Why Is My Cutlery Going Black In The Dishwasher

Have you ever opened your dishwasher, expecting to find sparkling clean cutlery, only to be greeted by blackened utensils? It’s a common frustration for many homeowners. In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind this perplexing issue and explore how to prevent it. Let’s unravel the mystery of why your cutlery is going black in the dishwasher.

Understanding the Problem

The Science Behind It

To address the issue effectively, it’s essential to understand the science involved. The blackening of cutlery in the dishwasher is often caused by a phenomenon called oxidation. When metals like stainless steel and silver come into contact with certain minerals and chemicals found in water and dishwasher detergents, they can undergo chemical reactions that result in discoloration.

Common Culprits

Hard Water

One of the primary culprits behind blackened cutlery is hard water. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium. When your dishwasher uses hard water during the wash cycle, these minerals can react with the metal in your cutlery, causing it to tarnish and turn black.

Dishwasher Detergents

The type of dishwasher detergent you use can also play a significant role in this problem. Some detergents contain harsh chemicals that can accelerate the oxidation process. Additionally, detergent residue left on cutlery can contribute to blackening over time.

Preventing Blackened Cutlery

Choose the Right Detergent

To combat the issue of blackened cutlery, opt for a dishwasher detergent specifically designed for hard water. These detergents are formulated to reduce mineral buildup and minimize the risk of oxidation.

Rinse Aid

Using a rinse aid in your dishwasher can be a game-changer. Rinse aids help to prevent water spots and reduce mineral deposits on your cutlery, keeping it looking shiny and pristine.

Proper Loading

How you load your dishwasher matters. Ensure that you don’t overcrowd the dishwasher, as this can lead to poor water circulation. Proper spacing allows the water to reach all the surfaces of your cutlery evenly.

Remove Cutlery Promptly

Once the dishwasher cycle is complete, promptly remove your cutlery. Letting them sit in a damp, enclosed space can encourage tarnishing. Instead, allow them to air dry outside the dishwasher.

Regular Maintenance

Perform regular maintenance on your dishwasher. This includes cleaning the interior, checking for clogs in the spray arms, and ensuring that the water softener is functioning correctly. A well-maintained dishwasher is less likely to cause cutlery to go black.


In conclusion, the blackening of cutlery in the dishwasher is a common issue with a scientific explanation. Factors like hard water and improper detergents can lead to oxidation, resulting in tarnished cutlery. However, by taking preventive measures such as choosing the right detergent, using rinse aids, proper loading, and regular maintenance, you can keep your cutlery looking pristine and prevent the frustrating problem of blackened utensils.


1. Can I use vinegar to remove black stains from my cutlery?

Yes, you can. Soaking your blackened cutlery in a vinegar solution can help remove the stains. Remember to rinse thoroughly afterward.

2. How often should I clean my dishwasher’s interior?

It’s a good practice to clean your dishwasher’s interior every month to prevent mineral buildup and maintain its efficiency.

3. Will using stainless steel cutlery prevent blackening?

While stainless steel is less prone to tarnishing, it can still darken in certain conditions. Following proper dishwasher practices is essential.

4. What is the ideal water temperature for the dishwasher?

For best results, use hot water between 120°F and 140°F (49°C – 60°C) in your dishwasher to ensure effective cleaning.

5. Can hard water damage other appliances?

Yes, hard water can affect other appliances like water heaters and washing machines. Consider using a water softener to mitigate its effects throughout your home.

Now that you’ve learned how to combat the issue of blackened cutlery, you can enjoy sparkling clean utensils every time you run your dishwasher. Say goodbye to the frustration of opening your dishwasher to find tarnished cutlery!

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