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topic 34618

Putting silver in the dishwasher

A discussion started in 2005 but continuing through 2019


Q. Some people aver that one should never, EVER put any silver into the dishwasher. Never. They quote good sources, too, like the Antique Roadshow people.

I'd like to disagree ... for plated silver they have a good point, it can discolour very quickly ... but PURE Silver doesn't, in my experience, show any signs of corrosion or discolouration whatsoever.

Why then does the plated silver sometimes ... but not always ... discolour pretty quickly even when in the open air? And surely there are different qualities of 'pure' silver depending on which country makes it.

If someone can educate me ... I'd be obliged ... and if they agree, ah, then I can point this out to my wife, too!

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [dec.]
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).

simultaneous 2005

A. Freeman, you simply MUST invite me to dinner so we can both enjoy dining off your solid silver platters. Being of much more humble existence, I cannot offer any first hand experience of washing silver in dishwashers, but I have always been told it should never be done, especially with high phosphate dishwasher soaps. Furthermore, any abrasive soaps will scratch the surface of the silver and remove any fine engraving. There is, of course, another problem and that is if the silver comes into contact with another metal object, such as stainless steel (for us mere mortals) it can set up a galvanic couple, thereby causing a corrosive cell. This will certainly result in a blackening of the silver, unless, of course, you put your gold platters in there too. Then the silver will anodically corrode! Silver normally tarnishes in atmospheres where there are sulfide gases, but there also needs to be a certain relative humidity. I would expect that countries where silver does not readily tarnish are ones where the air is quite pure and the RH is low. Not all silver alloys do tarnish; one of the reasons for sterling silver(92.5% Silver)being introduced was to reduce the propensity of silver to tarnish. It contains about a fair amount of copper, often along with other elements and this helps protect the silver. Silver plate can be prone to tarnish by the silver being too thin and porous. This is because a galvanic couple can be set up between the base metal and the silver, with the silver almost invariably being the cathodic side, so it will be reducing species like sulfides. You may notice this when you drink your vintage wines form the pure silver goblets - the sulphites used to preserve wine can make the goblet go black.... Have a bottle of claret on me!

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


Washing in a dishwasher shouldn't cause any significant problem on silver, although you may see some dulling after repeated washing. A hand polishing now and then will take care of that. Sterling Silver in the USA is 92% silver, but in Europe there are grades ranging from 80% silver up to 99.9% They are usually identified as 800, 999, etc. The lower % silver stuff usually tarnishes more easily. Silver is actually fairly resistant to tarnishing, except for sulfur tarnishing. Rubber bands, eggs and other sources of sulfur including sulfur in the air from burning fossil fuels can blacken silver very quickly.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina


! Trevor, I ain't got none of dem gold tings wot you sez you eats off ... justa cupla grapefroot spoons wot goes inter the dishwasher religusly ... an' also one nife made by Rogers wich is over 40 yers old and still has a lotta silver onnit. An' our chalices ain't silver ... mugs is wot we use. China ones.

Yes, I agree with your hypothesis that plated, especially thinly plated objects do definitely corrode faster ... ditto for Sheffield plate, too, Mind you, brand new plated cutlery doesn't seem to be affected .... yet.

Thanks also to Jeffrey for his words of wisdom. You are very right! Hardly ANY effect at all using pure 92.5% Ag in the dishwasher... hardly notice any difference, either, if they get polished.

Thank heavens that we don't use Palladium, Platinum or Gold spoons then this would hasten the demise of lesser materials such as stainless.

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [dec.]
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).


Q. We use our sterling silver place settings everyday and have always hand washed them. Several months ago we began to use our dishwasher since it has a special drawer which holds utensils flat but without touching each other.

I now notice that the silver is dulled in 2-3 days. I initially attributed this to using the wrong dishwasher tablets, but now understand that it is the entire mechanical dishwashing process that is to blame. I guess we will need to return to our tried and true method of hand washing!

Michael Segalla
- Paris, France


A. The main reason that precious metals are precious is because you can make fine things out of them and they will still be fine things 4+ generations later barring unusual circumstances. Silver, gold and platinum are not very reactive metals (platinum one of the least reactive metals on the periodic table), and so any of those should be safe in the dishwasher. Unless, as the previous reader pointed out, you have a steel in there with it. In that case the more reactive (or less "noble" as we say in the trade) metals can actually plate out onto the silver, producing the discoloration that everyone is afraid of.

Usually your dish detergent will say something on it if it is not safe for use with silver, and most are fine. The detergents that are not safe with silver often employ reactive metal ions in their cleaning mechanisms, producing the discoloration in the same manner as mentioned before.

This is the perspective of yours truly, a chemist.

Craig Bettenhausen
- Baltimore, Maryland

April 13, 2009

Q. Help, I did put my silver-plated flatware in the dishwasher and some of the pieces are now spotted with dull gray or brown. My silver cleaning cloth doesn't clean them. Any ideas? I hope they aren't ruined forever!

Joan Heltsley
- Davenport, Florida

August 9, 2009

Q. I have the dark grey silver problem too. I started washing my silver several years ago in my dishwasher, but after moving this year to an area with a different water source and a different dishwasher, I am afraid I have ruined my silver within 3 months--help, please!

Connie Bonfy
- Wichita, Kansas

Ultrasonic Silver Cleaning Kit

A. Hi, Joan. Hi, Connie. I'm reasonably confident that they are not ruined. Please see letter 4785 for a great way to clean silver.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

April 21, 2012

Q. My new Zanussi dishwasher tarnishes the silver tableware whereas the old one left it bright silver. Why is this? I now have to polish it all when it comes out of the machine.

Gay Mould
- UK

April 22, 2012

A. Hi Gay. Might you have switched to a new detergent to suit the new machine? Was the old machine plastic and the new one stainless steel? Sorry, but I've never heard of a Zanussi dishwasher, so it isn't immediately obvious what difference you are pointing out. Thanks.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

June 26, 2012

Q. Hi,
I use silver plated cutlery on a daily basis, along with a few pieces of solid silver.

Per Martha Stewart, I put all this in my ASKO dishwashers (carefully separating from all other metal) in the US for years, with no noticeable effects. I used "ecological" detergents, but I don't know anything more about them than that.

Now I am in Australia, with an ASKO dishwasher, again. I am using ECOVER detergent. The silver is turning white (and blacker in the crevices) and losing its shine.

I called ASKO AU, they said they have received no other such complaints and have no recommendations other than separating silver from other metals.

I'm sure it has to do with the soap. All of the ecological detergents (I haven't examined the others) sold in Australia say clearly "don't put silver in the dishwasher", but I know that's not the whole story. It must be an ingredient? Unfortunately the detergents don't mention if they "employ reactive metal ions in their cleaning mechanisms", per Craig above.

Can we get more specific about this. And why is it such a mystery?

Thank you for your help,


Violette Etoille
- Sydney, Australia

Cleaning silver with baking soda in a dishwasher

January 13, 2015

Q. Since you can use baking powder to clean silver, could you run the dishwasher using baking powder to wash silverware.

Joyce Paladino
- Budd Lake, New Jersey

January 2015

A. Hi Joyce. I don't think you can clean silver with baking powder ... although you can clean silver through a reaction with aluminum and any conductive salt, including baking powder^soda. So I don't think it will work; plus it may not remove food remains, etc., like detergent does. But you can try it :-)


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

January 17, 2015

You can clean silverware with baking SODA (not powder).
You need an aluminium pot. Put some water in the pot (enough to immerse the silver), bring to boil. Add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda, and dissolve.

Immerse the cutlery item in the solution, while its boiling. Takes only seconds, and can be "end for ended" - i.e., dip one end, let cool and dip other end.

Only works with genuine silver, not for stainless or other metallic cutlery.

Geoff Crowley
Geoff Crowley
galvanizing & powder coating shop
Glasgow, Scotland

July 7, 2017

Q. How do you deal with pieces that combine sterling and stainless steel? Must they be washed by hand?
My knives and pie server are built this way. I also have some fruit/fish knives that are a combination.

Jane Scheidecker
- Eugene, Oregon, USA

3M Silver Protector Strips

July 2017

A. Hi Jane. You are going to get differences of opinion based on people's experience with their flatware, their dishwasher, their water, and their standards -- that's life.

But you are not going to destroy Sterling by putting it in the dishwasher a couple of times. So try it and see what you think of the result. We have Sterling flatware (with stainless knife blades, of course) that we use on Thanksgiving and we hand wash; but if we were using it every day we would re-think that. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

May 27, 2018

A. In my experience, silver washes beautifully in the dishwasher.
My mother has washed the same silver-plate and sterling silver in a variety of dishwashers for 50 years, without any problems.
I've been washing mine for 20 years, including knives with stainless steel blades and plated handles, in a Bosch and a Miele dishwasher, with a variety of different dishwasher tablet brands. I've never noticed any spread of silver to my stainless steel, but I do put them in different compartments in the cutlery basket.

David Smith
- Newcastle, UK

January 5, 2019

Q. I washed my silver plated flatware in the dishwasher and now its discolored. I've read why it happens. How do I fix it? Are they discolored permanently?

Jamie Barker
home owner - Akron, Ohio

January 2019

A. Hi Jamie. Hopefully, the silver plating has just become tarnished, rather than actually gone from the underlying nickel-silver substrate. Any of the many tarnish-removal approaches can be tried, from silver polish to the electrolytic cleaning plate or aluminum foil with washing soda. Please search the site for silver tarnish removal.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

February 4, 2019

Q. My dishwasher is stainless steel lined. Does that mean I shouldn't wash silver plated silverware in it?

Bev Zimmerman
- Lewisburg, Pennsylvania Usa

February 2019

A. Hi Bev. The silver plating will eventually wear off, and that will happen faster if you put it in the dishwasher with its typically very strong detergents, so some people don't do it, or do it only occasionally.

But the stainless steel lining of the dishwasher has nothing to do with it as far as I know or can tell from my own experience with our stainless steel lined dishwasher :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

November 20, 2019

Q. I just changed dishwasher detergents and my silver is turning golden brown. I threw away the old box that was NOT causing a problem -- ugh. The new detergent ingredient list includes: Sodium Carbonate (which I know is okay) but here are the others which I can't seem to find info on: Nonionic Sufactant, Sodium Percarbonate, Sodium Silicate and Enzymes. Any ideas about which may be causing the problem?

A. And, Line the sink with heavy duty aluminum foil , put the silver on it, sprinkle with baking soda, pour hot/boiling water over and watch the magic happen!

Susan Cooper
- New York, New York, USA

December 10, 2019

A. Hello Susan,
Sounds like you have the remedy with polishing. The chemicals you list on the new detergent look ok but I am skeptical with what type of enzymes are in the make up. The next time you go to buy detergent you could look for a "silver safe" compatibility. I was always elected to wash silver flatware by hand after special dinners but that's just me, or should I say "The Boss" insisted that's how it's done!

Mark Baker
Retired - Winston Salem, North Carolina USA

December 10, 2019

Q. Not all manufactures give enough info especially about silver - I am really looking for the culprit. I use my silver every day - why not?? It's lovely to use. And, everyday is a special day in my house!

Susan Cooper [returning]
- New York, New York

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