8 Things You Should Never Clean in a Dishwasher

Most of us love our dishwasher for the time it saves us, for its ability to tackle stubborn grease, and for the variety of wash cycles it offers. And once you have become accustomed to the luxury and convenience of having a dishwasher at home, it’s hard to go back to the days of spending hours hand-washing dishes at the sink. However, as miraculous as the dishwasher is, it wasn't designed to wash every single item in your kitchen. In fact, you could actually ruin certain kitchen items by running them through the dishwasher. If you’re uncertain which items are dishwasher-safe and which aren't, we’ve made a list of items you should never put in the dishwasher—not even on the rinse cycle.

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Kitchen Knives

When it comes to cleaning your good kitchen knives, it's best to wash them by hand with hot soapy water. Why, you ask? This tried-and-true cleansing method will keep the blades sharp and the handles tight. Dishwasher soap or detergent can make knife blades dull, which can actually increase risk of injury while using your knives, since dull knives are harder to maintain control of.

Plus, the hot water of the rinse cycle and the intense heat of the drying cycle can cause the handles of your knives to loosen over time. To keep your blades sharp and help your knives last for longer, avoid putting them in the dishwasher and take the time to wash and dry them by hand.

Certain Plastic Items

When it comes to dishwashing, it's best to treat plastic items on a case-by case-basis, since some plastic can stand up to the heat and some cannot. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s label to see if they are dishwasher-safe.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to keep any plastic items that are labeled dishwasher-safe (that would be items made of sturdier plastic, like cutting boards and mixing bowls) in the top rack of the dishwasher. Placing plastic items in the top rack will keep them away from the potentially damaging heat that comes from the bottom of the dishwasher. These items will come out clean, but beware—over time they can dull in appearance with repeated dishwasher exposure. And remember, if your plastic item doesn’t say “dishwasher safe," do not place it in the dishwasher.

Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick cookware is a necessity in many households, and many of us, admittedly, wouldn't be able to create a perfect pancake or omelet without it. Most nonstick pans are coated with a special material called Teflon, which allows you to cook with little to no oil or butter without the food sticking to the bottom. Some nonstick cookware is labeled "dishwasher safe," but for the most part, these items can't withstand the intense heat of the dishwasher. If you don't want to damage the nonstick coating, it's best to clean these items by hand. Instead, soak your nonstick items in warm, sudsy water and use a nonabrasive scrubber to remove any food.

Fine China & Crystal

You paid a pretty penny for those fancy painted plates, so to protect your investment and make sure they stand the test of time, do not clean them in the dishwasher. The dishwasher can chip off paint and increases the risk of chipping fine china and crystal. To protect your fine china and crystal for generations to come, avoid exposing them to hot water. Instead, wash them with warm water, mild dish soap, and vinegar, and dry them carefully with a lint-free cloth.

Copper Cookware

It may be tempting to toss your copper pots, pans, and cups into the dishwasher for a no-hassle wash, but it could end up doing more damage than you think. The dishwasher can discolor copper and cause it to look dull, so it's best to hand wash these items with warm water and a gentle dish soap.

To polish copper and get it gleaming, use a cleaner specifically made for copper or try using lemon juice, salt, and vinegar, following these step-by-step instructions.

Aluminum Cookware

It's easy to get your aluminum cookware confused with your stainless steel pieces, because they appear so similar in color. But while stainless steel can typically be cleaned in the dishwasher (just be sure to check the manufacturer's instructions), aluminum cookware cannot. Aluminum pots and pans, when exposed to the hot water and high heat of the dishwasher, will fade and oxidize pretty quickly.Avoid dishwashing as well as soaking these items in soapy water for extended periods of time.

Rather than toss your aluminum pots and pans in the dishwasher, clean them with cream of tartar and water. To remove discoloration, simmer a mixture of one tablespoon lemon juice per quart of water on the stovetop.

Wooden Kitchenware (Including Cutting Boards)

Wooden kitchenware, including cutting boards, wooden spoons, or anything with a wooden handle, should never be washed in the dishwasher. Over time, abrasive dishwashing detergent can scratch the surface of wood items. The drying cycle of the dishwasher can cause wood to warp, or even worse, crack and break.

Clean wooden cutting boards immediately after each use with hot, sudsy water. To disinfect the board after cutting raw meat on it, clean it with white vinegar or a mixture of 2 tablespoons bleach in a gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly and dry the board by hand.

Anything Cast Iron

Remember all of the time and care you invested into cleaning and seasoning your cast iron skillet so it was ready to cook in? Well, you can ruin all of that hard work in an instant by exposing these pans to the dishwasher. Dishwashing detergent can break down the seasoning (a layer of fat or oil that is applied and baked into the cookware) of your cast iron. This seasoning is key to preventing rust and it helps prevent food from sticking.

Some cooks advocate not cleaning cast iron items at all (some chefs simply wipe down cast iron pans after each use). But you can follow these steps for cleaning cast iron with a quick rinse and a mild abrasive, such as salt.

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