10 things you can & can’t clean in the dishwasher

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Your dishwasher is the real workforce of your kitchen, in charge of the tedious task of cleaning all your dirty dishes and cookware − day after day. While there’s a lot your trusty kitchen appliance can handle besides your dishes, like dog toys and even makeup brushes, there are also some things you should avoid putting in the dishwasher. Here’s your definitive list of do’s and don’ts.

What you CAN clean in the dishwasher thumbs up

1. Everyday dishes (obviously)

dirty dishes

Your plates, cutlery, glasses and cookware like pots and pans can safely be cleaned in the dishwasher, as well as stainless steel containers and ceramic trays. If you’re unsure of what can go in the dishwasher, check the label on your dishes for the ‘dishwasher safe’ cue.

2. Wine glasses and crystal

You can wash your wine glasses and stemware in the delicate wash cycle, but be sure to stack them on the top shelf, in a way they won’t clink and break. However, it’s still best to wash your special glassware by hand to avoid etching and clouding.

3. Baby bottles and dummies

baby bottles in dishwasher

Baby bottles, dummies, teething rings, nipple shields and bottle brushes can be washed on the top shelf, using the sanitise wash, which works to sterilise dishes such as cutting boards and baby feeding equipment. Look for the washing cycle called SaniWash or SaniRinse.

4. Ziploc bags

You can wash Ziploc bags in the dishwasher, which is both a money saver and good for the environment. Just turn them inside out and spread them open on some prongs on the top rack to make sure they get a thorough clean. Make sure to anchor the bags, so that they stay in place during the cycle and let them dry outside of the machine.

5. Kitchen brushes and sponges

kitchen sponge on sink

You can disinfect and give new life to your kitchen sponges and brushes by popping them in the silverware cup on the top rack during a regular dishwasher load and using the heated dry setting. This will help eliminate bacteria and odours.

6. Pet bowls and toys

This is hotly debated, but the general consensus is that you can wash most pet toys and bowls on the regular setting, unless you have a baby or live with someone with a compromised immune system, in which case you should wash them separately on the sanitising cycle. Just double check that your pet dishes are dishwasher safe.

7. Cosmetic tools

Makeup brushes

Most cosmetic tools including tweezers, nail clippers as well as plastic combs, headbands, barrettes and makeup and hairbrushes can be washed in the dishwasher. Just toss them in a mesh bag on the top rack and voila! However, anything with a wooden handle or coating should be hand-washed.

8. Bathroom accessories

You can pop your soap dish, toothbrush holder and other vanity sets on the top rack of your dishwasher during any routine wash, to remove any gunk or hard water deposits. Ceramic and tempered glass bathroom accessories are completely dishwasher safe, but steer clear of putting bamboo accessories in there.

9. Metal fixtures

Bathtub drain plug

Shower heads, bathtub drain plugs, faucet handles and stove and cabinet knobs are generally safe to run through a regular cycle with your other dishes. Just place all loose bits in the silverware basket on the top shelf and use a gentle dishwashing detergent that doesn’t contain lemon or other citric acids, as this could damage metal materials over time. This trick also works for metal tools like wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers.

10. Plastic toys

You can de-goo bath toys, baby toys, Legos, dog toys, action figures and most small plasticky fun things in the dishwasher. Just place them on the top shelf with the silverware and run a normal cycle. A word of warning − never put squeaky toys or anything with batteries in the dishwasher.

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What you CAN’T clean in the dishwasher thumbs down

1. Sharp knives

Sharp knife

If we’re talking about what you can put in the dishwasher, your good knives don’t make the cut. High-carbon steel and ceramic knives tend to corrode and will lose their shard edge in the dishwasher with the abrasive detergent and when they bang against other dishware during the cycle. Always wash your chef knives in the sink with dish soap and water.

2. Fine china and decorative porcelain

Fine china, decorative porcelain and milk glass aren’t designed to be dishwasher safe. If you want to preserve your delicate and valuable dishware, ditch the dishwasher entirely. Not only can the dishwashing detergent erode fine details and finishes over time; the water jets inside the machine could crack you dishes.

3. Aluminium pans and cookware

aluminium pot

As a general rule, non-anodised aluminium cookware is not dishwasher safe (unless specified otherwise by the manufacturer). You should hand-wash all your aluminium pots, pans and baking sheets because the alkalinity of dishwashing detergents can dull their finish and cause pitting, corrosion and white spots on the surface.

4. Non-stick pans and cookware

Harsh dishwashing detergents and high drying temperatures have the tendency to break down non-stick finish and Teflon coating overtime, so it’s best to apply a little elbow grease and wash your non-stick cookware by hand.

5. Pressure cooker lids

Pressure cooker

It’s always advised to avoid putting pressure cooker lids in the dishwasher, as small food particles swirling around during the cycle can get stuck in the pressure valves (usually fitted on the top exterior of the lid), which will affect the efficacy of your pressure cooker.

6. Garlic press

It’s best to give your garlic press a hand-wash to make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned. You don’t want to leave any food bits inside it. Apply the same care to your cheese grater, coffee press and slicers.

7. Wooden and copper utensils

wooden spoons and forks
You should avoid cleaning wooden spoons, bowls, chopping boards or wooden-handled knives in the dishwasher. The combination of hot water and dishwashing detergent can strip the finish and glue holding the handles and can cause the wood to swell and crack over time. The same goes for copper utensils which can become dull and pit if washed with harsh chemicals.

8. Travel mugs

Insulated mugs and drinkware aren’t 100% dishwasher safe. The high temperatures in the dishwashing cycle can damage the vacuum seal and the layers of insulation. Moisture can also get trapped in that insulation airspace between the layers, and cause mould to grow.

9. Plastic containers

Plastic container

Some thin and cheap plastic containers can’t withstand the dishwasher process and will degrade with the hot water temperature in the machine. Harmful chemicals such BPA (bisphenol A) can also leach from some types of plastic containers, so it’s best to play it safe and hand-wash your food containers. If your plastic containers are labelled ‘dishwasher safe’, you should place them on the top rack only.

10. Printed measuring cups

Dishwashing detergent and the force of the water spray can remove the printed measurements on the cups in one or two washes. And, what good is a measuring cup with no measurements? The residues and adhesive glue that come off those can also clog the dishwasher drain. As a general rule, stick to hand-washing printed glassware, cups or anything with labels like jam jars, to safeguard their integrity.

How can you tell which items are dishwasher safe?

The most common way to tell if an item is safe to go in the dishwasher, is to check for a certification symbol (a plate or glass with water drops above it) or label that says “dishwasher safe”. If you can’t find any of these cues, it’s best to play it safe and hand-wash.

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Picture credits: Salmon-negro, Shutterstock.com/279photo Studio, Shutterstock.com/I MAKE PHOTO 17, Shutterstock.com/Valeriy Karpeev, Shutterstock.com/Gosphotodesign, Shutterstock.com/ShutterProductions/ Photo Win1, Shutterstock.com/Gcafotografia, Shutterstock.com/Evgeny Karandaev, Shutterstock.com/Linda Bestwick, Shutterstock.com.

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