Without a doubt, my least favorite household chore is hand washing dishes. That makes my dishwasher the one appliance I can’t live without. I love it. In fact, I have this motto that if it can’t go in the dishwasher I don’t need it.
Despite all my efforts, I still end up having to hand wash a few things since having learned the hard way there are certain items that should never go in a dishwasher. They can be ruined or they can ruin your dishwasher. You should hand wash them instead.
You’d be amazed how well I can fit wood cutting boards, bowls, and utensils into my dishwasher. But what was I thinking? I’m careful to not expose my wood floors to standing water because that’s just asking for trouble—but these small items made of wood were somehow impervious to the brutality of super hot water plus detergent followed by blistering high drying heat? So wrong!
Bottom line is that water causes wood to swell and distort. Detergent strips the natural oils, causing wood to crack. Wood needs to be hand-washed and dried quickly. When you need to disinfect, use a mild solution of one gallon of 70 F (cool) water plus one teaspoon of liquid bleach will do the trick.
Cast iron cookware
Skillets and pans made of cast iron are awesome. And they will last forever if cared for properly. The secret is in the seasoning and patina that build up on them over years of cooking and being cared for properly. One trip through the dishwasher can destroy all of that, leaving a rusty, dull, ugly mess.
For every letter I will receive telling me you’ve washed your fine wedding china in the dishwasher for decades, I can show you dozens of letters from readers who wished they’d known to never do that. High heat and harsh detergent are tantamount to sandblasting that delicate gold metallic trim, finish, and image. You might get away with it once, but why push your luck? Handwash vintage china especially those pieces that may have been repaired. Glue melts.
This is painful. I had no idea! Of course, it’s right there in the fine print of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer’s owner manual: DO NOT put attachments in the dishwasher! Hand wash only. Had I known, I would not have made that purchase in the first place.
It wasn’t until my hands turned black inserting that paddle in the machine (I thought the thing was leaking oil or something) that I learned the ugly truth: Some Kitchen Aid models come with attachments made of anodized aluminum. Putting aluminum anything through the dishwasher causes the aluminum to oxidize which causes black stains and eventually pitting after many sessions. Here’s the rule: Never put anything made of aluminum in the dishwasher. Hand wash only.
Delicate crystal is no match for the rigors that go on inside a dishwasher. You’ll learn this when you notice chipping along the rim. Lead crystal will become cloudy and pitted because harsh detergents will permanently etch the surface of what used to be clear and sparkly. Carefully hand wash crystal.
Copper pans and mugs for Moscow Mules are classic and beautiful but require a lot of extra effort to keep looking gorgeous. Don’t make the task any harder by putting them in the dishwasher. The chemicals in dishwasher detergent are too harsh for copper will immediately dull the finish. Worse, the rigors of automatic dishwashing will corrode and cause the copper to pit. Even with the best copper cleaner and elbow grease, you will not be able to reverse that. Decorative copper pieces that have been treated with a clear coat will get ruined in the dishwasher.
I’m going to just say straight up that I hate this restriction. I’m one to load up all of my kitchen knives into the dishwasher. And that’s about the worse thing I can do to them for three reasons: 1) The sharp edges can nick the protective coating on the racks and tines of the dishwasher, causing rust. 2) I’ve cut myself more than once when unloading the dishwasher, by mindlessly reaching in and grabbing them. 3) Dishwashing detergent dulls the sharp edges of the blades and causes handles to loosen and if they’re wood, to split.
For many of the same reasons as knives, cheese graters should be hand washed. More than that, all of those small holes, when graters and such are crammed into tight spaces in the dishwasher, impede the water stream necessary to remove all of the food particles.
If you recycle butter tubs, cottage cheese, and deli containers putting them through the dishwasher is likely to cause them to warp, or even melt! Handwashing is recommended for the best outcome. However, if you can’t be bothered (opting instead to throw them away instead of dealing with that extra chore), place them on the top rack of the dishwasher, only. Then remove before the drying cycle so they can air dry.
There are lots of brands of plastic containers with the new hinged snap-on lids. Snapware is one. Have you noticed that in time the lids stop snapping? Uh-huh … the dishwasher. If you want them to keep performing as well as they did when new, hand-wash only. Sorry.
Right now I am thinking of my beloved 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. It served me well for many years, having made hundreds of trips through the dishwasher. Recently, I realized I could no longer read any of the measurements. The lines were so faint, I was certain my eyesight was failing me. Nope. The paint had slowly disappeared at the hands I mean sprayer arms of my dishwasher! Looking back, this isn’t the first time I’ve unknowingly ruined something with delicate paint, patterns, or labeling.
Yes, there is a way that you can put silver flatware in the dishwasher without causing harm, but the process is tedious. One slip up will make you wish you’d never tried that. The one exception is hollow handled knives. Never ever put knives that have a hollow handle in the dishwasher. The heat of a dishwasher together with the detergent will melt the glue that holds the blade to the handle—a heartbreaking situation you want to avoid at all costs.
If it has a label—paper, decal, plastic, painted—it should not go into the dishwasher. Not only will dishwashing degrade and eventually ruin it, if it’s made of plastic or paper, expect it to end up all gooey and terrible in the filter and eventually the dishwasher pump. Now you’re looking at a big repair bill. You can prevent this.
I can’t help recalling Hummel figures when I think of heirlooms. Remember those? You may have some or other similar collectibles you’ve inherited. They can really collect the dust, can’t they? The easiest way to counter that problem is to load them all up into the dishwasher, right? Wrong. If you want to protect and preserve them so you can unload them on the next generation, hand wash only. And not just the Hummels. Anything antique, delicate, intricate and well-loved. Take the time to hand wash them.