“Can This Go in the Dishwasher?” Your Guide to Post-Thanksgiving Dinner Cleanup

published Nov 23, 2016
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If you think life would be hard on a daily basis without a dishwasher, imagine not having one during the holidays. There would be dishes to wash for days! (You superheroes who manage to host a massive Thanksgiving without a dishwasher—here’s your chance to brag in the comments.) But, alas, as hard-working as that holiest of appliances is, it can’t do it all. Or, rather, it shouldn’t.

During the holidays, we tend to bring into rotation a ton of dishes that we don’t use on a day-to-day basis. And while it’s helpful to have the extra dinnerware and serving pieces, it can be tricky to remember which ones can or cannot go through the dishwasher when the eating is done.

True story: My late grandmother believed that every single dish should be hand-washed. Here’s a breakdown of the dishes you might use this holiday that actually do necessitate that kind of cleaning.


This is one of those items your gut tells you shouldn’t go in the dishwasher, but then you think, “But, if my other glass items can go in…” Ignore that thought and go with your gut. Crystal is different than standard glass, and it is very sensitive to heat. Heat can lead to cracking. That’s not the only issue, though—detergents can be abrasive and chip away at your crystal. While it may not be particularly noticeable, it could diminish the crystal’s shine. To clean, wipe down with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of warm water and mild detergent.

Cast Iron Cookware

Do not—I repeat—do not ever enter the home of a Southerner and try to put cast iron anything into the dishwasher. That’s sacrilege. It takes time to get a skillet seasoned just the way you like it, and washing it effectively sends all of that seasoning (and hard work) down the drain. Rather, you simply need to rinse with hot water. Got stuck on gunk? You can use coarse salt to scrub it out.

High Quality Kitchen Knives

If you want to throw the butter knives from the silverware set you got at TJ Maxx into the dishwasher, by all means go ahead. However, when you pay good money for high quality kitchen knives, you want to do what it takes to preserve the life of their blades—and that means not putting them in the dishwasher, which can dull and ding them. Hand-wash these guys (very carefully)!

Hand-Painted Glassware or Dishes

Unless you like the look of scratched-off paint, plan on hand-washing any hand-painted glasses or dishes. A dishwasher’s agitation cycle does not treat delicate hand-painting kindly, and you could well end up washing off the design. Having said that, many commercial manufacturers of hand-painted dinnerware glaze and fire the pieces to protect the finish. Before you tempt fate by tossing yours in the dishwasher, try to track down the manufacturer’s instructions, if there are any.


Because the water in your dishwater can get extremely hot, wood can warp and even crack. If the latter happens and you wind up with a sizeable opening, bam! That’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Exercise caution by washing wood bowls, cutting boards, and utensils with warm soapy water in the sink.

Non-Stick Pots and Pans

Non-stick cookware makes life so much easier, especially if you lack finesse in the kitchen like me (have you ever tried getting burnt Ramen Noodles out of a regular pan?!). So if you want to keep that convenience, you’d do best to hand-wash non-stick pots and pans—the dishwasher can nullify your non-stick coating.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Copper or Other Precious Metals

Keep copper pots away from the dishwasher, because the heat and agitation causes them to dent easily. Similarly, heirloom items in other precious metals (think gold, bronze, or silver) should be hand-washed or you risk tarnishing their finish.

Disposable Aluminum

Because I’m a kitchen hack (see aforementioned comment about burnt Ramen), I tend to rely on disposable aluminum dishware a lot during the holidays. And while it’s not like they are terribly expensive, it seems like such a waste not to re-use them. That’s not a problem, but you’ll have to rely on hand-washing before returning them to the table. Why? The dishwasher can strip off the pan’s finish, leaving annoying black spots all over your other dishes.

Traditional Aluminum

Yes, nowadays there are plenty of aluminum cookware products that are designed to be dishwasher-safe. However, the ones that aren’t can get ruined if you run them through even once. If you still have the box you brought them home in or some sort of manufacturer’s instructions that specify “dishwasher-safe,” you’re probably free and clear. If not, why risk it?

Stainless Steel

Like aluminum, stainless steel cookware can probably be considered on a case-by-case basis. Most manufacturers now create it to withstand the dishwasher cycle. Still, if you want to minimize any chance of tarnishing, scratching, or corroding, place them on the upper rack when running them through. Otherwise, just err on the side of caution and wash in the sink.

Gold-Trim Plates

Ah, yes… the standard of holiday dinnerware. Here’s the good news: they give people warm and fuzzies, so that gold-trimmed nostalgia is probably here to stay. As for the bad news, the dishwasher wants to eat that gold-trim that reminds you of holidays of yore with your grandparents. These types of dishes are extremely delicate and should be treated as such, which means no dishwasher!

Credit: Akasha/Shutterstock

Gold (Colored) Flatware

I’m obsessed with gold and actually own gold-colored flatware, and I had no idea until I began researching this article that you should always hand-wash it. If you don’t, you’ll eventually end up with a color that is decidedly not the vibrant gold hue you that makes all your Insta posts about your dinner look so darn chic.

Insulated Travel Mugs

Holidays can be exhausting, and you may need caffeine to get you through the long hours cooking, eating, and schmoozing with the fam. If you do get your cup of Joe on in an insulated travel mug, make sure you wash it in the sink afterwards. The dishwasher can break the vacuum seal between the mug’s inner and outer shell, which essentially renders it ineffective in maintaining steamy hot temps.

Re-edited from a post originally published 11.23.2016, refreshed on 11.28.19 – TW