Is it Safe to Wash Plastic Bottles and Dishes in the Dishwasher?

Have you ever wondered if it’s okay to wash plastic food containers in the dishwasher, even if they are BPA-free?  That’s a great question that requires a two-part answer, because not all plastic containers the same . . .

Most Reusable Bottles and Dishes are Dishwasher Safe

Many plastic containers are specifically intended for reuse and are usually clearly marked.  The dishes in this category come from two main categories:

  • Heavy duty everyday reusables (dishware, utensils, baby bottles, sippy cups, etc.) are dishwasher safe and will withstand heat and detergents for many years.  Some examples would be Frostware/Sip-a-products and Preserve Everyday Tableware
  • Take and toss style reusables are dishwasher safe but don’t stand up well in the long run, so keep an eye on them and recycle them when they begin to warp.  Some examples would be Nuby Wash or Toss and Gladware Food Storage

Some Food Containers from Grocery Stores are Not Dishwasher Safe

Most yogurt, cream cheese or peanut butter containers are made from polypropylene (#5) which is great in regard to the absence of toxic chemicals.  But many are made with very thin plastic walls that just won’t hold up when exposed to dishwasher heat and detergents.  You’ll have to be the judge:  if the plastic container is too flimsy and ends up warped, it’s probably not meant to be reused.

Also be careful to check your take out containers, as most are made from a firm polystyrene plastic (#6) that looks and feels an awful lot like polypropylene.  You’ll never want to reuse these containers and you should even consider using your own on-the-go containers instead.  An easy way to check for polystyrene is to look for a lack flexibility in the container.  Polypropylene will be slightly squeezable.

Don’t Forget to Wash Them on the Top Rack

Always place plastic dishes on the top rack to reduce heat exposure and hand wash large dishes that won’t fit up top.  We also don’t recommend using high heat sterilizers with your plastic dishes either.

P.S. And while we’re on the topic of heat and plastics, we don’t recommend microwaving plastic at all either.

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  • crunchyNCgirl

    hasn't your blog recommended *not* washing any plastic in the dishwasher previously? i've been washing all my plastic containers by hand for about a year now. how do we know it is really safe? thanks & love your blog! :)

  • http://thesoftlanding.com thesoftlanding

    Hi crunchyNCgirl,

    Nope, we've never recommend not washing plastics in the dishwasher. If you take a look around, you'll find hundreds of references to products being “top rack dishwasher safe.”

    We have recommended not using professional grade dishwashers with built-in high heat sterilizers, because it may cause plastic dishes to warp and break down more quickly.

    We have also recommended hand washing several styles of stainless water bottles, and avoiding the dishwasher with their polypropylene caps that are bonded with an outside layer of stainless steel (like Thinksport), because it can quickly break down the bond and cause the lid to separate.

    Hope that helps,

    Alicia

  • SarahJo

    I think that the Thinksport example is true for Thermos Fogos too. The bottoms on 2 of mine have separated. Superglue nor heat gun glue will adhere it again.
    I've stopped using barely anything plastic as I fear putting it in the dishwasher and hate getting stuck doing so many dishes by hand everynight.
    Can we assume if it says “dishwasher safe” it truly is? For example: the lids on my glass storage containers, IKEA kid's plastic bowls, plates and utensils, etc.

  • http://thesoftlanding.com thesoftlanding

    Hi SarahJo,

    That's a good point about Thermos, and really any products with a plastic part attached to metal.

    Yes, you can be comfortable washing BPA-free plastics in a normal dishwasher. At this point, there is no research indicating otherwise.

    Alicia

  • Carolyn

    Thanks so much for this info! Why do you say to recycle them when they begin to warp? Is this a sign that they are breaking down and potentially dangerous, or just the annoyance of being warped? e.g. one of our gerber graduates animal plates accidentally went through on the bottom, and it is a bit warped, but still fully usable. Does it mean it’s no longer safe?

  • crunchyNCgirl

    Thanks, Alicia! I appreciate the clarification. This will make my life a lot simpler!

  • http://thesoftlanding.com thesoftlanding

    You betcha! We want your life to be as easy as possible :)

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  • canadaguy

    We all know disposable water bottles are wasteful and bad for the environment, yet their production is growing rapidly everywhere. Just 20 years ago the market for plastic water bottles was practically nonexistent, but today we produce billions of these completely unnecessary products. There can be only one sane response, plastic water bottles must be banned!

    http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/2009/10/water-bottle-manifesto.html

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  • KiwiLog

    Hi! We loved your post over at KiwiLog and decided to feature it as part of our weekly mom blog round-up. Thanks!

  • KiwiLog

    Hi! We loved your post over at KiwiLog and decided to feature it as part of our weekly mom blog round-up. Thanks!

  • lheisler

    Thanks for the info – it's all so confusing about what you can and can't put in the dishwasher! So as long as it says it's “dishwasher safe” it's not going to give us, and our kids, cancer?!

  • http://thesoftlanding.com Alicia

    You're welcome! Yes, that's basically the case – you can put it in the dishwasher if the manufacturer says so. Not always true for the microwave, and you may need to be careful with dishwashers that have high heat options.

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  • Heavy Duty Plastic Pallets

    I have not much time, but I've got many useful things here, love it!

  • Heavy Duty Plastic Pallets

    This is the great blog, I'm reading them for a while, thanks for the new posts!

  • Bee

    I wondered about the safety of washing baby bottles in the dishwasher because of the dishwasher's walls. I have read somewhere that most diswashers' interiors are made of a material containing BPA and therefore with the heat it does release BPA on our BPA free things washed in there. What is your take on that?
    I recently bought a new dishwasher and the salesman looked at me strangely when I asked about BPA and didn't have a clear answer. I'll have to call the manufacturer…

  • Used Plastic Pallet

    I have not much time, but I’ve got many useful things here, love it!

  • http://www.oberk.com BottleDistributor

    I agree with you that we should really be careful on what can and cannot go to the dishwasher. Many containers on sale at the retailer store have instructions on that so it’s best to choose those with clear instruction. What’s more, make sure you pick those with separate instruction on the container and the lid.

  • Trina

    So can I put my BPA-Free bottles in a countertop sterilizer that is also marked as BPA-free? I am a little worried now.

  • steve

    If you’re worried about BPA leaching into the plastic, remember the interior of the dishwasher is plastic along with the internal components like the wash arm, the pump, hoses, all made of plastic and come in contact with water and heaven only knows what type of plastic these are made from….joy…..

  • Gjjelind

    My plastic measuring cup set has what appears to be a wine glass and a fork emblem on each containor, plus a 5 in a triangle and a PP under the triangle. Does that mean they are microwave and dishwasher safe?

  • Used Plastic Pallet

    Excellent! Great article, I already saved it to my
    favourite,

  • unemployed sociologist

    That “top rack diswasher safe” rating has little to do with food safety.  It reflected the idea that if you put a product in the diswasher AND its on the top rack away from the heating element, the product wont be damaged. In the earlier days of the diswasher the bottom rack caused problems: Plasticware would melt, glasswware would crack, all because the two industires didnt integrate standards like water pressure, thickness of glass, or water temperature.    

    Top Rack Diswasher Safe claim was much better than saying to the consumer, if you keep the product on the top rack, away from the heating element or higher water pressure, your product wont get harmed.  As long as the claim was on the outside of that box, the manufacturer could sell the product and was also protected from the person who wrecked his dishes on the bottom rack.   Years ago, I only wish I realized that my high school teacher was only asking for a two paragraph essay on topics that I already understood.  It would have made life much easier. 

  • Shannon4783

    Since dishwasher racks are coated in PVC, is it safe to wash baby’s dishes in it? Is it possible for the PVC on the rack to leach onto the dishes And harm my son or is that just needless worrying?

  • http://www.heightsafesystems.co.uk/ heightsafesystems.co.uk

    One of the best blogs I’ve read. I’ve recommended this blog
    to some of my colleagues. I’m sure they’ll find it is useful as I found.Will
    definitely recommend to others. Good work. 
     

  • NANCYHRUSSELL

    I JUST REPLACED MY BPA PLASTIC WATER STORAGE CONTAINER FOR A PLASTIC ONE WITHOUT BPA.  I RECENTLY READ WHERE THE REPLACEMENT ONES ARE AS TOXIC AS THE BPA ONES.   CANNOT FIND A GLASS GALLON WATER CONTAINER WITH A SPIGOT.  IF ANYONE KNOWS LET ME KNOW.

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