December 02, 2015

Handcrafted Dinnerware and the Dishwasher Dilemma

One of the main areas of confusion for people who own and use handcrafted dinnerware is the issue of whether or not those dishes can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Some people are worried about the glazes being affected, while others are simply concerned about their fine handmade dishes cracking or being otherwise damaged. Those concerns are obviously understandable, especially when you consider the emotional connections that we can have with those pottery pieces. Unfortunately, when it comes to dishwashers and handcrafted dinnerware, there seems to be quite a bit of debate and little certainty.



There are different schools of thought on the subject, often flowing from differing experiences from pottery owners who have used their dishwashers for cleaning handcrafted pottery. Those collective experiences can provide us with a roadmap to better understand when we can safely rely on dishwashing machines and when it might be best to just wash them by hand. What follows is some commonly accepted wisdom on the subject.


That old worry about whether the heat in the dishwasher is sufficient to destabilize your handmade dinnerware is pretty much baseless. The fact is that kilns are many times hotter than even the hottest dishwashers, so you don’t need to worry about your fine dinnerware melting or cracking due to the heat – unless they are poor quality items, of course.


However (and you knew there would be a “however”, right?), the same cannot be said for the glazes used on many dinnerware pieces. Extremely hot water combined with the abrasive chemicals used in many dishwasher soaps can cause fading over time, and may do other damage as well. Earthenware can be particularly susceptible to these effects, and most people who own it try to avoid placing these items in their dishwashers.


It’s also important to remember that it’s difficult to really test these items in the dishwasher, since dishwasher damage can also be cumulative over time. Obviously, your potter isn’t going to run each item through the dishwasher hundreds of times before you receive it! So, even many of the people who claim that their private collections are dishwasher safe probably haven’t washed them often enough to really be sure that no ill effects are occurring.


On the whole, though, it would seem that most handcrafted dinnerware is probably safe for the dishwasher. But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at the issue anyway. Given the inherent value of these pieces – and the fact that they managed to avoid contact with factory machines while they were being crafted, isn’t it almost disrespectful to even want to wash them that way? Don’t such meaningful pieces deserve more care and attention?


So, while artisan dinnerware like that found in the Gaia Collection might very well be suitable for the dishwasher, the bigger question is this: why wouldn’t you simply want to wash them by hand? In the end, that’s the best way to continue the unbroken human chain from creator to user, while ensuring that your handmade dinner dishes are safe from any potential damage.