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In my household, there are a few items don't get washed right away after use. These include a few all-clad non-stick pans (stated as dishwasher safe), kitchen knives, misc pots/pans, a few grill items that have wooden handles. They can stay uncleaned several days to weeks.

We could get these items cleaned quickly in the dishwasher, but so far, the potential of dishwasher-related damage has stopped us from doing so.

I assume that staying covered in food residue and grease can damage the equipment. So, how does that damage compare to the damage of washing the same items in a dishwasher?

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    Okay, and what is your question about this situation? Mar 23 at 8:06
  • Please clarify - are you looking for advice on what can go into a dishwasher, guidance whether leaving dishes out for a certain time is harmful or simply ammunition for a roommate squabble on housekeeping rules?
    – Stephie
    Mar 23 at 10:13
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    If food is left for too long it can become more difficult to remove without soaking. This might increase the risk of damaging those dishes,
    – Peter
    Mar 23 at 11:02
  • I'm voting to reopen, although this might be better as two questions: 'what harm does leaving dishes dirty do?' and 'how can a dishwasher harm dishes/utensils?'.
    – dbmag9
    Mar 24 at 21:40
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    @Tain I'm so sorry, it seems that I completely misunderstood your question. That was my mistake, thank you for bringing it up. I have now re-worded again, hopefully it is now more aligned with your original intent. Does it now cover what you wanted to know?
    – rumtscho
    Mar 25 at 12:47

2 Answers 2

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Items that are left unwashed are a vector for cross contamination. The greater the unsanitary conditions, the greater the presence of contaminants. That means the longer they sit around, the more likely that they are to be hospitable to pathogens, and the more pathogens they are likely to contain. So, while you can certainly thoroughly clean and then use these items days later, you don't want them sitting around the place where you are preparing your meals. While you may not make yourself, your family, and your guests sick every time you do this, you are dramatically increasing the likelihood that you do. Take the few extra minutes to clean as you go. It will become a habit. You will be safer and happier.

The original question appears to have been heavily edited by a moderator. It doesn't change my response much. Dirty kitchen utensils, plates, pots and pans don't necessarily harm the equipment, but they become a safety problem as described above. That is the greatest risk, and the most important one to be aware of. Yes, the dishwasher is not good for some of these tools. Just hand wash them.

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In a practical home kitchen, most of these items can just be put in the dishwasher, or you can use something slightly different. I run my dishwasher roughly every other day, and wash up by hand less than once a week*, without dirty stuff sitting out.

  • non-stick pans (stated as dishwasher safe) - believe the manufacturer, but make sure the inside and particularly the rim can't rub against other things. I have a set of non-stick aluminium saucepans that regularly get the dishwasher treatment, as do my frying pans, and I'm not even sure they claim to be dishwasher safe. The problem comes if the coating is chipped (e.g. from someone using metal on them); the dishwasher will extend the chips.

  • kitchen knives - a divisive topic. They may need slightly more frequent sharpening, but ordinary everyday kitchen knives can go in a dishwasher, just ensure the blades can touch anything (tip down, in the cutlery basket, with nothing else metal in the same section of the basket)

  • misc pots/pans - stainless, and enamelled pans are fine. I have a copper-plated (on the outside) pan that has slightly discoloured, though less so than from splashes of acidic food. It still works just as well.

  • a few grill items that have wooden handles - trickier. It depends on the wood. I have wooden spoons that have been washed at least once a week for the 18 years I've had a dishwasher and haven't suffered. Other things have suffered at least cosmetically.

Until the dishwasher runs, it's where I keep the dirty stuff, so it's not in a likely place to contaminate other things. The only problem is when I think it will take one more meal, and there's actually room for only half.


* the run of pipe from my hot water tank to the kitchen sink is long enough to make filling a washing up bowl a tedious and wasteful process, plus I can't be bothered. If I do hand wash for some special things, I do as much as I can get clean and dry with the bowl of water.

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  • Stainless steel knives can get rust spots if there's anything else iron-based in the dishwasher [including the dishwasher racks themselves if the coating is imperfect, which happens as they age]. You can get them off, but it's more effort than just washing them by hand. I'm a convert to hand washing these days, once I figured out why it was happening.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 26 at 9:42
  • @Tetsujin with stainless, only if they're in contact with mild steel racks etc., otherwise normal table cutlery would suffer too. Carbon steel does get cosmetic marks, which you may want to avoid. My carbon steel knives are nice but not my first choice, partly because of the dishwasher (they also have lacquered wooden handles, and the lacquer isn't as shiny as it was)
    – Chris H
    Mar 26 at 11:00
  • non-stick pans: I've had some with exposed aluminium (by design) on the outside bottom and that got etched by the dishwasher. So I'd avoid anything with exposed/polished aluminium.
    – Luciano
    Mar 26 at 15:23
  • @Luciano if you're concerned about how the bottom of your pan looks, maybe. Mine are also uncoated where they contact the heat source, and have gone slightly dull, though till shinier than catering aluminium pans. If they've got uncoated shiny aluminium handles the manufacturer probably says don't put them in a dishwasher so I've covered this already
    – Chris H
    Mar 26 at 15:45
  • If you find yourself leaving dirty silverware in your dishwasher for more than a couple days, I'd suggest intermittently running the "rinse" cycle.
    – Brian
    Apr 3 at 17:41

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