Short answer: it’s complicated.
If you own Stainless Steel Cookware, you may have wondered if you can skip hand-washing and put it in the dishwasher. While the short answer is yes, there are some caveats.
Nowadays, everyone is all about convenience, and there is not a more convenient household appliance than a dishwasher. As great and time-saving as dishwashers can be, they don’t come without complications.
To understand what is and isn’t dishwasher safe, it’s important to understand a bit about metal composition and pan construction. Typically, 304 grade or 18/10 Stainless Steel is an alloy with a composition of 18% Chromium and 10% Nickel. These two metals create a Chromium Oxide layer on the pan, making it resistant to corrosion, especially in wet environments. 304 Stainless Steel by itself can absolutely go in the dishwasher because of this, and the fact that the metal is non reactive to dishwashing detergents.
Any pan that is purely composed of 304 (18/10), 430 or 18/0 stainless steel can go in the dishwasher with no detrimental effects. These types of pans will typically be 1-2 ply and will be on the lower quality end. While these pans are a bit easier to clean, they will not have the best cooking performance as stainless steel by itself is not a great conductor of heat.
Now we get to the exceptions. We mentioned earlier that some types of Stainless Steel Cookware cannot go in the dishwasher—this type is Stainless Clad Cookware.
Cladded cookware has a more complex construction than just average Stainless Steel Cookware. These types of pans, like ours, are constructed with layers of aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel. In the case of our Stainless Clad Cookware, the cooking surface layer is 304 18/10 Stainless Steel, followed by layers of aluminum and aluminum alloy then finished with a layer of 430 Stainless Steel. The aluminum is nearly entirely encapsulated by the Stainless Steel. However, the rim of the pan does leave a small amount exposed. While Stainless Steel itself is usually dishwasher safe, aluminum is not and will start to degrade when in contact with detergents.
Additionally, 18/0 Stainless Steel, which contains no Nickel, may not be suitable for dishwashers as the corrosion protection is gone. However it's very rare to find 18/0 Stainless Steel Cookware in today's market.
Since aluminum deteriorates when in contact with detergents, we do not recommend using the dishwasher for our Stainless Clad Pans. Repeated use of the dishwasher can cause the aluminum layers to fully degrade and disappear, resulting in an unsafe and impractical pan. It can also cause loss of induction compatibility as aluminum aids in the magnetic current being transferred to the pan.
Additionally, there are other risks such as pitting, discoloration, loss of induction compatibility, and even rust associated with using the dishwasher as these appliances are as harsh on cookware as they are convenient. Let's dive a bit deeper into these risks.
Now that we’ve established that using the dishwasher for Stainless Clad Cookware isn’t advisable, let's get into some details about how to clean your pans properly.
Most often, you will simply just rinse the pan under hot water once its cooled after cooking, and clean with some mild dish soap and a soft sponge. You can certainly use a scrub brush or pad if you have some tough messes and can even break out steel wool if needed. Be sure to use light pressure with steel wool so you don’t damage the surface.
To keep your pans nice and polished, we recommend a powdered stainless steel cleaner, like our Make It Like New Cleaner. This powder has a mild abrasive quality coupled with an acidic component to cut through grime and keep your pans looking sharp.
If you have a burnt, sticky mess on your hands, a paste of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part distilled vinegar will get just about any debris cleaned. You can also simply soak the affected areas in vinegar or even simmer a small amount of it in the pan if needed.
Ultimately, some Stainless Steel Cookware can go in the dishwasher, but it’s important to know which kinds. Now that you know Stainless Clad should avoid the dishwasher, you are ready to have clean pans for life.