When you're faced with a sink full of dishes, it's tempting to toss the load in the dishwasher so everything gets clean at once. This might save time, but it's a potentially costly mistake. Many dishes and utensils are sensitive to the high heat, powerful water pressure and abrasive detergents used in the dishwasher. It's best to wash these delicate items by hand.
Pots and Pans
When last night's dinner is stuck to the pan, it may seem easier to toss it in the dishwasher than scrub it by hand. Most pots and pans should never go in the dishwasher, though. Cast iron, for example, loses its seasoning and rusts if washed in the dishwasher. Enameled cast-iron and aluminum pans can chip or scratch if other dishes strike them. Copper pots dent easily, so wash them gently by hand. The coating on anodized or nonstick aluminum pans, pots and bake ware breaks down in the dishwasher.
Knives and Wood
Most cooks value their knives and with good reason--they're hardworking, versatile tools used in every area of the kitchen. High-quality knives don't come cheap, so you should never stick them in the dishwasher. Detergent can dull and nick even the sharpest knife blades, and sharp knives may damage your dishwasher rack. Inexpensive butter knives and steak knives are fine to wash in the dishwasher. To preserve the natural beauty of your wood bowls, cutting boards and utensils, keep them out of the dishwasher. The heat and water pressure of your dishwasher causes wood items to swell, which may lead to cracking and splitting.
Gold, Brass and Silver
Cups and bowls with gold trim should never go in the dishwasher. Strong water pressure and abrasive detergents can cause the gold trim to peel off. Brass items have a protective coating that the hot water in the dishwasher can remove. Wash brass by hand with warm water instead. Sterling silver utensils may turn yellow if washed with too much detergent. If you must wash sterling silver in the dishwasher, only use about 1 tablespoon of mild detergent. Do not wash sterling silver and stainless steel items together. Doing so may discolor the silver.
Fine china dishes are usually too fragile to wash in the dishwasher. Over time, heavy water pressure wears them down and causes them to break. If you own an irreplaceable heirloom or special family dish, always wash it by hand. Crystal dishes, especially glasses, shouldn't go in the dishwasher. Crumbs and food particles easily scratch them. Avoid washing soft plastics in the dishwasher, as they might melt. If you must use the dishwasher, put plastics on the top rack. Wash insulated mugs and thermoses by hand. They have a vacuum seal that may be damaged in the dishwasher.
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