What's the best way to wash and dry wine glasses?

Go easy on the detergent when hand-washing glassware.
Go easy on the detergent when hand-washing glassware. Photo: Shutterstock

It's after midnight. The prosecco, pinot gris and tempranillo are gone, along with the dinner guests who had to get back to the babysitter/back on Tinder/back on the wagon. There were only six of them but there's a wedding's worth of grubby glasses on the table.

Will you make like Martha Stewart and line the sink with a fluffy towel before tenderly washing each wine glass by hand? Play dishwasher Tetris and cram in the lot? Or will you flee the scene until tomorrow?

If it's the latter, you're in the company of pros. "After entertaining at home I now have a rule that I wash all glasses the next afternoon," says consultant sommelier Mark Protheroe, the co-owner of Melbourne's Recreation bistro and bottle shop. A former sommelier for the Grossi group and The Age Good Food Guide Sommelier of the Year, Protheroe finds he has fewer breakages that way.

Most modern stemware is dishwasher-safe.
Most modern stemware is dishwasher-safe. Photo: Shutterstock

When the time comes to tackle the job, hand-washing purists look askance at those who reckon the dishwasher is there for a reason. Sorry, hand-washers – it's been a long campaign but the dishwasher faction is definitely gaining ground.

Why so? Dishwashers have improved, and glass manufacturers have got better at making "stems" that will survive mechanical cleaning. Although traditional cut crystal such as Waterford or Stuart can be damaged by harsh detergents and high temperatures – and may develop a cloudy haze if not washed by hand – the current generation of finer, thinner wine glasses is increasingly designed for the dishwasher.

Global wine guru Jancis Robinson favours Riedel glasses for everyday use; for special occasions and wines, she likes a super-fine Zalto model. "Both, thank goodness, are absolutely fine in an ordinary dishwasher," she writes in her 2016 guide-to-basics book, The 24-Hour Wine Expert.

Remember: If you drink then dry, you're a bloody idiot.

The Australian brand Plumm says its entire range of modern crystal glasses is dishwasher-friendly; the fact that they are widely used in restaurants testifies to their durability.

That said, dishwashers can leave glasses with a detergent residue with potential to affect the smell and taste of wine. It can also cause bubbles to quickly fall flat.

Says Protheroe: "A good rinse is very important. If using a commercial dishwasher your rinse cycle is crucial. At home, I rinse all my glasses after going through the dishwasher."

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While some manufacturers recommend a polishing cloth to "finish" glasses, Protheroe prefers air drying where possible. "Introducing a polishing cloth is just another potential cause of off-aromas and breakage."

If you do use a cloth, make sure it is free of odours and lint. "Try to use two, as it seems to break less stems."

Washing dos and don'ts

Do ... rinse red wine puddles out of glasses instead of leaving them overnight to form hard-to-clean stains.

Air dry your glasses where possible.
Air dry your glasses where possible. Photo: Mike Baker

Do ... wipe dirty rims with a damp, soapy cloth before loading the dishwasher. "Protein from food like meats can react with tannin, leaving an unsightly appearance on the rim of the glass," says Protheroe. "This will 'cook on' in a glass/dishwasher if left there." Also helps get rid of lipstick.

Do ... give wine glasses plenty of space in the dishwasher; minimise scratches by avoiding jostling with other glasses or metal.

Do ... rinse glasses after they come out of the dishwasher to get rid of detergent smells and residues.

The party may be over, but it's best to wash dishes once sober.
The party may be over, but it's best to wash dishes once sober. Photo: Shutterstock

Don't ... risk traditional crystal in the dishwasher unless the manufacturer says it is safe. Waterford recommends hand-washing its glasses one at a time in "moderately hot water" using a mild detergent and soft cloth. Rinse well.

Don't ... overdo the detergent. If the water is hot enough and the glass not that dirty, you may get away with no detergent at all.

Don't ... use abrasive scourers or highly scented detergents. Riedel recommends white vinegar for cleaning stains. Protheroe says coffee-machine cleaner is "a great tool for removing watermarks and wine stains from the bottom of decanters and glasses". "Apparently denture cleaner does well too. After soaking overnight, wash glasses with plenty of clean water, then sacrifice a little bit of wine to prepare for the next use."

Wipe off lipstick marks before you wash.
Wipe off lipstick marks before you wash. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Drying dos and don'ts

Do ... remember that if you drink then dry, you're a bloody idiot. Minimise breakages by leaving glasses to air dry, or deal with them the next day.

Do ... know that hard water with a high mineral content can leave deposits on your glasses; polishing can help.

Don't ... use a twisting motion when drying or polishing a glass. It's an easy way to snap the stem.

Consultant sommelier Mark Protheroe recommends using two polishing cloths.
Consultant sommelier Mark Protheroe recommends using two polishing cloths. Photo: Julian Kingma

Don't ... dry with cloths that have been washed or dried with fabric softeners, highly scented detergents or dryer "fragrances". The softeners may leave a residue and synthetic fragrances can interfere with the wine.

Storing dos and don'ts

Do ... store glasses the right way up, to avoid chipping the rims and trapping cupboard odours in the bowl.

Don't ... put them anywhere smelly. "Recently, I discovered scented candles had been moved to the same cupboard as my wine glasses at home," Protheroe says. "Even though they have now been removed and all my glasses were rewashed, I still find the effect has lingered in the cupboard to the point I have now given the glasses a new home."