Can You Put Plastic in a Dishwasher: A Comprehensive Guide

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience is key, and one of the most time-consuming chores is washing dishes. Dishwashers have revolutionized kitchen cleanup, saving both time and effort. However, when it comes to plastic items, there seems to be some confusion. Can you put plastic in a dishwasher? In this article, we’ll delve into this question and provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to safely wash plastic items in a dishwasher.

Dishwashers have become an essential appliance in modern kitchens. They promise the convenience of effortlessly cleaning a variety of dishes, but the question of whether plastic items can safely be washed in dishwashers remains.

Understanding Dishwasher Basics

Dishwashers work by spraying water and detergent onto dishes at high temperatures. The combination of heat and water ensures effective removal of grease and food particles. However, not all items are suitable for the dishwasher, particularly those made from plastic.

Types of Plastics and Dishwasher Safety

Plastics come in various forms, and not all are dishwasher-safe. Before placing plastic items in the dishwasher, it’s crucial to identify the type of plastic. Plastics marked with “dishwasher-safe” symbols, such as those with numbers 1, 2, 5, and some 7, can generally withstand the dishwasher’s heat and pressure.

Benefits of Dishwasher-Safe Plastic

Using the dishwasher for plastic items offers several advantages. It saves time, conserves water, and promotes hygiene by using high temperatures to kill bacteria. Additionally, dishwashers prevent the wear and tear that can occur from frequent hand washing.

Precautions for Washing Plastic in a Dishwasher

While some plastics can handle the dishwasher, others are not as resilient. Plastics with the numbers 3, 6, and some 7 may not be safe for dishwashers, as they can warp or release harmful chemicals when exposed to high heat.

Step-by-Step Guide: Washing Plastic in a Dishwasher

Follow these steps to safely wash plastic items in a dishwasher:

  1. Pre-rinse: Remove excess food particles from the plastic item.
  2. Load securely: Place plastic items securely in the dishwasher’s designated sections.
  3. Use appropriate detergent: Choose a mild detergent suitable for plastic items.
  4. Avoid hot water: Opt for a lower temperature cycle to prevent warping.
  5. Skip heated drying: Allow plastic items to air dry to avoid damage.

Hand Washing vs. Dishwasher: Pros and Cons

While dishwashers are convenient, some prefer hand washing plastic items. Hand washing allows for more control over water temperature and pressure, reducing the risk of damage. However, it’s time-consuming and less water-efficient.

Tips for Maintaining the Quality of Plastic Items

To extend the lifespan of your plastic items:

  • Use the top rack: Place plastic items on the dishwasher’s top rack to minimize heat exposure.
  • Avoid overcrowding: Give each item enough space for proper water circulation.
  • Inspect for damage: Regularly check for cracks or warping, discarding damaged items.

Common Misconceptions about Dishwasher-Safe Plastics

There are a few misconceptions about washing plastics in dishwashers. Some believe that all plastics are safe for dishwashers, while others worry about chemicals leaching into their food. Understanding plastic types and symbols can clarify these concerns.

Environmental Considerations

Dishwashers are generally more eco-friendly than hand washing due to water and energy conservation. However, using both methods responsibly and minimizing water wastage is crucial for environmental sustainability.

Choosing the Right Dishwasher Detergent for Plastics

Selecting a suitable detergent is essential to prevent damage to plastic items. Look for mild, eco-friendly options that are free from harsh chemicals. Avoid detergents with excessive abrasives.

Alternatives to Dishwashing Plastic

For items that aren’t dishwasher-safe, consider alternatives like silicone, glass, or stainless steel. These materials offer durability and heat resistance, making them suitable for high-temperature dishwashing.

Creative Uses for Plastic Items

Beyond the kitchen, plastic items have various creative uses. They can be repurposed as organizers, planters, or even art supplies. Recycling plastic in innovative ways reduces waste and benefits the environment.


In conclusion, the answer to whether you can put plastic in a dishwasher depends on the type of plastic. While dishwasher-safe plastics can be effectively cleaned in dishwashers, it’s important to follow guidelines to prevent damage and ensure hygiene. Responsible use of dishwashers and awareness of plastic types contribute to a sustainable and convenient kitchen routine.


Can all types of plastic go in the dishwasher?

Not all plastics are dishwasher-safe. Look for the dishwasher-safe symbol on plastic items or refer to their resin identification codes.

Are there any health risks associated with dishwasher-washed plastics?

Dishwasher-safe plastics are designed to withstand heat and detergents without leaching harmful chemicals. However, it’s best to avoid using non-dishwasher-safe plastics for food items.

Can I wash plastic containers that held oily or greasy food in the dishwasher?

It’s recommended to hand wash containers with excessive grease before placing them in the dishwasher. This prevents clogging and ensures thorough cleaning.

Are dishwasher-safe plastics recyclable?

Yes, many dishwasher-safe plastics are recyclable. Check with your local recycling guidelines to ensure proper disposal.

What’s the environmental impact of using a dishwasher vs. hand washing?

When used efficiently, dishwashers generally have a lower environmental impact due to water and energy conservation compared to hand washing.