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The Dishwasher Debate: Don't Load These 6 Things


Forget about the presidential debate. That's amateur stuff. If you really want to start a lively debate, let's talk dishwashers and what should and shouldn't go into them.

There's the classic, men vs. women debate about the "right" way to load a dishwasher (don't get me started). And then there's the "Do I really need to hand-wash this?" discussion. Of course, if you enjoy getting people agitated, bring up whether a dishwasher should be used to steam fish, or wash boots or baseball caps.

These are just some of the surprisingly contentious subjects covered on the year-old The independent site not only reviews products, it tackles all things you need to know to safely use your dishwasher and keep your dishes and utensils clean and germ-free.

If you thought politics got people riled up, just mention that you can cook fish by wrapping it securely in aluminum foil, putting it on the top rack of an empty dishwasher and running it (without detergent, duh) on a normal wash-and-dry cycle.

The site's recent article on this and other unconventional uses of a dishwasher got nearly 600 comments from people arguing whether this was really clever or just the stupidest, energy-wasting thing they had ever heard of.

But my favorite article was a recent one titled  "What Are You Crazy? Don't Put That In Your Dishwasher!"

As writer Tyler Wells Lynch puts it, dishwashers "are not all-purpose miracles of technology that you can entrust with cleaning anything you can get your mitts on."

While some things may survive a run or two, here are six items that, for your health and safety, should never be put through a dishwasher cycle:

- Wood: A dishwasher's high heat causes wood to warp. So don't put wooden utensils, bowls, cutting boards, and even pots and pans with wooden handles in your dishwasher. Furthermore, the dry cycle may cause the wood to crack, opening up a breeding ground for bacteria.

- Teflon: Teflon can break down in the dishwasher, coating other dishes with undesirable chemicals and subsequently causing pieces of the coating to come off in your food when you cook with it. Manufacturers say dishwashing nonstick pans or utensils a few times over several years is probably OK, but really - it's nonstick. How hard is it to hand-wash, anyway?

- Cast iron: Not only will dishwasher cleaning cause cast iron skillets to rust, it will also wash away the protective seasoning that cast iron goes through to keep food from sticking.

- Insulated travel mugs: Travel mugs have a vacuum seal between the inner and outer shell, which can be breached when it's put through the dishwasher.

- Some plastic: If a plastic item is not clearly marked "dishwasher-safe" by the manufacturer, then wash it by hand. The heat from the water and dry cycle can warp the material and possibly even melt it. Those that are marked dishwasher-safe should still be placed in the upper rack, as far from the heating element as possible.

- China and delicate glassware: Sorry, but delicate wine glasses and china need to be hand-washed.  The chemicals in dishwasher detergents are abrasive, so they'll wear away at delicate materials and cause them to crack. The intense heat of a dishwasher can also cause glasses and china to shatter.

In other health news:

FDA confirms fungus in tainted shots and patients match. The Associated Press reports that tests by the Food and Drug Administration confirms the link between the fungus found in tainted steroid shots and  the one behind the national meningitis outbreak that has killed 20 people, federal health officials said Thursday.

Outbreak of E. coli cases raises question: Should petting zoos be banned? Think twice about taking the grandkids to a petting zoo. The Los Angeles Times reports that an outbreak of E. coli cases linked to a North Carolina fair is raising questions about the safety of petting zoos and animal exhibits. So far, there have been 38 cases, including the death of a 2-year-old boy. E. coli bacteria is often found in animal feces.

Photo: brownpau via flickr

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