"Good dishes" can be crystal and fine china, silverware, treasured stoneware, pewter, or other dishes that is used only for special occasions. Many of us do not give a thought to tossing everything into our dishwashers, including our finer dishware.
Dishwashers are not the perfect kitchen appliance we think they are. For our best dishes, it's best to stop and educate ourselves which items can really be OK going through a dishwasher.
I apologize in advance if some of the information seems conflicting. The bottom line is, if you treasure it (or it has a monetary investment) then you better hand wash it.
Crystal and fine china in the dishwasher
Crystal glassware should not be washed in a dishwasher. The heat and cleaners can damage the crystal. In addition, the crystal could potentially break or chip because of the force of the water jets of the dishwasher hitting the crystal and knocking them against other dishware.
The Waterford Glass Company admits that testing has suggested that repeated washings in very hot water and detergent can create a cloudy look on the surface of the finest crystal.
The company does state, "A selection of Waterford drinkware products are identified as dishwasher safe and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Care should be taken when handling and stacking items, ensuring products are not in contact with any other items. Poor stacking can lead to damage of products."
The same caution for crystal holds true for fine dinnerware china. I'm a person who insists on a full dinner settings with fine china on special occasions. My Tirschenreuth china settings come out at Christmas time, as well as my mother's Noritake Whitebrooke china, edged in silver. I'm also lucky enough to have silver-rimmed goblets.
Hand washing the china is a time-honored holiday event after the meal, just as it was at my grandparents house. Many of my guests have gone the paper-plate route for holidays, but I've stood strong. In fact, family and friends really look forward to the experience of enjoying a beautiful holiday meal at my house, as long as they are not responsible for the dishes!
Why would I ever jeopardize my prized family dishware by putting them through the dishwasher? Any china with metallic edging will be most susceptible to damage by scratching the metal trim off.
I follow the recommendation of the Waterford Glass Company "wash your crystal one piece at a time in moderately hot water using a mild detergent. Use a soft cleaning cloth – do not use scouring pads or abrasive cleansers."
Refer to the Waterford Glass website for more additional details for handwashing their products. Note: the dishwasher articles on the site cover other dish types and materials not to put in a dishwasher, so check those out if you have other questions. Things Your Dishwasher Will Screw Up is a fun and fast read.
Fine silverware/flatware in the dishwasher
Most everyday silverware is dishwasher safe. Having become dishwasher-dependent, I can't imagined handwashing that everyday! Check the stamp on your daily eating utensils to see what it is made of.
The Cascade Dishwashing Detergent website cautions that "there is a big difference between silverware and sterling silverware, which is a premium flatware made with precious metals. It is NOT recommended to wash sterling silver dishes or silverware or silver plated flatware in the dishwasher as the high temperatures and detergents can damage or tarnish the silver. "
This guidance conflicts slightly with Today, which states that all silver and silver-plated flatware can be washed in the dishwasher IF the right detergent is used. Obviously, Cascade is the expert here.
Note the difference between the two spoons in the picture. The left spoon, made by Oneida is stainless steel; the antique spoon is tarnished and made of sterling silver. Modern day spoons have more dishwasher-friendly finishes.
There is one steadfast rule that everyone can agree on, and that is washing different types of metals together.
Today points this out, "Do not wash sterling silver flatware with stainless steel flatware (the electrolytic action can discolor and pit the metals where they touch)." Going with the same feeling as my fine china and crystal, I wouldn't put antique silver into the dishwasher. It's a bother to keep it tarnish-free anyway.
Even though putting putting silver and silver-plated flatware is dicey putting into a dishwasher, Today still discusses the topic. They stress the detergent CANNOT contain lemon or other citric acid, or it could damage the metal (similar to the pewter recommendation below). Cascade Complete was a recommended product for pewter, so it should work for silverware. This advice is only if you dare to put good silver in your dishwasher (not the everyday stainless steel).
If not washing good silverware immediately, it should be rinsed. Prolonged contact with food containing salt, acid or sulfide (eggs, mayonnaise and seafood) can damage the finish.
When it comes down to it, handling the good silver is a science lesson. If you want to keep your silver beautiful and polished, avoid the spoilers.
Pewter in the dishwasher
Arte Italica is a company that has offered pewter tabletop and home décor for over 25 years. There is definitely special care considerations with this metal. Pewter is a soft material, susceptible to scratching and high heat damage
That said, Arte Italica states that their products are dishwasher safe if on a low heat setting. They recommend a cleaner that is acidic free (no lemon or orange scent), recommending Cascade Complete.
The Silver Gallery disagrees and cautions against putting pewter in the dishwasher. They point out the low melting point of pewter and the possibility for discoloration of the product.
The majority of manufacturers recommend not to put pewter in dishwashers.
Fine stoneware in the dishwasher
There seems to be particular interest in Denby plates. Denby is a very well-known pottery company that was established in England in 1809. Modern users with dishwashers are curious as if the Denby plates can be put in dishwashers, rather than hand-washed.
Denby plates and products are safe to put into dishwashers, but may discolor over time.
From the Denby website, "Whilst Denby tableware is safe to use in a dishwasher, constant dishwashing may result in discolouration of product over time. We recommend using low temperatures and liquid detergents."
Although I don't own Denby plates, this advice transfers to all pottery, stoneware, etc. I purchased a set of small bowls from a pottery artist friend of mine. I admit that I throw them in the dishwasher all the time. It's taken its toll; the dishes no longer appear to have the same sturdy finish as when they were new. Chips are obvious, it's not known it that is due to the dishwasher.
It's interesting that the bottom bowl in the stack was used less, and washed less (in the dishwasher). It's apparent from the photo, which one it is - the bottom right dish. It has a shinier interior than the other three, which have dulled.
The timing of this article happens to capture the Denby Pottery Company offering their condolences to the Royal Family in response to the news of Queen Elizabeth passing away in September 2022. This is a nice gesture from a distinguished and reputable English company.
When in doubt, don't put your good dishes in the dishwasher! In a fast-paced world of shortcuts, it won't pay off. Also in this fast-paced world, it's good to keep more slow-paced traditions, like hand washing the good china!
Yours in etiquette,