How to wash china in the dishwasher

Dishwasher filled with china

Hosting holiday parties means taking out the fine china and setting a beautiful dinner table for your guests. It also means washing dishes after a big meal, which can be a little daunting since china is so fragile. In this guide, we go over what china is safe to put in the dishwasher and how to wash it when it’s too delicate.

Can china go in the dishwasher?

Your gorgeous china set is covered in food and needs a good cleaning… But will it be able to withstand the dishwasher? The answer is that it depends on a couple of factors.

First, check the bottom of the tableware. It will usually say whether or not the china is dishwasher safe. If it doesn’t say, check the china’s packaging (if you still have it) or the manufacturer’s website for more details.

Older china may not have a label on the bottom and that’s okay because antique china will not survive in the dishwasher anyway. If the china is more than 15-20 years old, definitely do not put it in the dishwasher. No exceptions. It should be hand washed instead. Fortunately, newer china is more durable and designed to go in a dishwasher. So, if your china is brand new or somewhere within 10-15 years old, you should be able to put it in the dishwasher!

Back label of china showing dishwasher safe

However, there is one more thing to check. Fine china that has metal trimming and designs (such as gold or silver) or is hand painted should NOT go in the dishwasher. Ever. The hot water may tarnish or remove the details and ruin the china. So, these types of dishes need to be hand washed ONLY.

Get a checklist, examine your china, and then decide if you’re going to use the dishwasher or handwash. There are details in the next two sections about using either method.

How to wash china in the dishwasher

Once you’ve determined that your china is safe to wash in the dishwasher, just follow the steps below for nice, clean, and unbroken dishes. Remember, even if your china is dishwasher safe, you should not wash them too often because they could get worn down over time.

  1. Load the dishwasher with your china. Space each piece as far apart as possible and make sure no pieces are coming into contact with each other. Scratches may occur if they are touching.

    China dishwares placed neatly in Samsung Dishwasher
  2. For detergent, only use a gentle liquid detergent that has no bleach or lemon ingredients because these could damage the china.

  3. Add the appropriate amount of detergent to the dispenser. For the Delicates cycles, you’ll want to put about ¼ less than you would for a regular cycle. If you’re unsure, you can check your user manual for the exact amount.

  4. When you’re ready to begin the cycle, press the Delicate button on the dishwasher’s control panel, and then press Start.

    Note: Do not add any additional settings that may increase the water’s temperature, such as Hi Temp. Wash. Hot water could damage the china.

    Delicate cycle selected on Samsung dishwasher
  5. When the cycle finishes, do not take out the dishes right away. Let the china cool to room temperature first because it will be fragile when it’s hot.

  6. After the dishes have cooled down, take out the fine china and wipe them done with a gentle microfiber dish cloth. This will help prevent water stains, especially on glasses.

  7. Store the china in a cool place, away from other dishware or anything that could accidentally damage them. Do not stack too many china dishes on top of each because this could weaken them.

    Note: When storing wine glasses, place them upright (with the stem down). Placing them upside down (with the stem up) could damage the rims.

How to hand wash fragile dishes

If you’ve concluded that your antique, metal-trimmed, or hand painted china won’t be okay in the dishwasher… what do you do? You can hand wash! It’s not that different from regular dish washing. You just need to be careful and take some extra precautions.

  1. To make things easier, you should clean the china right away after you've used it. Not only will it be easier to remove the food, it will help prevent the china from getting damaged.

  2. Remove any jewelry that could scrape the china. Next, lay down a dish cloth or a rubber dish mat on the bottom of your sink. This will help protect the china from scratches and chips.

    Rubber dish mat in the bottom of the sink
  3. Gently place the dishes in the sink and rinse them with warm water. Do NOT use hot water! It will make the china more brittle and prone to cracking. Keep the water temperature steady as well; sudden changes in temperature can also make the china brittle.

  4. Make sure you have a gentle liquid detergent. Do NOT use anything with lemon or bleach because it could damage the dishes.

  5. Regular china can be washed using a gentle dishcloth, but if your items are crystal, it’s better to wash them with just your hands to avoid knicks and scratches.

    Note: Do not use steel wool or other abrasive cleaning items.

    Girl washing china with water
  6. Lightly rub the glasses until the food and stains are gone. Clean every piece of china individually.

  7. If there’s a really stubborn spot, you can try adding a little vinegar. It’s a natural but strong cleaner that won’t damage your china.

  8. As you finish cleaning each one, do not leave the china in the sink or stack it in a pile. Place each piece separately on the kitchen counter or in a dish rack.

  9. When it's dry, store the china in a cool place, away from other dishware or anything that could accidentally damage them. Do not stack too many china dishes on top of each other because this could weaken them.

    Note: When storing wine glasses, place them upright (with the stem down). Placing them upside down (with the stem up) could damage the rims.

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