Some say that drinking wine from lead crystal wine glasses improves the flavor. But as divided as opinions may be on that claim, it's got nothing on the stance for whether crystal should be washed in the dishwasher. This is one topic where the answer really does depend on who you ask.
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Did you know? The porous nature of crystal means it can absorb odors. Never store crystal glasses near cleaning supplies, spices or coffee.
What Does Waterford Say?
World-renown Waterford Crystal began in 1783 in Ireland, but you probably best know it as the posh company that made all 2,688 crystals on the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball that drops to great fanfare when ringing in the New Year. If anyone knows lead crystal, it's Waterford.
And the company says never wash its crystal in dishwashers because it will dull and scratch the surface. They recommend washing crystal in warm, soapy water and drying with a lint-free cloth. Plus, never store the glasses or allow them to dry upside down, as the finely made rims are highly vulnerable.
Waterford aside, some manufacturers will say go right ahead and use a dishwasher, so the answer does depends. Antique crystal should never, ever see the inside of a dishwasher, though, and neither should any painted or metal-trimmed crystal.
Clean Like the Pros
When it comes to cleaning like the pros, the American Cleaning Institute offers some great tips on how to wash crystal — dishwasher not included.
First, pre-rinse your crystal as soon as possible. Crystal is porous, which means things like red wine can stain it or leave flavor behind. A quick rinse puts the kibosh on that, though. You can clean them later.
Always make sure to protect the glasses. Glassware is fragile, so it's best to line the sink with a tea towel before you fill it with water. This will keep the glasses from bouncing around.
Use warm water, not hot. Real crystal is sensitive to temperature. Water that's too hot for you to submerge your hands in is water far too hot for crystal. Cool it down.
Drip-drying will leave streaks and spots, so hand dry your crystal glasses. If you choose to drip dry, buff those streaks and spots out later with a microfiber or lint-free cloth.
Grey or white film on the glasses? Dishwasher won't help — that's organic buildup from wine over time. Simply soak the wine glasses in a weak mixture of warm water and vinegar for an hour or two. The vinegar acid eats the buildup, and you're left with sparkly glasses again.
If You Must: Crystal, Dishwasher and the Best Way to Clean
Maybe Bob and Julie's 40th anniversary bash was a big one with a lot of guests and a whole lot of glasses. If you've got lots of stemwear needing a clean, you can wash most crystal glassware in the dishwasher, on the gentle cycle (but skip the heated drying option). Space the glasses out in the dishwasher by at least a finger's width apart.
But, really, hand-washing is how to ensure your crystal lasts your lifetime, which it can and should. Over time, the crystal glasses may degrade in dishwashers.
Difference Between Crystal and Glass
All crystal is glass, but not all glass is crystal. Glass is made from silica, but crystal has anywhere from 2 percent to 30 percent of mineral content, which may or may not include lead, magnesium and zinc, that reinforces the glass. The perk of this is how thin crystal can be versus regular glass.
Glass tends to be cut thicker, and is non-porous and inert, which is why it handles dishwashers well. It's the porous nature of crystal that is partly why some should only be hand-washed.