All those pretty little ceramic pieces, it would be a shame if something happened to them.
No, honestly, it would be a shame. And one of the things that can happen is a visit to the dishwasher.
Improper care can ruin all that beautiful and hard work you’ve put into your pottery. And store-bought ceramics are not 100% safe either.
So, let’s find out is ceramic dishwasher safe, which pieces can go into the dishwasher, and which ones should wash by hand.
How can you tell if store-bought ceramics are dishwasher-safe?
All commercial dishware has little symbols that indicate how you should handle them. Look for them either at the bottom of the piece or on the box it came in. Most commercial ceramic and porcelain should be dishwasher-safe.
The symbol is easy to spot. It usually looks like a plate (or a pair of plates) in a box with water raining all over it. The image with two plates usually indicates that the item is dishwasher top rack safe, while the single plate is clear for any section.
Manufacturers are obligated to include any additional information or care instructions. So if you can’t find it on the ceramic or packaging, you can try their website as well.
Is unglazed handmade ceramic dishwasher safe?
No. A big, resounding no.
No matter the type of clay you use and at which temp you fire it, unglazed ceramics are very absorbent. In general, anything with above 2% absorbency should not be exposed to large amounts of water.
And guess what’s happening to your favorite handmade plate in the dishwasher? It’s treated to a boiling waterfall infused with some of the finest chemicals a man can make.
To be on the safe side, use a brush to dust away most of the dirt. And if you absolutely have to, use a damp cloth to wipe that plate and then leave it to dry properly.
So, what about the clay cooking pots?
Most of the contemporary clay cooking pots come with a glaze, even the ones that don’t look it. If they are not glazed, they are seasoned which makes them a bit more water-resistant.
That being said, you should not wash one of these guys in the dishwasher either. At most, rinse out the leftover food bits and leave them to dry.
Even glazed ceramics may not be dishwasher safe
And this has nothing to do with which glaze you use. Even the most resistant glazes will wear off with time.
You see, the detergents you use in an average home-issue dishwasher are a lot harsher than the ones in that bottle that’s sitting by the sink. Combine it with super high water temps, and you should see where this is all going.
Some people recommend using regular dishwashing liquid in the dishwashing machine as well. One of the recipes I’ve tried calls for a few drops of liquid and to fill up the rest of the cup with baking soda. This is a gentler recipe than some pastes and tablets that use borax and/or washing soda.
Still, the secret to the durability and longevity of ceramics may be not chucking it into the dishwasher unless absolutely necessary.
How do you make pottery dishwasher safe?
It’s a combination of using the right clay and the correct glaze.
If you plan on exposing your works of art to a lot of water, make sure to always pick clays that have an absorbency rate of 2% or lower. Ideally, shoot for 1%. No glaze will come to your aid if you go above that.
The magic word you should look for is vitrified clay. Vitrification is actually a name of the processing which a substance becomes glass. In the world of pottery, this means that clay has become watertight but not melting or slumping. This type of clay always needs to be fired at Cones 6 to 10.
Which glaze to use to make pottery dishwasher safe?
Most Cone 6 glazes should work. However, no matter what the manufacturer claims on the packet, you should still do a little test before you ruin your masterpiece by mindlessly throwing it into the dishwasher.
You can always make a test piece and chuck it in with your next load of dirty pots and pans. Better yet, make it several loads so you can see what repeat washing could do the piece.
Another way to test the glaze is with a slice of lemon. Once the test piece comes out of the kiln and cools down completely, rub that slices all over the surface. Look for discoloration and other changes – if you see anything, that glaze is probably not a good choice for a piece that will often end up in your dishwasher.
Again, keep in mind that any glaze will wear off after numerous washes. So either limit the ceramic’s trips to the dishwasherland or learn how to repair its glaze.
Can you put painted pottery in the dishwasher?
It also depends on how water-absorbent each piece is. The secret is still in the ballad of clay and glaze and as long as they have a low water absorbency rate, you’re good to go.
Still, that mug your kid made in school or that antique vase you’ve inherited from your grandma? Think twice. These pieces are usually not finished with a glaze that is designed to weather modern appliances.
But speaking of these delicate bits, you may want to skip giving them a good scrub in the sink as well. Especially when it comes to antiques. They need a very gentle hand and a whole arsenal of delicate tools.
The laziest you can go with them is to use a damp cloth to wipe them from time to time. This could even save you from breaking out your collection of soft brushes and other specialty tools when they get too dirty. Any piece in need of a lot more TLC should get it from a professional.
And your kid’s mug? If you really want to use and keep it around for years to come, give it a proper glaze and a session in the kiln.
What about the microwave?
Almost every modern home nowadays has not only a dishwasher, but a microwave as well.
And just like the dishwasher, not every type of ceramic can be placed in the microwave either.
So if you want to know more, you can read our article on microwave safe ceramics.