Home / How to Stop Cutlery Rusting in the Dishwasher

If you’ve been washing your cutlery in the dishwasher for a while you may have started to notice little specks of rust on your silverware. Rusting is a natural process that can occur when using any metal utensils. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent these stains occurring. This guide looks at why rust happens, what you can do to prevent it, and how you can get your affected cutlery back to their original condition.

Why does cutlery rust?

Metals are susceptible to rusting when they come into contact with water or oxygen; it’s a natural chemical reaction between these elements. Salty water and acidic water also help speed up the corrosion process. As your cutlery is made from metal, when washing, there is a chance of rusting. Cutlery is more susceptible to rusting when in a dishwasher because it remains in the water for longer than when hand washing.

We’ll go on to explain how this can be avoided however, and discuss how some cutlery types are better protected than others.

Is my cutlery dishwasher safe?

When buying cutlery check the product information – it should say whether your cutlery is dishwasher safe. If you can’t find this information, you can safely assume stainless steel is a good material to buy. Stainless steel includes added elements to strengthen the material and make it more durable. Chrome and nickel are the most common elements added to protect the metal with chrome helping to combat rusting, and nickel used to resist acid corrosion. When looking at cutlery you might see a label such as 13/10 or 18/10. This tells you the percentage of these elements. The higher these numbers, the better quality your cutlery will be – unfortunately it will also be more expensive. Good quality cutlery is worth investing in however, because it will last for a considerable amount of time.

How to load cutlery in the dishwasher

How you load your dishwasher plays an important factor in whether or not your cutlery will rust. When different metals are placed next to each other, contact corrosion can happen – this is where the metals react. To prevent this, keep your silver plated and stainless steel cutlery separate. Whether that’s by washing in different loads or by placing them elsewhere in the machine is up to you.

You could also try the grid layout in which you place some items upside down – it is recommended you keep your knives handle down anyway for a more thorough clean.

If your cutlery has wooden or plastic handles it is recommended you don’t put these in the dishwasher at all as the handle can damage easily. A lot of people avoid putting expensive chef knives in the dishwasher as well, but providing you follow the care instructions below this shouldn’t be an issue.

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How to prevent cutlery rusting in the dishwasher

  1. Rinse your cutlery beforehand. Acid and salt can increase the chances of corrosion; since many foods contain these substances, rinsing cutlery before placing it in the dishwasher can help prevent rust forming.
  2. Wash immediately after use. Keeping cutlery in the dishwasher for extended periods of time will lead to stains – cutlery with food remnants on it, or cutlery that has been rinsed before and not dried are also more susceptible to rusting.
  3. Don’t overuse your detergent as excessive amounts can also lead to rusting. Also, don’t pour this on top of your cutlery; make sure you use the soap container, instead.
  4. Remove cutlery from the dishwasher immediately after washing and ensure you dry it thoroughly.
  5. After use put your empty dishwasher on a rinse and hold cycle to clean the machine of any food remnants.
  6. As a general rule of thumb the longer you leave your cutlery in contact with food remnants, other metals, or water, the more likely it is to stain. If you take the proper precautions your cutlery should last a long time without staining. The better quality cutlery you buy will also have an impact on its life span.

How to remove rust from cutlery

It might be too late to prevent rusting; not everyone is aware of the how to avoid it and a lot of people do find rust on their cutlery. If you do find rust however, you don’t have to throw your knives and forks away and spend money on a new set – there are things you can do to rescue your cutlery and revert them to their original condition.

Soaking rusted cutlery in lemon juice or white vinegar can help alleviate the rust so it’s easier to scrub clean. Fill a glass with the liquid and let it soak for about five minutes. Remove the cutlery after this period and wipe with a cloth. Harsh scourers can scratch your cutlery and remove the chrome layer from your stainless steel, making rusting more likely, so when wiping clean opt for a soft sponge. Once the stains have been removed we recommend you follow our prevention instructions to help avoid rusting occurring again. 

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