The Ultimate Guide to Extending the Life of Your Dishes

We often invest a lot in our dinnerware, yet many of us are met with the disappointment of chipped plates, faded designs, or cracked cups all too soon. However, extending the life of your dishes is easier than you think and can save you both money and the heartache of parting with your favourite pieces. Whether you swear by dishwashing tablets or prefer the hands-on approach, there are ways to make your dishes last longer.

Dishwashing Basics: Hand Washing vs. Dishwasher

Hand washing is often seen as the gentler method for cleaning dishes, especially for those made from delicate materials. The trick is to use a mild detergent that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, which can erode the material and strip away decorative elements.

Additionally, it’s important to avoid subjecting your dishes to sudden temperature changes, which could lead to cracking. Always remember to use a soft sponge instead of scouring pads to avoid scratching the surfaces.

Dishwashers, on the other hand, offer a convenient alternative to hand washing but require their own set of precautions. Opt for a gentle cycle when washing delicate dishes and make sure not to overcrowd the appliance.

Dishes banging against each other during the wash cycle is a surefire way to end up with chips and cracks. The right dishwashing tablets can both clean and protect your dishes, so it’s crucial to read the manufacturer’s guidelines for compatibility.

Material Matters: Caring for Different Types of Dishes

Different types of dishes require varied care techniques to maintain their quality and longevity. Here’s a breakdown:

Ceramic and Porcelain

Ceramic and porcelain dishes are generally dishwasher-safe and easy to care for, but they can chip or crack if handled roughly. If a dish has metallic accents, it’s advisable to hand wash it as the dishwasher might tarnish the metal over time. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for care to be on the safe side.


Regular glass dishes are typically dishwasher-safe, but more delicate items like wine glasses or pieces made from hand-blown glass are best washed by hand to prevent breakage. Some types of glass can become etched or cloudy over time when washed in a dishwasher, so be sure to read any care instructions that come with your glassware.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel dishes and utensils are robust and generally dishwasher-safe. However, they can become discoloured when exposed to salty or acidic foods. It’s recommended to rinse these types of dishes soon after use to prevent this. Avoid using abrasive scrubbers, as they can scratch and dull the surface.

Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware requires special care. They should be cleaned with hot water and a sponge or stiff brush instead of putting them in a dishwasher. Soap is generally avoided as it can strip the seasoning of the cast iron. After washing, it’s essential to dry them immediately to prevent rusting, followed by a light coating of cooking oil to maintain the seasoning.


Plastic dishes and containers are convenient but come with their own set of guidelines. While some are dishwasher-safe, placing them on the bottom rack can expose them to higher temperatures, causing warping. Always check for a dishwasher-safe label or stick to hand washing with warm, soapy water.


Wooden dishes and utensils should be hand-washed with warm water and mild detergent. They should never be soaked or put in the dishwasher, as exposure to excessive moisture can cause them to crack or warp. After washing, it’s good to dry them immediately and occasionally treat them with mineral oil to preserve the wood’s quality.

Bone China and Fine China

These types of dishes are often delicate and may feature hand-painted designs or gold/silver rims. Always hand wash these items gently with mild soap and avoid using abrasive pads that could scratch the surface. Some are dishwasher-safe, but even so, most experts recommend hand washing to maintain their appearance over time.

Each type of dish material has its own set of care guidelines to keep them looking their best. By following these recommendations, you can prolong the life of your kitchenware while maintaining its aesthetic appeal.

Storage Smart: Keep Them Safe to Keep Them Long

Proper storage can greatly extend the life of your dishes, helping to prevent chips, cracks, and other forms of damage.

For starters, avoid stacking heavier items, like pots or serving dishes, on top of more delicate items like plates or glassware. In drawers or cabinets, utilize dish organizers or peg systems to keep items separated and secure. If space allows, storing plates vertically rather than stacked can reduce wear and tear. 

For glassware and mugs, it’s a good idea to not store them rim-down, as this can put stress on the most delicate part of the glass. Instead, store them right side up or on their sides, using rubberized or padded matting to reduce friction and the possibility of scratching.

For special items like fine china, crystal, or dishes with metallic accents, consider using felt separators or cloth bags for added protection. These materials can cushion your dishes and prevent them from rubbing against each other, reducing the risk of chipping or scratching. Wooden utensils should be stored in a way that allows air circulation to prevent moisture build-up, which can lead to cracks or warping. 

For pots and pans, especially those made from reactive materials like cast iron or copper, make sure they are completely dry before storing them to prevent rust or tarnish. Employing smart storage solutions not only helps in easy retrieval but also plays a critical role in extending the lifespan of your dishes.

Quick Tips for Maintenance and When to Let Go

Routine inspections for signs of wear and tear can go a long way in prolonging the life of your dishes. If you catch a small crack or stain early, you can often prevent it from getting worse. A paste of baking soda and water can be a lifesaver for stubborn stains, and a splash of vinegar in the rinsing water can make glass and stainless steel dishes shine like new.

Unfortunately, there comes a point when dishes have to be retired. For dishes with deep cracks or chips, it’s essential to replace them promptly as they can become breeding grounds for bacteria.


Ultimately, the lifespan of your dishes hinges on how well you clean, store, and maintain them. Hand washing and dishwashers both have their pros and cons, but the key is to tailor your cleaning methods to the material of your dishes. Intelligent storage and routine maintenance checks can further enhance their lifespan. Remember, a little care goes a long way in keeping your dishes looking new for years to come.

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Article Author Details

Monica Lee

Monica is a passionate traveller and content creator. Her interests including outdoor activities, fitness, technology, entrepreneurship and everything in between.