By Kathryn Weber
It is possible to put china, crystal and silver in the dishwasher, but precautions need to be taken. The right soap, careful loading and your dishwasher's gentle cycle makes holiday dinner cleanup easier
If the powder room is the busiest room in your house during holiday celebrations, the kitchen is surely the hardest working. And the appliance that seems to work nonstop at this time of year is the dishwasher. That said, we all seem honor the holiday tradition of hand washing our china, crystal and silver. All the time spent at the sink over the years carefully washing these prized objects -- especially if they're heirlooms with family memories attached -- makes them seem too precious to put into the dishwasher. But are they?
Don't wash with sand
Yes, it is possible to put china, crystal and silver in the dishwasher, but precautions need to be taken.
The first and perhaps most important caveat is that you must choose the right dishwasher detergent. In fact, it shouldn't be a detergent at all but rather a dishwasher solution formulated to be mild. Most detergents on the grocery store shelves are filled with strong chemicals because we want to put a three-day-old lasagna pan in the dishwasher and see it come out sparkling. To do that requires lots of scouring with harsh detergents that contain abrasives -- like sand. It's why many people complain of a white haze on their glassware; the glass finish has been scored by the scouring agents.
To wash china, crystal and silver (sterling or silver-plate) in the dishwasher requires a mild solution that is free of bleaches such as chlorine.
Dishwasher soaps that have oxygen, lemon or citrus agents also contain compounds that can bleach the designs on delicate finishes. It's best to select a dishwashing solution that is liquid and free of chlorine and bleaching agents and harsh detergents. Two good products are Neu Automatic Dishwashing Liquid (neuhomecare.com) or
Remember: If the dishwasher detergent you use is strong enough to take off lipstick and baked-on lasagna, it can also scour the finish right off your glasses, silverware and dishes. Now imagine placing your delicate crystal, china and silverware into the dishwasher. The lovely silver rim on your antique china settings might just go down the drain in your dishwasher's rinse cycle.
In addition to the type of soap you use, the way you load the dishwasher is also important. Start by rinsing all the cutlery and dishes. Load only your china, crystal and silver in the dishwasher. Use a paper towel to manually remove any lipstick and large particles left on fork tines or plates because a mild dishwasher soap may not take it off, because today's lipsticks are formulated to stay on all day. Make sure that only silver place settings are loaded into the silverware basket. Mixing stainless cutlery with silver can scratch the silver. If you have tall, delicate stemware, it may be better not to place these items in the dishwasher. And lastly, run your dishwasher on the gentle cycle.
Following these tips will help you set your holiday tables with your most beautiful place settings of china, crystal and silver -- and spend less time cleaning up afterwards.
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Copyright © Kathryn Weber, Living Space. All rights reserved.