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‘Leave it until the morning after’: how to properly wash wine glasses | Life and style


You’ve navigated Christmas lunch. Everyone has eaten and drunk well. Peace and harmony reign. So now it’s time to tackle the washing up. Or is it?

Certainly, it’s sobering to face a Kosciuszko-sized pile of grimy plates and glassware. But if you’re still feeling a post-lunch booze glow, experts suggest you defer dealing with the dirt – at least when it comes to caring for precious stemware.

The dishwasher dilemma

Ashley Iredale is a whitegoods specialist at consumer advocacy group Choice and a wine fan. As part of his job, he studies how dishwashers and detergents function. So you might expect him to be pro-dishwasher, but no: not for wine glassware.

“Modern dishwashers do a sterling job of washing stemware. Some models even have special glass holders. But personally, I recommend not using them,” he says.

“Wine glasses are fragile and need gentle handling. If you put them in a dishwasher after a few glasses yourself, there’s potential for accidents,” he says. “You lose not only your wine glass, but you’ve got a dishwasher full of broken glass.”

Repeated dishwashing has implications for the life of some stemware – glassware brand Riedel, for example, says its products can last up to 1500 washes in a Miele.

The dishwasher is tempting, but it might lead to irreversible discolouration on your glassware, says Iredale.
The dishwasher is tempting, but it might lead to irreversible discolouration on your glassware, says Iredale. Photograph: dstaerk/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Over time, the detergent itself in the dishwasher can also produce irreversible “cloudy discolouration,” adds Iredale. “This is not a film coating. It’s damage to the glass at a microscopic level.”

Ian Trinkle is a former group sommelier at Brisbane’s busy Howard Smith Wharves and ex-head sommelier at shuttered fine diner Aria Brisbane. Recently, Trinkle opened a boutique wine store in the city’s inner north-east, but he’s hand-washed and polished hundreds of expensive wine glasses during his career.

Unlike Iredale, he welcomes the ease a dishwasher brings to a boring chore. “I run all my glasses through the dishwasher – most are very safe these days and you don’t get any detergent build up.”

“It’s much easier to break glasses when you’re doing them by hand because you have to get right inside the bowl to clean them,” he says.

Avoiding washing woes

Feeling confused about which method is best? That’s because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Many upscale glass makers now recommend using a dishwasher – even for fine-stemmed wine glasses – so if you don’t want to hand-wash, it’s worth paying attention to cleaning instructions when buying glassware in the first place.

Different glassware has different washing instructions – so pay attention when you buy.
Different glassware has different washing instructions – so pay attention when you buy. Photograph: Instants/Getty Images

If you do use a dishwasher, Iredale suggests disregarding internet advice about ditching rinse aid and soap. Choice lab testing has shown it’s better to use both, particularly rinse aid. “Rinse aid contains surfactants which reduce the viscosity of water, which means it sheets off rather than beading, which is why it helps avoid spots.”

Still, he remains firmly team hand-wash. His pro tip for successful washing after heavy, Christmas-style use? Leave it until the morning after.

Before you head for a nap, Iredale suggests diluting any wine residue in glasses with water, which will make cleaning easier. Then, the next day, use hot soapy water to hand-wash, employing a clean sponge and good quality washing-up liquid, as this method prolongs your glass’s lifespan.

And if your wine glasses have serious red wine staining, use denture cleaner. It’s designed to shift tannins, and it works with teacups too.

After hand-washing, Iredale says, simply air dry and buff off any streaks or spots with a soft, dry cloth. Don’t buff the base and bowl at the same time when hand polishing, and never hold a wine glass by the stem. Don’t use a twisting motion either – the tension could cause the stem to snap.

Another way to ease tension over the matter? Just reduce the number of glasses you use.

Universal glassware from Gabriel-Glas can hold reds, whites, rosés, and champagnes without sacrificing functionality
Universal glassware from Gabriel-Glas can hold reds, whites, rosés, and champagnes without sacrificing functionality Photograph: Gabriel-Glas

Over the past decade, so-called all-purpose or universal glassware – medium-sized glasses which can hold all types of wine without sacrificing function – have become popular with wine cognoscenti. Trinkle now uses the same style of glass for everything from pinot noir to riesling – and even champagne.

Going green

But what about the environment – which washing method does the least damage here? The science is not cut and dried.

Dr Simon Lockrey is an associate professor in sustainable design and innovation at Melbourne’s RMIT University. He’s studied the impact of both hand-washing and dishwashing reusable coffee cups. He says marketers and media prefer definitive answers from lifecycle studies, but he embraces the ambiguities.

A dishwasher isn’t necessarily worse for the environment than handwashing, depending on the model, style of handwashing, and number of plates.
A dishwasher isn’t necessarily worse for the environment than handwashing, depending on the model, style of handwashing, and number of items. Photograph: tatyana_tomsickova/Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are many variables to take into account – different dishwasher models and also styles of hand-washing – from what he calls “the bachelor rinse” (just 150 millilitres of water and no detergent) to a full sink of hot soapy water.

“In layman’s terms it comes down to the energy source you use, how efficient that energy source is at heating the water and how efficient the method is at using water.”

Human behaviour is key. If you’ve got a 20-litre sink and you’re only washing 20 items, that’s a litre per item. If you’re using a fully stacked dishwasher that’s super-efficient and reuses water, it’s likely to have less impact.

Hack your dishwasher

If you’ve given up on the dishwasher completely because you can’t fit tall wine glasses in your top rack, this TikTok hack is a Christmas gift to you.

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And if you need more tips on how to maximise your next dishwasher load, Iredale has made dishwashers do amazing things at Choice. He’s even whipped up a post-dishwashing snack, served on plates washed during the same cycle, naturally.

“We wanted people to understand more about how their dishwasher works – and the boss was away,” says Iredale with a laugh.

“Realistically, though, you’re not getting a Michelin star meal from this method.”



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