It’s important to understand that not every piece of kitchenware will fare well in the dishwasher’s humidity and heat. In fact, depending on their material, some items can break your appliance. That’s why some people are a bit reluctant to machine-wash their stainless steel kitchenware.
But is there truth to that fear? And most importantly, is there any difference between particular stainless steel items, like pans, knives, and similar utensils?
What Is Stainless Steel?
Simply put, stainless steel is an alloy of iron and chromium that contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium. Why chromium? Because it produces a thin layer of oxide, called a passive layer, on the steel’s surface, which prevents corrosion. And while 10.5% is the minimum, high-quality stainless steel usually has more of the chemical, increasing the overall corrosion resistance.
Besides chromium, stainless steel products contain other chemicals like silicon, carbon, and manganese. Additionally, more often than not, they also feature varying levels of nickel, which adds rust resistance to the final product.
You might already know that stainless steel is one of the most popular and reliable materials for all sorts of household items. Actually, you’ll find stainless steel in most kitchen appliances and accessories, like pots, pans, knives, and bowls. Here are a few factors that make stainless steel such a reliable and effective material:
- Durability —As previously mentioned, stainless steel features chromium and iron, which make it extremely durable. Additionally, thanks to the presence of nickel and chromium, stainless steel can withstand stains, rust, and even corrosion. As a result, it can last an entire lifetime when maintained properly.
- Appearance —Stainless steel has an ageless appearance that fits with any kitchen style that you might be going for. So you don’t have to worry about having to redecorate your kitchen based on your stainless steel kitchenware.
- Health —One huge advantage of stainless steel products is that they can be sterilized, which means they can be reused without the fear of bacteria and germs.
- Affordability — At first glance, some stainless steel products might seem more expensive than similar options. However, since stainless steel is more durable, you won’t have to worry about changing your utensils every couple of years, which should save you a considerable amount of money later down the line.
Can I Put Stainless Steel Into the Dishwasher?
Generally speaking, people regard stainless steel as a dishwasher-safe material. Yet, some stainless steel kitchenware is more prone to discoloration and damage than others during machine washing. So, to help you decide whether you should take the risk, we’ve taken a look at some of the most common stainless steel items and their interactions with the dishwasher.
Pots and Pans
When it comes to stainless steel pots and pans, people all over the world are in constant disagreement. As a matter of fact, some kitchenware manufacturers warn against using dishwashers to clean their products. They say that some dishwasher detergents are too harsh and can lead to corrosion of the stainless steel.
In contrast, most dishwasher detergent manufacturers say that their products are 100% safe to use with all stainless steel kitchenware, including pots and pans. Even so, users have reported watermarks and stains on freshly washed stainless steel pots and pans, which were quite difficult to get out.
Overall, most people agree that dishwashers can dull the appearance of your pans and pots over time, which may lead to discoloration and spotting. Therefore, most manufacturers advise you to handwash your stainless steel pans and pots and dry them immediately. But if you still want to use your dishwasher, make sure that the manufacturer explicitly states that their products are dishwasher safe.
Flatware, which includes knives, spoons, and forks, can be tossed into the dishwasher without a second thought. Just remember to rinse them off before you do to avoid exposing other kitchenware to acids from foods. But while flatware is usually dishwasher-safe, some people are reporting rust spots on their utensils.
Luckily, that’s not due to the use of a dishwasher; instead, some products contain a specific type of steel, which rusts more easily. In other words, eventually, the utensil would have gotten rust spots from handwashing, too. To keep that from happening, you should dry your flatware immediately. And if you still experience rust, you can use a stainless steel cleaner to remediate the problem.
Stainless steel water bottles are typically not a great candidate for dishwashing. For starters, these bottles are generally painted or coated with an organic baked-on powder coating and then stamped with the company’s logo. That becomes an issue when you realize that most dishwasher detergents contain chemicals that will attack any organic matter, such as food. Thus, dishwashing your stainless steel water bottle might reduce the once-hard coating into a flaky or gummy substance that isn’t bonded to the bottle’s surface anymore.
Furthermore, these water bottles are usually made up of more than one piece. More specifically, they are often built by inserting a stainless steel vacuum bottle into a steel shell before welding them up at the mouth. Then, the manufacturer places a cap over the bottom and seals it with a silicone or rubber seal. Unfortunately, the pressure that heating creates can blow air past the seal and expose it to chemicals, eventually destroying it.
Yet, it’s important to mention that some water bottles are specifically designed for dishwashing. So always make sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications before attempting to wash your favorite stainless steel water bottle in a dishwasher.
Unlike pots and pans, stainless steel bowls are completely dishwasher-safe, so you shouldn’t worry about damaging them. In fact, most bowls can withstand the heat and pressure of dishwashers with ease.
However, it’s worth noting that some dishwasher detergents can cause discoloration and spots, no matter how durable your stainless steel bowls are. As a result, you should always check your detergent’s label to make sure that it is stainless steel-friendly. You should also dry your bowls immediately after dishwashing to remove any traces of detergent residue and prevent discoloration.
Why Do Some Stainless Steel Items Discolor in the Dishwasher?
By now, you should have noticed that most stainless steel products are prone to discoloration, especially in the dishwasher. And while that might sound like a problem with the material, the discoloration is usually caused by chemical reactions or the dishwasher itself.
Some dishwashers have a hard time properly rinsing detergent from the machine’s contents, which people refer to as detergent bloom.That can lead to a blue tarnish on stainless steel items, as they are prone to bonding with nearby chemicals. Additionally, using too much rinse aid can also cause detergent bloom and ruin your favorite stainless steel kitchenware.
Mixing hot water and detergent chemicals can trigger a chemical reaction that causes discoloration on stainless steel items.Fortunately, there are a lot of dishwasher detergents that don’t interact with stainless steel and are completely safe to use. It’s also advisable to avoid mixing stainless steel, silver-plated and chromed-steel items in the dishwasher as they can cause chemical reactions that lead to blue spots and discoloration.
How to Prevent Discoloration When Dishwashing Stainless Steel
Even though there are a couple of risks associated with using dishwashers to clean stainless steel kitchenware, people still want to do it. As a result, we’ve compiled a couple of tips that should help you prevent discoloration and allow you to wash your stainless steel safely:
- To reduce the possibility of a chemical reaction, always rinse salty and acidic foods off stainless steel kitchenware before putting them in the dishwasher.
- Avoid over-packing the dishwasher in order to leave enough room for your utensils to be washed and rinsed properly.
- Don’t let dishwasher detergent spill on stainless steel kitchenware, as it is much stronger than traditional dish soap.
- You can soak your stainless steel items in vinegar for about 10 minutes and then rinse them to help restore their original color.
All in all, placing your stainless steel items in the dishwasher can be a gamble. On the one hand, most kitchenware, such as bowls, can withstand dishwashers and shouldn’t cause any problems. On the other hand, some detergents can ruin your favorite stainless steel items in a matter of seconds. Therefore, you should always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before attempting to machine wash them. And remember that even if you end up with discoloration or blue spots, you can still save your kitchenware.