Why Is It Bad To Put Plastic In Dishwasher: A Comprehensive Guide

In today’s fast-paced world, the dishwasher has become a kitchen staple, making our lives more convenient than ever. However, one common mistake many people make is putting plastic items in the dishwasher without considering the potential consequences. This article will delve into why it’s a bad idea to put plastic in the dishwasher, exploring the various risks and alternatives.

The Problem with Plastic in Dishwashers

High Temperatures

Dishwashers are designed to clean dishes effectively, and they do so by using high water temperatures that can often exceed 140°F (60°C). While this is great for removing stubborn food residues, it can spell trouble for plastic items. Plastic can warp, melt, or release harmful chemicals when exposed to such extreme heat.

Harsh Detergents

Dishwasher detergents are formulated to tackle tough stains and grease. Unfortunately, these powerful detergents can be abrasive to plastic surfaces. Over time, they may cause the plastic to deteriorate, leading to cracks and discoloration.

Aggressive Water Jets

Dishwashers use powerful jets of water to clean dishes. While this is effective for most materials, it can be too harsh for plastic items. The force of the water can lead to physical damage, such as chipping or cracking.

Potential Health Hazards

Chemical Leaching

One of the most significant concerns with putting plastic in the dishwasher is the potential for chemical leaching. When exposed to high temperatures, plastics can release harmful chemicals into your dishes and, subsequently, your food. This poses a significant health risk, especially when it comes to long-term exposure.

BPA Concerns

Certain types of plastic containers, particularly those containing Bisphenol A (BPA), are especially problematic. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and has been linked to various health issues, including hormone imbalances, reproductive problems, and even cancer. Putting BPA-containing plastic in the dishwasher can increase the risk of BPA leaching into your food.

Food Contamination

Besides chemical concerns, plastic items that have cracks or damage from dishwasher cycles can harbor bacteria and food residues. This can lead to food contamination and pose health risks to you and your family.

Damage to Plastic Items


As mentioned earlier, the high temperatures in the dishwasher can cause plastic items to warp. This means your once perfectly shaped containers may become misshapen and unusable.


Plastic can become brittle over time, and the aggressive environment of the dishwasher can accelerate this process. Cracking is a common issue when plastic items are regularly exposed to the dishwasher’s harsh conditions.


The combination of high temperatures and detergents can lead to the discoloration of plastic items. They may become cloudy, yellowed, or develop unsightly stains, diminishing their aesthetic appeal.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Plastic Pollution

The environmental impact of using plastic in the dishwasher is significant. Plastic containers that are damaged or discarded due to dishwasher-related issues contribute to plastic pollution, which harms ecosystems and wildlife.

Energy Consumption

Dishwashers consume a substantial amount of energy, especially when they are used frequently for plastic items. This energy consumption contributes to your carbon footprint and increases your utility bills.

Tips for Safely Cleaning Plastic

Hand Washing

To avoid the risks associated with dishwashing plastic, consider hand washing plastic items with mild dish soap and lukewarm water. This gentle method will help preserve their integrity.

Using Mild Detergents

If you must use a dishwasher for plastic, opt for mild detergents that are less abrasive. Look for eco-friendly, chemical-free options.

Lowering Water Temperature

Adjust the dishwasher settings to use lower water temperatures when washing plastic items. This will reduce the risk of warping and chemical leaching.

Alternatives to Plastic

Glass Containers

Glass containers are an excellent alternative to plastic. They are heat-resistant, don’t leach harmful chemicals, and are easy to clean.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel containers are durable and won’t react with foods. They are also dishwasher-safe.


Silicone is a flexible and heat-resistant material that is safe for dishwashers. It’s an ideal choice for bakeware and kitchen tools.


In conclusion, putting plastic in the dishwasher can have various adverse effects, from potential health hazards to environmental concerns. To ensure the safety of your health and the environment, it’s best to avoid dishwasher cycles for plastic items whenever possible. Instead, opt for hand washing with mild detergents or consider switching to alternative materials such as glass, stainless steel, or silicone.


1. Can I put any plastic in the dishwasher?

Not all plastics are suitable for dishwashers. Check the packaging or product label to determine if it’s dishwasher-safe.

2. Are there any safe plastics for dishwashers?

Plastics labeled as “dishwasher-safe” are designed to withstand the dishwasher’s harsh conditions more effectively.

3. Can I use plastic in the dishwasher if it’s on a lower heat setting?

Lowering the dishwasher’s temperature settings can reduce the risk, but it’s still advisable to use dishwasher-safe plastics.

4. How do I remove discoloration from plastic items that have been in the dishwasher?

Try soaking the discolored items in a mixture of baking soda and water or using a specialized plastic cleaner.

5. Is it more environmentally friendly to use alternative materials instead of plastic?

In most cases, yes. Materials like glass and stainless steel have a lower environmental impact and are more sustainable choices.