Can You Put Silver In The Dishwasher?

By Cory White
Can You Put Silver In The Dishwasher?

When it comes to cleaning and caring for your precious silverware, the dishwasher may seem like a convenient option. However, the question lingers: Is it okay to put silver in the dishwasher? The short and consistent answer is no, silver should not be placed in the dishwasher.

Keep on reading to know the potential risks and benefits of dishwasher cleaning for silver items, the impact of high heat, harsh detergents, and the potential for tarnishing, and advice on alternative cleaning methods and best practices to ensure the longevity and luster of your cherished silver pieces in this article. Let’s get started!

Understanding Silver and Dishwashers

Everybody who owns silver cutlery, jewelry, or collectibles is familiar with the big question: Can silverware be safely cleaned in the dishwasher? The quick answer is no.

Silver is a delicate, precious metal that needs gentle treatment. The high heat, strong detergents, and vigorous water movement inside a dishwasher can be detrimental to silver items. Moreover, dishwashers work best with stainless steel or ceramic items, which are much more durable. Placing silver together with these materials may cause the silver to scratch or become damaged.

Always remember that while the dishwasher might save you time and effort, it may cost you the extended longevity and luster of your beloved silver items. It’s often better to show your silver some love by hand-washing them individually with care.

Tarnish and Electrolytic Reaction

tarnish on silverware

Now let’s talk about two terms that make every silver owner wince: tarnish and electrolytic reaction. When silver goes through a dishwasher cycle, they are notoriously common.

Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that naturally forms over silver when it reacts with sulfur-containing substances in the air, water, or detergents. It leads to a dull, grey finish on the silver surface that spoils its shiny appeal. Although it doesn’t cause permanent damage, it takes time and effort to remove and restore the silver’s shine.

On the other hand, an electrolytic reaction is a process where silver reacts chemically with a different metal in the presence of water and detergents, creating a small electric current. This electric current can lead to metal loss from your silver items, causing them to lose detail and surface texture over time, and in this case, the damage is irreversible.

The Impact of Cleaning vs. Polishing Silver

In caring for silver, it’s important to distinguish between cleaning and polishing, as these processes can have different impacts on the condition of silver items.

Cleaning Silver

This generally involves washing away accumulated dirt and grime from the surface of the items. This step is necessary to maintain the hygienic condition of your silver, especially if you’re dealing with silverware or serving dishes. Mild soap and warm water are typically sufficient for cleaning silver effectively without causing harm.

Polishing Silver

It’s the process of removing tarnish from the silver surface, and it involves the use of special silver polishing compounds. While polishing can restore silver’s shine beautifully, it’s essential to do it sparingly, as excessive polishing can wear away the silver layer over time, especially in the case of silver-plated items.

Can Silver be Safe in a Dishwasher?

You might still be wondering – can silver be safe in a dishwasher? The safest answer is no, but if circumstances necessitate it, there are ways to minimize potential harm.

First, you should isolate your silver from other materials. Remember that dreaded electrolytic reaction we talked about earlier? You can avoid it by preventing your silver from coming into contact with other metals in the dishwasher. You must also secure your silver items properly to decrease the risk of scratches due to water jet movement.

Additionally, select the gentlest cycle on your dishwasher, avoiding cycles that use high heat. These higher temperatures might be great for getting that deep clean for your plates and pots, but they’re not so friendly to silver.

However, even with these precautions, dishwashing silver is risk-laden and not recommended for frequent use. Hand washing is often a safer, though tedious, choice for preserving the condition and longevity of your treasured silver items.

The Role of Dishwasher Detergent

The type of dishwasher detergent you use plays a significant role in the way your silverware may tarnish or be damaged in the dishwasher.

Most dishwasher detergents have harsh chemicals that are great for removing stubborn grime from everyday dishes but can accelerate the tarnishing of silver. These harsh ingredients react with silver, causing discoloration, dullness, and tarnish which isn’t easy to remove.

Additionally, some dishwasher detergents contain chlorine or bleach, which are particularly damaging to silver. These chemicals can etch into the silver’s surface, exacerbating tarnishing and potentially causing lasting harm.

Whenever possible, use mild, non-abrasive detergents specifically designed for silver. However, even these tend to be a compromise and are not a guarantee against potential damage. Ultimately, when it comes to silver, detergent selection is essential, but hand washing is still the safest strategy.

Putting Silver-Plated versus Sterling Silver in the Dishwasher

When it comes to silver, not all pieces are created equal, especially when you compare silver-plated items and pieces made of genuine sterling silver.

Silver-plated items consist of a base metal covered by a thin layer of silver. The dishwasher’s harsh environment can wear away this thin layer, revealing the base metal beneath. The silver layer is especially vulnerable during the cleaning process, where abrasives in the detergent can strip it off.

On the other hand, sterling silver pieces are crafted from an alloy that is 92.5% silver. Sterling silver is physically harder than pure silver and so can handle a bit more wear and tear. Nevertheless, sterling silver is still prone to tarnish and can be scratched or dull in the dishwasher.

Strategies for Washing Silver in the Dishwasher

Despite the obvious risks, if you choose to wash your silver in the dishwasher, some strategies can help minimize damage:

  • Load silver carefully in a manner that reduces the risk of clashing and potential scratching between items.
  • Keep silver separate from stainless steel or other metals to avoid the damaging electrolytic reaction.
  • Choose a gentle dishwasher cycle – one that avoids very high temperatures and intense water action if your dishwasher has such settings.
  • Use a mild, non-abrasive, bleach-free dishwasher detergent, or one specifically designed for silver if available.
  • Once the cycle is complete, promptly remove your silver items. Leaving them to sit in a steamy, hot environment can contribute to further tarnishing.

Things to Avoid When Washing Silver in the Dishwasher

When you occasionally need to put silver in the dishwasher, certain precautions can save you from potential headaches. Here are things you should avoid:

  • Mixing silver with other types of metal can set up conditions for an electrolytic reaction.
  • Loading silver in a location of the dishwasher where it can be jostled around or subjected to the full force of the water jets.
  • Using harsh, abrasive, or bleach-containing detergents can cause considerable harm to your silver.
  • Allowing silver to stay in the dishwasher after the cycle ends – the warm and damp conditions can promote tarnish.


In conclusion, while dishwashers offer a convenient solution for cleaning a variety of dishes and cutlery, they are not the best friends of your silver items. Careful cleaning and limited polishing are key to maintaining the shiny appeal of your silverware. To sum it up, when it comes to silver, taking the extra mile and time for hand washing will pay off in the long run in terms of preserving the longevity and beauty of your valuable items.

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