I finally got to use a dishwasher eight years ago, when I moved in with my then-boyfriend (now husband). I was ecstatic and dumped everything in it. Over the years, though, I have discovered that you can save money – and time – by being pickier about what you put into the dishwasher. Along the way, a few things were ruined before their full value was enjoyed because I didn't know they shouldn't be washed by a machine. (See also: Household cleaning hacks that can save you money.)
Here are five things I learned never to put into the dishwasher.
[Slideshow: 20 Things You Should Never Buy Used]
Wood: This includes wooden spoons, salad bowls, chopsticks, and cutting boards. Wood will swell and crack in the dishwasher. My cutting board broke in half, and the bottom of my salad bowl dislodged and made a slit so that I could no longer use it for anything that could leak (the glue used to seal it looked like it got dissolved or washed away).
Knives: I still put my cheap butter knives in there, but never the larger, nicer ones. The harsh detergent will cause nicks and scratches on the blade, dulling it. Also, putting and removing sharp, large knives is likely to cause damage to the dishwasher rack itself.
Crystal/Hand-blown Glass: These items are not just sensitive to heat (they can crack), but abrasive detergent can chip and etch them as well, causing them to lose their brilliance. They should be gently handwashed and dried with a soft, lint free towel.
Pots & Pans: It's generally not a good idea to put pots and pans in the dishwasher. After running a few cycles on them, I noticed some of my pots and pans had loose handles and seals were coming off (like my wooden salad bowl above). Additionally, here are particular types that should definitely not go into the dishwasher:
- Nonstick/Anodized Aluminum: The coating will wear out and break down and it will no longer be non-stick. This includes bakeware.
- Cast Iron: It will rust and lose its seasoning. After rinsing with water, heat on the stove to completely dry.
- Enameled Cast Iron: These are very prone to chipping. Plates and bowls may hit against the pot during the cycle.
- Aluminum: It's extremely vulnerable to nicks and scratches. This includes thermoses and water bottles.
Gold Trim: Watch out for any plates, bowls, or cups with gold trim. They will be removed by the harsh detergent and water pressure.
Final tips: It’s not always as easy as looking at the label to see whether something is dishwasher safe. Keep in mind that the environment inside a dishwasher is hot, humid, and wet. The detergent is abrasive. The water spray is not gentle (it’s trying to spray off that caked-in spaghetti sauce). The top rack generally gets a gentler wash than the bottom. If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be able to make better decisions about what to put in and what to keep out of the dishwasher.
Lynn Truong is the co-founder and Daily Deals Editor of Wise Bread, a blog dedicated to helping readers live large on a small budget. Wise Bread's book, 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget, debuted as the #1 Money Management book on Amazon.com.