Cooking Tips · Techniques

Dishwasher Dos and Don’ts

I presume that most of you reading this Cooking Tip have a dishwasher in your house. During the five years that we lived in England, I did not. I must say that I very much missed having that appliance. Even now, as I write this, my dishwasher is running contentedly in the background. Even though I use that dishwasher almost every day, I still do a fair amount of washing dishes by hand. That is because there are things that really shouldn’t go in the dishwasher. This Cooking Tip is about just that – what not to put in your dishwasher.

  • Knives & other utensils with sharp edges
    First, there is always the safety issue. What if you forget the knife while unloading or someone else unloads it not realizing the knife is in there? That is an accident just waiting to happen. Beyond that, though, it is terrible for your sharp utensils. Not only does it dull the sharp edges, it can also damage handles.

  • Pots/Pans
    I know what you are thinking – this is what I want my dishwasher to do for me. Clean those dirty pots/pans. Personally, I don’t put any of my pots/pans in the dishwasher. They cost too much and I don’t want to risk damaging them. Experts say that pots/pans that are fully stainless steel are probably OK to go in there. However, they strongly recommend against putting others in the dishwasher. That list includes cast iron, nonstick pans, enameled cast iron, copper pots & aluminum cookware.

  • Fine china, crystal or other fragile dishware
    Although it is possible to successfully run these through the dishwasher, do you want to take the risk of breakage?

  • Wooden items such as cutting boards, salad bowls & spoons
    It is obvious that wood is very porous and can be damaged by moisture & heat. I must admit, though, I do occasionally throw my wooden spoons in. After all, they are pretty inexpensive to replace.

  • Some plastics
    Although there is still debate among experts, some worry that repeated exposure of plastic items to the dishwasher (and microwave) can degrade the plastic and could possibly be a health hazard. Only you can decide if that is an issue for you. Beyond that, though, the high heat of the dishwasher can warp some plastic items.

  • Items with hollow handles or thermal insulation
    This includes whisks, old-fashioned ice cream scoops, thermos bottles, pans with hollow handles, etc. I must admit that this was a new risk to me. What happens is that water can seep into the hollow space and then, when it is later heated when you are using it on your stove, the water turns to steam and if enough steam builds up, it can blow out of the hollow space. One person reported this happening with a stainless-steel pan that they had repeatedly put in the dishwasher. Upon using it on the stove, it exploded and shot across the room. This sounds a bit extreme but, even if it doesn’t explode, the water could still lead to rusting, the development of mold and/or the destruction of the insulation.

  • Bottles with labels/adhesive on them
    These labels will come off during the cycle and can clog or damage your dishwasher.

  • Graters/zesters
    The dishwasher never gets those holes clean and can damage the sharp grating edges.

So, yes, use your dishwasher. It is certainly well-used in my kitchen. However, it will never, unfortunately, totally replace having to hand wash some items.