The dishwasher has become an indispensable appliance for many North American households, helping us to save both time and water. Modern dishwashers also tend to be fairly hardy and powerful appliances, but that’s a double-edged sword -- they may tackle tougher food stains, but they can wreak havoc on delicate dishes.
There are also some things you might be tempted to run through the dishwasher that could cause harm to the appliance itself, tough as it is. Read on for a quick list of “don’ts” before starting your next wash cycle.
No food-covered dishes. This might seem counterintuitive -- it is a dishWASHER after all -- but it’s not a garbage disposal. Chunks of food may get broken up a little by the water jets, but they can easily clog the drain line and could potentially require a service visit from a plumber. Be sure to scrape or wipe your dishes well before putting them in the dishwasher to avoid this problem. Sauces and such are fine if they’ll simply liquefy and go down the drain, but you should avoid fat and grease, which can resolidify in your drain line.
No sticky labels. Everybody hates having to remove the sticky paper labels that sometimes come affixed to new dishes and plasticware. And there are some paper labels you may want to keep, like the ones you might use when canning fresh food at home. Either way, these can come loose inside the dishwasher and completely clog the drain or filter. Always remove these by hand.
No dishes or utensils that have been glued. Whether it’s a broken plate you patched back together or a plastic kitchen gadget held together with adhesive, glue can loosen in the high heat of a dishwasher cycle. You should always wash these things by hand, and avoid letting them soak in steamy dishwater.
No hollow plastic. This is most often a problem with hollow handles on plastic utensils. Water can seep in, and if you don’t notice, it can linger and lead to mold growth.
No insulated travel mugs, unless they’re specifically dishwasher-safe. Just like hollow utensil handles, moisture may seep inside, compromising the insulation and creating a mold risk.
No wood. Wooden spoons, cutting boards and other kitchenware should be washed and dried in quick succession to keep them in good shape. A trip through the dishwasher can cause wood to swell, warp and crack, and can strip away protective finishes.
No fine or metallic dinnerware. Because things can inadvertently bounce around inside the dishwasher, you’ll want to hand wash things like your fine china and silver. And if you have dishes with metallic trim or finish, it’s especially important that you don’t run those through the dishwasher; it can permanently dull them in a single cycle.
No cast iron. Skillets made of cast iron become seasoned with each use, and they must be cleaned gently and carefully. Putting a cast iron skillet through the dishwasher will strip all that seasoning away.
Take care of your dishes and your dishwasher -- but if you do somehow clog up the drain line, don’t despair. Just call your local Benjamin Franklin and schedule service from a licensed professional!