DIY: Learn How To Make Pottery Dishwasher Safe

Creating new things out of clay is really exciting. What’s even more exciting is that you can make clay at home. You can make your own ceramic cookware and decorative items and paint them using acrylic paints, ceramic paints and spray paints.

Handmade ceramic plates, bowls and cups on white background

However, the million-dollar question is: Is the ceramic ware dishwasher safe? If not, is there a way to make them? Dishwasher safety refers to the water-resistance an item has and handling temperature changes.  That’s why not all wares are dishwasher or oven safe or even food safe. Luckily, you’ve got us by your side. This DIY tutorial will show you how to make pottery dishwasher safe. Ready to find out? Let’s get started!

Knowing the clay used in the dinnerware

Putting handmade pottery in the dishwasher might be tricky, as not all types of pottery are safe to be washed in this machine. You have to know the clay body of your handmade ceramic pieces. That’s the reason why we have put this together. To make it easier for you to know the type of clay you have in your dinnerware.

Earthenware

Earthenware is coarser and more porous than porcelain and stoneware as it is kiln fired at low temperatures (between 804-1154°C), plus it lacks vitrification. This low-fire clay has a thick, earthy, rustic appearance and can absorb water. Cookware made from this type of clay isn’t safe to use in the dishwasher unless glazed. If they aren’t glazed at all or glazed correctly, you can’t submerge them in water for too long. What’s more, earthenware pots are microwave safe only for reheating. 

Stoneware

Stoneware clay is fired in high temperatures making it more durable than the previous type. It also has a thicker appearance than porcelain. Some stoneware glaze textures include shiny, satin and matte. It’s generally the most robust clay as it contains different minerals. Due to its tough and non-porous consistency, manufacturers and potters usually make dinnerware and water holding vessels (aka vases). In other words, it’s absolutely safe to wash it in the dishwasher.

Porcelain

Porcelain is lighter than the other clay types and more delicate due to its fine texture. Porcelain is fired at high temperatures, which is why it is durable and non-porous. Porcelain dishware is safe to wash in the dishwasher. However, if there are any metallic images and trims, you better wash them by hand to prevent the decorations’ damages. What’s more, porcelain can get chipped if it knocks with other dishes during the dishwashing cycle. Hence, the next time you load the dishwasher with your china, be rather careful.

Porcelain clay is divided into three types:

  • Hard-paste: It’s the most common type. It’s fired at a very high temperature (1285℃), creating strong items.
  • Soft-paste: It’s the least common type as it creates weak items.
  • Bone china: It’s the alternative to hard-paste porcelain and the strongest type. It is very resistant to chipping and produces a white or translucent finish.

Colorful painted ceramics

Ball clay

Finally, ball clay is quite different from other types and is mainly used to create bathroom items. Its main difference from the other clay types lies in the plasticity of the material, the lack of mineral impurities and the white finish it gets after firing. It’s more plastic and can be moulded into shape easier. However, during firing, it shrinks. And that’s its big disadvantage. If you are a beginner potter, you’ll probably experience problems if you don’t use the proper firing temperature. You won’t create the white finish by firing at the wrong temperature.

How to know that pottery is dishwasher safe

Thick and shiny ceramics are perfectly safe to wash in the dishwasher as a rule of thumb. However, be cautious with decorations as dishwashing might be harsh to them. What’s more, almost all the dishwasher safe ceramic items have a symbol underneath that look like a plate in a box. There’s also a symbol with two plates. This indicates that the dish, coffee mug etc., should be placed at the top rack of the device, whilst the single plate is safe at any section. 

Manufacturers should have care and washing instructions. If a store-bought product doesn’t have or you want to wash a handmade one, and you don’t know the material it is made from, then you better hand wash it.

Pottery you should never wash in the dishwasher

And now you may wonder: Is there any pottery I should wash in the dishwasher? The answer is Yes. No matter the type of clay you have used and the fired temperature, if your ceramics are unglazed, then never wash them in the dishwasher as they are very absorbent.

Another factor that determines whether you can wash in the dishwasher or not is the condition of your ceramics. Avoid the dishwasher if their surface is covered with tiny cracks (aka crazing), 

Detergents to avoid

We all know how convenient a dishwasher is. You put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher at night, you push a button, and in the morning, your dishes are all clean and shiny. However, your powerful machine doesn’t wash them only with pure water. It also needs a cleaning agent, which in most cases is very alkaline and dangerous for your ceramics.

Colouful pottery in the dishwasher

The dangerous dishwasher soaps for your potteries are phosphates, triclosan and sodium Laureth sulfate. These chemicals are harsh on the glazes, especially on low-fire glazes, as they can remove the shiny coating over time. The well-designed ones won’t have too much problem in the dishwasher, yet even the best ceramic glazes can face problems as they might have been fired at the wrong temperatures. 

How to make pottery dishwasher safe

If you like DIY pottery but still want to use it daily and wash it in the dishwasher, we can help you find a way. You have to combine the proper clay and the correct glaze. Always use clay bodies with an absorbency rate of 2% or lower. The ideal would be 1%. No glaze will work well if you have a clay type above that absorbency rate.

And here comes vitrification, which is the process when a substance turns into glass. If you’re a beginner potter, you should know that when you vitrify clay, the clay becomes watertight without melting—this type of clay at Cones 6 to 10.

On the other hand, if you have store-bought potteries, check them before tossing them in the dishwasher, no matter what the manufacturer claims. There are three ways to check DIY or ready-made ceramic glaze.

  • Boil them for 6 hours in soda ash.
  • Leave a slice of lemon on the coffee mug or any other items overnight. Let it cool down once you get a piece out of the kiln, and then rub the slice on the surface if you want to check yours. If you see any discolouration or other changes, then the glaze is not the right one, and you better avoid the dishwasher.

a woman loading pottery in the dishwasher

Now that you know how to make your handmade pottery go to the dishwasher, you can start making your own. If you have antique pieces you don’t know their clay body, then stay on the safe side. Forget all about dishwashing them and opt for handwashing them with warm water and a gentle dishwashing detergent.

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