Food & Drink

Before & After: This Is What Happens to Wooden Tools When You Put Them in the Dishwasher

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Living with my parents this past year while we were quarantine pod-ing taught me a few things. One thing I learned is that my parents have some bizarre dishwasher habits that I can’t and won’t get behind: These include cleaning knives and all of their wooden cooking utensils (like spoons and spatulas with wooden handles) in the dishwasher.

I’ve (slowly) gotten them to change their knife ways by buying them new ones and explaining the seriously horrible toll a dishwasher takes on knives. But they won’t stop with the wooden utensils; apparently the convenience and “Well, they still seem fine to me” attitude outweighs any of my advice.

So, once and for all, I wanted to prove to them (and any of you who do the same thing!), what a dishwasher does to wooden utensils. To do so, I bought a wooden spoon (this one, if you’re curious) and ran it through the dishwasher just five times. Five is not very many, I know. And yet, it was enough to see a difference! Let’s take a look.

When the spoon arrived, it looked and felt like, well, a good wooden spoon. It had a smooth handle that felt comfortable in my palm. But, the dishwasher did not serve it well.

While some wooden or composite items utensils can go in the dishwasher (check the manufacturer’s instructions!), most can not. And this one, which is a great spoon if you take care of it, was no exception. The hot water and dishwasher detergent stripped the spoon of its natural oils, causing it to become parched and bone-dry — its slick surface gone. Over time, the dishwasher would most likely cause the spoon to crack and warp, too.

Even though the spoon isn’t unusable, the bone-dry, scratchy-feeling handle means I will never want to cook with it. And again, I know the cracking and warping is inevitable. Although this is just a $6 spoon from Amazon, it feels wasteful — especially since hand washing doesn’t take much time at all. (Just imagine if it was a spoon or spatula you got from your mom or have had for years and years!)

Experiment complete! I’ll be sending this post to my parents. Perhaps some photo evidence will finally convince them. And, if not, I hope it’s helped you!

Do you wash your wooden utensils in the dishwasher? Tell us in the comments!

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Lifestyle Editor, Tools

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm is the Tools Editor at The Kitchn. A professional kitchen equipment tester, she’s worked for America’s Test Kitchen, EatingWell, and Food52. Her goal: to find the best gear for your kitchen so you don’t waste time or money on anything else. She lives in Boston, MA with her two dogs.

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