’t any moisture left behind, which will cause rust. An old toothbrush can also help with lumps of flour that won’t give in.

15. Hand-painted items

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You wouldn’t put a Picasso in the dishwasher, so don’t put your niece Peyton’s ceramic art in it either. Hand wash it. Jackson Pollock may have “freed the line,” but in this case you want those precious brushstrokes to stay exactly where Peyton intended them.

16. Insulated coffee cups

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How much do we love our insulated travel coffee mugs? A whole latte. They keep the coffee warm during the most agonizing commute. But to keep the cup as fresh as it holds you, don’t send it through the dishwasher.

These cups keep your coffee warm thanks to two separate cups, and the heat from the dishwasher can penetrate them, trap water between the two walls, and ruin the cup’s heat retention capacity. And that would be depressing.

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