The chances are good that you have a cabinet stocked with casual family dinnerware, one with “company” dinnerware and one with fine china. The family dinnerware is unthinkingly put in the dishwasher.
You wash the fine china by hand and dry it immediately. You chose the dishes for their durability and their aesthetic qualities, but were you aware of what they were made? Did you know that certain foods can eat the glaze off your dishes? These tips will help you in caring for your dinnerware.
Caring for Casual Dinnerware
Most casual dinnerware sets are made of melamine. It doesn’t scratch, it doesn’t break and it’s dishwasher safe. It is not, however, microwave safe, or it will melt. It comes in all sorts of patterns and colors.
You see them in complete place settings in department store displays on patio table sets. They are melamine dishes. Melamine is made of urea mixed with formaldehyde that is then fired and placed in a mold to make dishes, fireproof fabrics, floor tiles and whiteboards.
Keep in mind that it is not about how good your casual dinnerware is as even the best melamine dinnerware is still prone to the same issue. The reason the dishes are not microwave safe is that heat makes the formaldehyde leach into foods.
The same thing happens with hot and acidic foods. None of this would be a problem, as long as you only put cold and non-acidic foods on the plates and wash them by hand.
Tips for Care
If you do put your melamine dishes in the dishwasher, run them through the light wash cycle. This isn’t as hot, and it protects the finish on the plates. If the dishes say “dishwasher safe-top rack only”, it would be okay if you put them in the bottom rack.
Make sure the cycle is gentle and not extremely hot.
Stoneware is durable, porous and may be finished in matte, satin and high shine glaze. Some stoneware looks as if it has no glaze at all. The bottoms of the dishes are rough and are usually the first places that chip. Earthenware also holds heat.
When you’re clearing the table after supper, beware the hot spots on the dishes. Use a towel or potholder to clear the dishes. Never use a cold wet cloth to pick up hot stoneware dishes. The heat meeting the cold will cause cracks and breaks in the dishes.
Tips for Care
Stoneware can be used in the oven, microwave and freezer, but this leaves the dishes open to staining. Never use a scraper or dinner knife on earthenware. Use a mesh scrubber or dish cloth to remove food.
Submerging stoneware in dishwater will cause cracking and breakage. Wash the dishes by hand in warm water with a gentle cleanser and place in the dish caddy to dry. For stains, use a paste of baking soda and water. Gently rub the stains until they are gone.
Washing stoneware in a dishwasher is not recommended. Extremes in temperature cause cracking, and bacteria enter the cracks. Wash earthenware by hand.
Porcelain or Fine China
The differences between porcelain and fine china are the ingredients and the firing temperature. Porcelain is made of clay, feldspar and silica. It is then fired and turned into a dizzying array of things, one of which is dishes.
Bone china is made of, you got it, bone. It is fired at a lower temperature, making a delicate dish. Fine china is also made of clay and fired at low temperature. Food will stain the china, however, so it’s best to rinse the dish before washing it to preserve the glaze.
Tips for Care
When you’re looking for the best dinnerware set made of porcelain or fine china, I’m sure you’re ready to fork out more than what you’re willing to pay for the best dinnerware set that is made of melamine.
Compared to melamine, caring for your dinnerware takes on a delicate edge when dealing with china. Pad the sink with a towel before you stack the dishes for washing. Use a mild detergent and stack in a caddy to dry.
China chips easily, so place paper towels or paper plates between the dishes for storage, and stack them no higher than four. Stack the cups only two high with coffee filters between them.