Dishwashers are incredibly convenient, but there are a couple key things you should know about using them to avoid any sort of risk to your health.
Dishwashers are so convenient that, especially for those new to the kitchen, they are often seen as a panacea for all kitchen cleaning. Dirty utensils? Toss ‘em in. Pots and pans? We’ll make room. Wine, glasses, crystal, plastic? All are welcome.
Some things, however, should never go into dishwashers. Dishes and cookware made of material like crystal, cast iron, aluminum and copper are better off being washed (and dried) by hand due to the risk of breaking, rusting or tarnishing. These can be difficult lessons to learn if you break valuable glasses or ruin a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet.
There are two other things in particular that you should be very wary of when using a dishwasher. These two things are non-stick cookware and anything made from plastic.
For all the conveniences we have in the world, we have introduced so many new chemical compounds into our environment during the last hundred years that keeping up with all the associate risks can be nearly impossible. Yet, we know that many chemicals in many modern products can pose some risk to our health. Products found in the kitchen are no exception.
Non-stick cookware often contains Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that can be released if the non-stick coating is damaged or scraped, which can happen in the dishwasher. These chemicals are known to cause problems inside the human body and have been linked to cancer.
Plastics can also leach chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) when exposed to high heat (i.e., dishwasher water) or extreme cold, or if they’ve been scratched or damaged (which can happen while in the dishwasher.) Even plastic that is rated as dishwasher safe can leach unwanted chemicals, especially with repeated use.
Part of your health strategy should be lessening your exposure as much as possible to the things that might be detrimental to health. Knowing this, in addition to not ever washing non-stick cookware and plastics in the dishwasher, it may be worth noting what kind of dishwasher detergent you are using. Many brands contain chemicals you would likely prefer to not come into contact with the utensils you cook and eat with. Opt instead for more natural brands, and do your research before deciding on which cleaning products to buy. Remember that the sum of all your exposures might ultimately weaken your body’s defenses, leaving you vulnerable to more insidious organisms like yeast and fungi.