There are a lot of misconceptions about the dishwasher and microwave-safe labels. People often think dishes can also be microwaved if a product is dishwasher-safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case! So what’s the difference between the two labels, and what do they really mean?
Does Microwave Safe Mean Dishwasher Safe?
Unfortunately, not all microwave dishes are dishwasher-safe. Some manufacturers specifically state that their microwave-safe dishes are not for the dishwasher. The reason for this is that the high temperatures of the dishwasher can cause the warping or melting of certain types of plastic. So if you see a microwave-safe label on a dish, check the manufacturer’s care instructions before putting it in the dishwasher.
It can be confusing to differentiate between these labels, but knowing the difference is essential. By understanding what each label means, you can make sure that you’re using your dishes and cookware correctly. And that will help them last longer!
So we’ll help you understand the differences between the two, so you don’t ruin your dishes. We’ll also share some of the most common types of materials safe to use in each type of appliance.
Dishwasher Safe vs. Microwave Safe Labels
All appliances have their own safety symbols; unfortunately, it does not mean they are interchangeable. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to understand all the different symbols on your cookware and dishes. So let’s break it down for you:
Microwave Safe Labels
Microwave-safe dishes mean the dish is safe to use inside the microwave. Meaning the dish won’t melt, break, or release any harmful chemicals when exposed to radiation from the appliance.
You may have seen the label on the back of a dish. It looks like a square with wavy lines inside of it. The squiggly lines represent electromagnetic waves, which is how microwaves cook food.
Dishwasher Safe Labels
The dishwasher-safe label is a little bit different. It’s usually a rectangle with a picture of a dishwasher inside. This means that the product can go through the dishwasher without being damaged.
It doesn’t mean the product is microwave safe, however. Dishwasher-safe dishes are made of materials that can withstand the high temperatures of dishwashing without any damage.
To better understand why you can’t use just any dish in the microwave or dishwasher, it’s important to know a little bit about how each appliance works.
How Does a Microwave Work?
A microwave oven heats food with water molecules. These molecules flip back and forth and generate enough energy or electromagnetic radiation.
These waves cause the food’s water molecules to vibrate, producing heat. The microwaves are generated by an electronic device called a magnetron.
Microwaves don’t have heating elements like regular ovens. However, they can reach temperatures as high as 212°F/100°C. That’s hot enough to cook food!
How Does a Dishwasher Work?
Dishwashers are powerful cleaning appliances that combine detergent, concentrated heat, and a dynamic wash system to clean the grime off your dishes.
As soon as you close the door and press the power button, the dishwasher fills the basin’s bottom with water. The bottom of the dishwasher acts as a tub or basin that holds the water used to wash the dishes.
When the float in the basin senses the basin is full, it automatically shuts off the water so it won’t overfill. Next, the heating element on the bottom heats the water and pushes it down to a pump on the very bottom.
After the water has heated, it flows through the pump. Then it is dispersed throughout the appliance via the wash arm.
Most dishwashers have a bottom and upper wash arm to help clean the dishes on the top and bottom racks. The wash arm washes the dishes for a certain amount of time, depending on your chosen settings.
The pump sprays water and soap all over the dishes during this process. At the end of the cycle, the wash arm will dump the water back into the basin and drain again.
How Hot Do Dishwashers Get?
Dishwashers also have a heating element that heats the water to temperatures as high as 130-140°F. Also, the small basin at the bottom of the dishwasher fills up with water, and temperatures can reach as high as 180°F during the final rinse cycle.
The hot water temperatures ensure the detergent is fully dissolved and activated while also helping to loosen any food particles stuck to the dishes.
Dishes on the bottom rack are closest to the heating element exposed to the hottest water. Therefore, the top rack is best for more delicate items.
For example, plastic is a material that can easily be damaged by heat. That’s why most plastic dishes do best on the top rack.
Materials That Are Microwave Safe
Microwave-safe dishes mean that they won’t overheat and start a fire in your microwave. Everyday microwave-safe cookware consists of glass, except for crystal and handmade pottery.
Some ceramic dishes are also microwave-safe, as long as they don’t have any metal accents.
Some plastics depending on the type, are also microwave-safe. These include polyethylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers.
Other items, such as paper plates (watch for those coated in plastic or with designs), plastic wrap, parchment paper, and wax paper, are all microwave safe.
Materials That Are Dishwasher Safe
The high temperatures of dishwashing make it tough on dishes, which is why not just any dish can go in the dishwasher.
Dishwasher-safe dishes are made from materials that can withstand heat and water pressure without being damaged.
These dishes consist of standard glass bakeware, glasses, ceramic plates and mugs, enamel cookware, stainless steel pots and pans, and silicon and metal utensils. Most plastic dishes are also dishwasher safe, except those made with soft plastics such as acrylic or polycarbonate.
Some items must be washed by hand, no matter what the label says.
- Nonstick cookware
- Cast iron skillets
- Antique dishes
- Handmade pottery
- China with intricate designs
- Insulated mugs
Before putting the dish in the dishwasher, look for the symbol. The symbol is a square with a water droplet in the center. If the dish has this symbol, it is safe to put it in the dishwasher.
If you are ever unsure whether a dish is dishwasher safe, it is always best to hand wash it instead. This will prevent any accidental damage to your dishes.
What Happens If You Put A Non-Dishwasher Safe Dish In A Dishwasher?
It’s not hard to tell if something isn’t dishwasher safe, but by then, it’s too late. Chances are someone in your household has washed something in the dishwasher that shouldn’t have been.
If you put a non-dishwasher-safe dish in the dishwasher, the finish will likely start to peel or chip off.
In some cases, the dish may also crack or break. For example, non-dishwasher-safe plastics will warp in the dishwasher, and glass or ceramic dishes may crack from the temperature change.
It’s not recommended to wash non-dishwasher-safe items in the dishwasher, but if you do, put them on the top rack.
You can also try using a lower setting if your dishwasher has different settings, such as regular, light, or heavy wash cycles.
If you select the light or quick wash cycle, the appliance will use less water and won’t run as long as a regular or heavy wash. That said, the appliance still uses hot bursts of hot water to clean the dishes, so there’s still a chance it can damage non-dishwasher-safe dishes.
Never use cold water just to wash non-dishwasher-safe dishes. Cold water doesn’t clean dishes as well as hot water, so you’ll end up with dirty dishes.
Now that you know the truth behind “dishwasher safe” and “microwave safe” labels, you can make sure to use your dishes correctly. Using the wrong type of dish in the dishwasher or microwave could damage them beyond repair.
So, always double-check before putting any dish in either appliance. If you’re ever unsure, err on the side of caution and hand wash the dish.