Dishwashers take the elbow grease out of removing greasy food stains from your dining ware, and power away baked-on bolognese and lingering lasagne from pots, pans and baking dishes.
But unlike your kitchen sink where you can wash everything but, well, the kitchen sink, some things don't fare well in your dishwasher's inhospitable insides.
Here's a guide to what you can and can't safely wash in your dishwasher so you never have to wonder again whether your great-aunt's silver-plated teaspoons will survive the cycle. (Hot tip: you're better off handwashing them if you want them to stay silver.)
Dishwasher safe symbols
Unlike care labels on clothes, there's no universally agreed-upon set of symbols to indicate whether something is dishwasher safe, so you may need to do a little detective work to find out if something can go in the dishwasher or not.
The images above are some commonly used dishwasher safe symbols that you might come across on your crockery or containers.
They're not the only ones out there, but they're all generally variations on a theme, so look for a picture of plates and/or glasses under drops of water or a shower.
Just to make things even more confusing, there's no official definition of what 'dishwasher safe' really means. Manufacturers all have their own definitions and processes for determining whether something can be put in the dishwasher.
Bear in mind, too, that some items that are labelled 'dishwasher safe' can still degrade when washed in the dishwasher over long periods of time – they'll just take longer to deteriorate than products that aren't dishwasher safe.
Dishwasher safe – Top rack only
Items on the bottom rack of the dishwasher sit just above the heating element, which means that they're subjected to more heat than those on the top rack.
For plastic and glass, the top rack is a better option as it's a lower temperature and less intense washing action.
Dishwasher safe glassware
Glass can be fragile and prone to breakage, so the dishwasher isn't always the most hospitable place for delicate glassware. Plus, the harsh chemicals in dishwasher detergent can cause haziness.
The dishwasher safe glassware symbol means an item will stand up to the rigours of the dishwasher.
Hand wash only / Not dishwasher safe
A dishwasher safe icon with a line through it means the item cannot be safely washed in the dishwasher.
An illustration of a hand in a bucket of water, in the context of cutlery and crockery, means the item should be washed by hand.
Can I wash it in the dishwasher?
CHOICE kitchen experts weigh in on whether or not the following items can be washed in a dishwasher.
Everyday tableware should be fine in the dishwasher but delicate glasses and sharp knives should be hand washed.
It's tempting to chuck every single thing in the dishwasher to save on handwashing, but unfortunately there are some items that won't fare well in the dishwasher.
We'll explain which ones are safe to go in the dishwasher and which you will need to wash by hand if you want to keep them in good condition.
Dishwashers are great for pretty much all everyday plates, cups and cutlery, so given the time and water savings of a dishwasher, racking your plates in one instead of stacking them by the sink is a no-brainer.
And because your dirty plates are out of sight, you can wait a couple of days till the machine's full before you run it for even more savings.
Fragile glassware can scratch or break easily. So if you value your stemware then handwash it instead. (And just to be on the safe side and avoid breakages, maybe wash them the next morning if you've had a few glasses too many.)
Even durable drinking glasses can fall foul of the dishwasher and develop a white haze over time. Alkaline detergents slowly dissolve the glass itself (silicate filming and etching), leave tiny crystal formations (devitrification), and abrasives in the detergent can physically scour your glass (this gets worse with cheaper powder detergents).
If you're washing in hard water then you may even find cloudy calcium deposits on your glass, though unlike other causes of hazing, this can be removed.
All that said, some manufacturers are going to great lengths to ensure their dishwashers are safe for delicate stemware, and some also include special racks to hold wine glasses safely, so we're definitely seeing improvements in this area.
CHOICE tip: If your wine glasses have lingering red wine stains, use denture cleaner to remove them.
Leave your nan's lead crystal glassware in the display cabinet next to the teaspoons, because your dishwasher's high temperature and alkaline detergent can convert the lead into a soluble form which can be ingested next time you're enjoying a refreshing crème de menthe.
Dishwasher-wise, your good knives don't make the cut – carbon steel corrodes rapidly in your dishwasher's harsh, alkaline environment, and bouncing around with other items will dull carefully honed cutting edges.
Plus, emptying the dishwasher is a far riskier proposition with a 12" lobster-splitter somewhere inside.
|Bone-handled cutlery||No||The dishwasher will corrode the bone.|
|No||Dishwashing will dull the blade, and you could cut yourself emptying the dishwasher.|
|Chef's knives||No||Carbon steel knives will corrode in the dishwasher, and will lose their sharpness bumping against other items. The presence of sharp knives also makes emptying the dishwasher a potentially dangerous endeavour.|
|Coffee plungers||Yes||You may want to disassemble and wash the components separately.|
|Fine china||No||The dishwasher can damage hand painted details, or chip delicate edges.|
|Hand-painted ceramics||No||The paint will dull and fade and delicate ceramics can chip.|
|Lead crystal||No||Can leach the lead out of the crystal.|
|Mason jar lids||Yes||May shorten the life of the jar lid by corroding the plastic.|
|Pewter||No||Pewter has a very low melting point so could warp in the dishwasher.|
|Plastic plates||Yes||Top shelf only.|
|Plastics||It depends||If it's not marked 'dishwasher safe', don't put it in the dishwasher. Dishwasher-safe plastics should go on the top rack to prevent them being melted by the heating element.|
|Sharp knives||No||Carbon steel knives will corrode in the dishwasher, and will lose their sharpness bumping against other items. It's also not safe emptying the dishwasher with sharp knives inside.|
|Silver cutlery||No||Silver can discolour in the dishwasher.|
|It depends||You can, but washing in the dishwasher will lead to etching and irreversible clouding on glassware over time. Denture cleaner will remove red wine stains.|
Don't want to scrub that dirty baking dish? Fair enough. But before you put it in the dishwasher and cross your fingers that it'll be fine, give this list a quick scan to make sure it will survive.
Pots and pans
Modern dishwashers do a surprisingly good job cleaning even heavily soiled stainless steel pots and pans and ceramic baking dishes. Combined with a good quality detergent, your dishwasher may clean away burned-on cheese and food particles that would pose a challenge when washing by hand.
Many dishwashers also have foldable or removable tines to make it easier to fit bulky pots, and some even have an intensive zone, designed specifically to give cookware an extra-thorough going over. Though you should still handwash non-stick, cast-iron, copper and fine aluminium cookware because they can be damaged by the dishwasher.
Non-stick coatings will deteriorate rapidly in your dishwasher – follow the manufacturer's cleaning instructions to extend their life. (And maybe ask yourself if they're really non-stick, why is there anything to wash off in the first place?)
Your dishwasher won't damage the cast-iron itself, but it will strip off the layers of precious seasoning that protect your pan from rust and make it virtually non-stick.
But your skillet shouldn't go near the sink either – just wipe it out with paper towel to clean it, and remove stubborn cooking remnants with salt and elbow grease.
|Aluminium||No||Annodised aluminium can be damaged and discolour in your dishwasher.|
|It depends||Stainless steel is fine. Don't put aluminium or non-stick bakeware in the dishwasher.|
|Brass or any soft alloys||No||These can warp, bend or discolour.|
|Cake tins||It depends||Many cake tins are dishwasher safe, but springform pans aren't. Some may need soaking or light scrubbing, but don't use abrasive cleaners.|
|Cast-iron||No||The dishwasher won't hurt the pan at all, but it will strip its precious seasoning. And if the cast-iron stays wet for any length of time, it will rust.|
|Ceramic baking dishes||Yes||A dishwasher (bottom rack) makes cleaning baked-on residue easy.|
|Copper cookware||No||These can warp, bend or discolour.|
|Enamel-coated cast iron cookware||No||Putting your enamel coated cast-iron pot in the dishwasher causes the rim of the pot and lid to rust, dulls the enamel surface and removes the pot's non-stick capabilities. It can also weaken the lid screws.|
|Enamelware||Yes||Using the dishwasher removes any baked-on residue easily, but they're easy to clean by hand otherwise.|
|Non-stick pans||No||Damages the delicate non-stick coating.|
|Pizza stone||No||Pizza stones should be kept as dry as possible – don't immerse in water.|
|No||Putting them in the dishwasher can cause rust.|
|Yes||Stainless steel pots with heat-resistant plastic handles are fine, but only clean in the dishwasher occasionally as the detergent can weaken the coating.|
Can you put your Thermomix parts or air fryer baskets in the dishwasher? Check the table below to find out.
|Air fryer parts||It depends||Most parts are dishwasher safe, but should be cleaned by hand if they have a non-stick coating.|
|No||It's best to just wipe food particles and excess oils from the hotplate. You actually need the oil from the previous cook to protect the hotplate from rust.|
|Blender parts||No||We suggest washing these by hand. Some jugs are dishwasher safe, but may not fit in your dishwasher.|
|Exhaust fan filters and covers||Yes|
|Food processor parts||No||Manufacturers say some parts can go in the dishwasher but our kitchen experts don't recommend it as the dishwasher can weaken and discolour areas of the plastic.|
|Hand mixer attachments||It depends||Check the manual first to see if they're dishwasher safe, as not all of them are.|
|Juicer parts||It depends||Centrifugal (fast) juicers often have dishwasher-safe parts, but cold press (slow) juicers normally don't.|
|Oven racks||Yes||Make sure they don't interfere with the operation of the machine.|
|Pressure cooker lids||No||Small particles of food can get stuck in the pressure valves.|
|Stove burners||It depends||Can be heavy and bulky so could interfere with the operation of the spray arms, or bend the dishwasher racks. Use caution.|
|Thermomix parts||It depends||Stainless steel jugs/bowls can be cleaned in the dishwasher with the blade removed. If they have plastic handles, double-check that they're heat-resistant first.|
|Trivets from gas cooktops||It depends||Can be heavy and bulky so could interfere with the operation of the spray arms, or bend the dishwasher racks. Use caution.|
Let's face it: kids can be messy. Can a dishwasher help make cleaning up easier?
A hot dishwasher can warp or damage some plastics, and squeezing plastic items into small spaces may also cause warping – so while you can put them in the dishwasher, they should go on the top shelf.
Plastics also have a low thermal mass, so they don't dry especially well in your dishwasher.
|Baby bottles||Yes||Wash on the top shelf. Depending on your baby's age, you may still need to use a steriliser.|
|Yes||Wash on the top shelf. Don't put squeaky toys or anything with batteries in the dishwasher.|
|Breast pump parts||Yes||Wash on the top shelf. Don't put anything electronic or battery-operated in the dishwasher. See baby bottles.|
|Dummies and teething rings||Yes||Don't expect them to be sterilised. See baby bottles.|
|Lego and other plastic building blocks||Yes||Put in a mesh bag on the top shelf so small pieces don't get lost.|
|Lunchboxes||It depends||Check for any dishwasher safe symbols.|
|Plastic toys||It depends||Don't wash squeaky toys – they'll fill up with water. Top shelf only. Put small pieces in a mesh bag so they don't get lost.|
Washing your sponges in the dishwasher is a great way to give them a new lease on life.
Housework can feel like a neverending task, so of course you'll want to find hacks to reduce the amount of work you need to do.
But is the dishwasher the answer? Not necessarily.
Sponges and scourers can get caked up with food particles pretty quickly, which means they're a hive for bacteria.
Washing this handheld bacteria nest in the kitchen sink won't cut it from a hygiene perspective (that's where the bacteria came from in the first place), but rather than relegating your manky kitchen sponge to landfill and buying a new one, you can give it a new lease on life by running it through your dishwasher to leave it sanitised, refreshed and probably smelling better, ready to scrub for another day.
Sterling silver, pewter, aluminium, brass and copper will discolour in your dishwasher, and light aluminium items can also mark other items as they bump around during the wash cycle. Pewter can even warp due to its low melting point.
Glossy, gold-coloured or hand-painted items will dull and fade in your dishwasher, and fragile items can be damaged by bouncing against other items or even by thermal stress.
Wood, glued or composite materials
The glue that binds hollow-handle knives, wooden cutting boards or other laminates will melt or soften in a dishwasher, and high temperatures and moisture damage wood, so handwash wooden items instead.
Items contaminated with wax, cigarette ash, poisons, mineral oils, wet paints and oiled tools should never go in your dishwasher, as contaminants can be left behind and redeposited on future loads.
Likewise, objects contaminated by solvents or flammable liquids could explode in a dishwasher, so (carefully) handwash them instead.
|Ashtrays||No||The ash particles can clog up the dishwasher.|
|Clothes||No||The alkaline detergent could reduce the life of fabrics, and having clothes flop around in the dishwasher could interfere with its action.|
|Dog toys||It depends||Don't put squeaky toys in the dishwasher as they'll fill up with water. Other hard toys are fine.|
|Flip flops/thongs||Yes||Rubber/plastic thongs only.|
|Hairbrushes and combs||Yes||Don't put combs or brushes with wooden handles in the dishwasher.|
|Keys||It depends||Don't wash electronic keys! Regular metal keys are fine (but why though?).|
|Kitchen sponges||Yes||Disinfects and removes odours.|
|Makeup brushes||It depends||Plastic- or metal-handled brushes only. See wood.|
|Manicure and pedicure tools||It depends||Metal and plastic only – no wood.|
|Pet food bowls||Yes|
|Shower sponges and poufs||Yes||Disinfects and removes odours.|
|Silicon food covers||Yes, but only at low temps|
|Soap dishes||It depends||Only if dishwasher-safe plastic, glass or ceramic. Handwash timber or other materials.|
|Thermos||No||The heat of the dishwasher may shorten its life. Best to wash by hand.|
|Tools||No||The alkaline dishwasher detergent could promote corrosion.|
|Toothbrush holders||It depends||Only if dishwasher-safe plastic, glass or ceramic. Handwash timber or other materials.|
|Vases||It depends||Check what it's made of first. Lead crystal, delicate glass, hand-painted china, brass, pewter, copper and sterling silver shouldn't go in the dishwasher. And use the top rack for everything but the heaviest pieces.|
|Water bottles||It depends||Only if the bottle is dishwasher safe. However, any damage done to the bottle can create crevices that may harbour bacteria. If washing by hand, remove all the parts and wash them in piping-hot soapy water.|
|Wood||No||Includes wooden spoons, bowls, chopping boards and wooden-handled knives. Wash by hand only.|
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.