Can You Put Copper In The Dishwasher?

By Cory White
Can You Put Copper In The Dishwasher?

Copper kitchenware adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to our culinary experiences. However, when it comes to cleaning them, questions arise about the dishwasher’s compatibility, like can you put copper in the dishwasher? 

While copper cookware is aesthetically pleasing, it is not advisable to put it in the dishwasher as it can lead to tarnishing and discoloration. Different factors such as the harshness of dishwasher detergents and high heat can damage copper beyond its appearance, emphasizing the importance of proper copper care.

In this article, I will discuss the potential risks, benefits, and proper care techniques for cleaning copper in the dishwasher. I will also delve into the effects of heat, and detergents, and provide alternative methods to preserve the beauty and integrity of your copper items. So, if you’re curious about the best approach to maintaining your copper kitchenware, read on!

What Happens When Copper Meets Dishwasher

When copper items meet the dishwasher, the result is typically unfavorable, largely due to the interaction between copper and dishwasher detergents. Harsh detergents, hot water, and the abrasive action of the dishwasher may lead to undesirable changes to your copper objects.

  • Dishwasher detergents often contain harsh chemicals, which are corrosive to copper. Their abrasive nature causes the gleaming surface of copper to deteriorate, diminishing its pleasing aesthetic.
  • Copper is a very good conductor of heat. The high temperatures in the dishwasher can cause the copper items to rapidly heat up and cool down. This rapid fluctuation can lead to structural changes, affecting the shape and integrity of the item over time.

Understanding the Consequences: Tarnishing and Discoloration

The use of dishwasher detergents on copper items can result in tarnishing and loss of the metal’s natural shine, leading to discoloration. This is a significant consequence that can change copper’s aesthetic appeal and surface, and it’s crucial to understand the reasons behind it.

  • Dishwasher detergents contain alkaline salts and phosphates, which are not friendly to copper. Exposure to these substances can tarnish the metal and dull its natural sheen.
  • The heat and abrasive environment of the dishwasher can further accelerate the tarnishing process, causing even freshly polished copper to lose its shine quickly.
  • The process is not just surface-level—tarnishing can also degrade the copper on a microscopic level, altering its beautiful warm color into a patchy, dull brown or green.

Not Just About Looks: Additional Damage


Apart from the apparent tarnishing and discoloration, dishwashers can cause additional damage to copper utensils that go deeper than the surface level. Here are some of the key damages that a dishwasher environment can cause to your copper items.

  • The rapid change in temperature inside a dishwasher is not friendly to copper. As copper is an excellent heat conductor, it heats up and cools down rapidly, which over repeated wash cycles can distort the shape and structure of the utensil.
  • Many high-grade copper utensils feature a layer of tin or stainless steel on the inside. The harsh environment inside a dishwasher can cause peeling or wear-and-tear of these linings, diminishing the longevity and functionality of the utensil.
  • The aggressive water jets in a dishwasher can also etch and wear down the soft copper, leading to scratches and dents over time.

The Dishwasher-Safe Copper Conundrum

The term “dishwasher-safe” is often found labeled on various kitchen utensils, including some items made of copper. However, what does this really mean in the context of copper items? Let’s delve into this conundrum.

Typically, when a copper item is labeled as “dishwasher-safe”, it implies that it can withstand the harsh environment of a dishwasher without immediate visible damage. However, this label can often be misleading and does not guarantee that the item won’t sustain damage over time.

The “dishwasher-safe” assurance may often be applicable to copper items that are coated or lacquered. This protective coating can offer a degree of resistance against detergents and heat, prolonging the item’s shine and functionality. Yet, even coated copper may eventually lose its sheen and suffer wear and tear after repeated dishwasher cycles.

The term “dishwasher-safe”, in the context of copper, therefore, isn’t always a guarantee against potential damage. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and resort to gentler, manual cleaning methods for your copper items.

Detecting Lacquered Copper

Lacquered copper cookware is essentially copper that has been coated with a protective layer of lacquer to prevent it from reacting with the environment, which might give it some resistance in the dishwasher. Here’s how you can detect it and why this is important in terms of dishwasher safety.

Lacquered copper has a glossy, smooth finish and doesn’t tarnish or change color over time, unlike untreated copper. If your copperware has stayed shiny and unfaded for a long period, it’s most likely lacquered.

The lacquer coating provides a protective layer on the surface of the copper, potentially making it safer for dishwasher cleaning. However, this coating can wear off over time, especially with consistent exposure to high heat and harsh detergents in a dishwasher.

If the lacquer wears off, the exposed copper can tarnish quickly and become vulnerable to the effects of the dishwasher. Regular inspection for signs of wear and fading can indicate the state of the lacquer.

Non-Dishwasher Alternatives for Copper Cleaning

While dishwashers may offer convenience, there are several alternative approaches to cleaning copper that could help avoid the damage associated with machine washing. Let’s explore some of these methods.

Hand washing

This is by far the safest way to clean copper items. Use a soft sponge with mild detergent to gently clean the surface and then rinse well with warm water.

Lemon and Salt

This simple home remedy can clean and bring out the brilliance of copper. Just rub a lemon half dipped in salt on the surface, rinse it well, and polish it with a soft cloth.

Use copper cleaners

There are specially formulated copper cleaners available in the market that can effectively clean and maintain the copper’s sheen.


For periodic deep cleaning, lightly polishing the copper with a soft cloth can help maintain its look and longevity.

Pros and Cons: The Decision to Dishwash Copper

When it comes to washing copper cookware and utensils, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision. Here’s a quick roundup of the key points to consider.

Pros Of Dishwashing

  • Convenient: The most significant advantage of using a dishwasher is the convenience. It’s a time-saving tool, particularly when you have many items to clean.
  • Effortless: You don’t have to scrub or polish; just fit the items in, press a button, and you’re done.

Cons Of Dishwashing

  • Tarnishing and Discoloration: As we’ve learned, putting copper items in a dishwasher can cause tarnishing and discoloration, dulling the natural sheen of the metal over time.
  • Structural Damage: A dishwasher’s high heat and harsh detergents can distort the shape and structure of copper utensils or even cause the inner linings to peel off.
  • Durability: Repeated washing cycles can lead to the wear and tear of any protective lacquer coating on copper items, making them susceptible to damage.

Proper Copper Care 101

Caring for copper dishware requires a thoughtful approach to maintain its beauty and prolong its lifespan. Here is a quick guide to help ensure proper care of your copper items:

Always hand-wash

Copper fares best when hand-washed gently with mild soap and warm water. Avoid abrasive scrubbers that can scratch the surface.

Dry immediately

Copper is prone to water spots. To prevent these, it’s essential to dry your copper items immediately after washing.

Regularly polish

Keep your copper items shiny and looking their best with regular polishing using a soft cloth and a proper copper polish.

Store properly

Copper is prone to scratches. Store your copper items separately and avoid stacking them where possible.

Monitor the condition

Regularly check your copper items for any signs of wear or tarnish. If the lacquer coating is wearing off, consider having it professionally re-lacquered to avoid any further damage.


In conclusion, while dishwashers offer convenience and ease of use, they may not be the best choice for cleaning your copper items. The interaction of copper with harsh dishwasher detergents and the unforgiving heat could lead to tarnishing, discoloration, and even physical damage to the items, impacting their aesthetic appeal and functionality. Remember, the inherent beauty of copper is its longevity, shine, and warmth; with the right care, you can enjoy these qualities for a lifetime.

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