I use canned food from tins from time to time (cat food, chickpeas etc.). I need to clean them before throwing away as I don't have that many recyclable items to throw them away daily and I don't want the smell.

I started wondering if I can clean them up in dishwasher? Usually there is some free space either on top or bottom and (as far as I know) the practically same amount of water is used anyway so I would save both time and water. However - is it safe to do it?

  • Could you define "safe", please? What exactly are you worried about?
    – Stephie
    Sep 13, 2016 at 21:23
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    I think OP worried if washing a used can will somehow make the dishes, glasses and utensils unfit for use with human food (something about a metal can or catfood residue contaminating the washing process). Sep 13, 2016 at 21:29
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    I'm not worried about catfood residue (it's mostly meat, some corn etc. - mostly things that are edible though not deemed good enough for humans [or avoided in western culture]) - and beside I already wash cat bowls there- but I was more worried about damaging dishwasher or utensils by can (paper, glue, some staff from walls which will be released in steamy environment). Sep 14, 2016 at 1:50
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    Is a quick rinse not enough for them to last a few days to a week without smell?
    – Cascabel
    Sep 14, 2016 at 3:30
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    Not a quick rinse, but just fill them with water and a drop of soap/detergent. Leave a couple of hours, drain, done. Also costs less water then trying to force them clean under the tap.
    – user34961
    Sep 15, 2016 at 11:15

3 Answers 3


Washing cans in your dishwasher is not a good idea because of the labels. Most cans have paper labels which are held on by glue, in the dishwasher the labels will soften and come off, getting sucked into the mechanism and getting stuck to dishes and glasses. The dry cycle will harden the paper in place and be very hard to get off. The glue will also probably melt with a similar result.

Cat food cans do tend to get a bit stinky, but a quick sink cleanup usually does the trick. Soak them in water for 10 minutes or so and then use a bottle brush with a drop of dish soap to clean them.

  • Along with this, you can try soaking. Run water, forget about it for a while, come back, dump, rinse.
    – Cascabel
    Sep 16, 2016 at 23:06
  • That can be solved by ripping as much as you can of the paper label (usually only held by glue in a few spots or seams) off :) Mar 23, 2017 at 9:20

We put cans through the dishwasher all the time wiot no problems. I suggest removing the bulk of the label if it's easy (many cans have just a thin glued strip and one quick rip removes the vast majority). Our dishwasher (Zanussi) has a pretty good filter arrangement and any bits of label that do some off are caught and easily disposed of (more easily than stray peas or bits of onion, for example). If you put a lot of cans through in one go, it's more important to remove the labels as they could block the filter just by sitting on top of it.


Personally I give all cans a rinse with hot water to remove any food then spray them with a common lemon kitchen cleaner - it stops them from smelling as well as deters bugs etc from the recycle bin.

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