Microwaves and dishwashers each offer valuable assistance in cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Microwaves cook or re-heat foods by using radiation to heat the molecules within the food. Dishwashers use high levels of heat capable of sanitation, spray jets and chemical cleaners to make dishes and cookware ready for re-use. But these processes take a toll on cookware and dishes, and only those deemed microwave and dishwasher safe are able to properly endure them.
Microwave-safe dishes typically display a stamp or label confirming suitability for that use. But some items appropriate for use in the microwave do not have the label. You can test dishes for their ability to withstand the microwaves by filling a cup you know to be microwave safe with water and putting it in the microwave next to the item you're unsure about. Turn the microwave on high for one minute. Feel the plate you're testing; if it's cool to the touch, it's safe for microwave use. If it's hot, don't put it in the microwave again. Some plastics melt in the microwave. Never put metal in the microwave because it can spark a fire, and don't use fragile stemware in the microwave or you risk breakage.
Health and safety concerns about plastics -- once widely used in microwaves -- made people think twice about using them. Choosing microwave-safe plastic containers reduces the likelihood of warping, melting and burns. Some plastics contain the controversial chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA. When they're heated in the microwave, the chemical bond can break down, allowing the BPA to leach into the food. Some people avoid using plastic in the microwave at all, and it is a smart policy not to use it unless it is labeled microwave-safe.
A dishwasher creates a fairly harsh environment with high temperatures and harsh cleaning agents, and not all cookware and dishes handle it well. Some items may come out of the dishwasher with their surface damaged or stripped away completely; tarnishing also frequently occurs. Anodized aluminum, nonstick and cast iron cookware responds poorly to the dishwasher. Fragile stemware doesn't fare well in the dishwasher either and all of the more delicate dishes should only be placed in the top rack. Some ceramics should be kept out of the dishwasher as well because the force of the spray can bump items together, causing chipping.
Look For The Logo
The industry makes it simple for consumers to know whether or not they should put their cookware and other items into the dishwasher. Look for an easy-to-read label with the words "dishwasher safe" on cookware and dishes, or an adhesive label applied by the manufacturer. At the very least, the box your set comes in should display the logo. If it's unlabeled, assume you should keep it out of the dishwasher.
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