Plastic Deteriorates in the Dishwasher
Did you know plastic deteriorates every time you run it through the dishwasher?
My husband thinks literally anything can go in the dishwasher, while I’m of the opinion the dishwasher should be reserved for utensils and glassware only. And absolutely nothing that is a one-of-a-kind because it’s never clean when you need it! We even have a house-rule that “my” pots and pans (those I’ve owned from my maiden days) are not to go in the dishwasher, and he can do as he pleases with “his” pots and pans.
I’ve always been a bit concerned about using plastic. From as early as I can remember my parents served us in glass. We didn’t even use plastic food storage although I was raised during the the Great Tupperware era. My dad always pointed out plastic is porous and therefore can never really be clean, which brings me to my point:
Are plastics safe to use?
I know a lot of parents rely heavily on plastic sippy cups, plates and bowls. They find them super convenient because they don’t break. Well, at least not in the traditional sense. However, with every single dishwashing cycle, plastics are breaking down. I recently read after only 20 washes in the extreme temperatures of an automatic dishwasher, plastics begin leaching into the food or beverage they contain. People often cite the plastics they buy are BPA-free, which seems to be a step in the right direction. But unfortunately, manufacturers are trading in BPA for other equally harmful, and less researched, chemicals. And BFA and phthalates have been proven to be “endocrine disrupters.” These are substances that mimic human hormones, and not for the good. So what now? I suggest shying away from plastic in heavily used items (read: those that you want to run through the dishwasher on a regular basis) OR (and this is a big one) anything you plan to microwave in.
Plastics and heat do not mix! Plastics are more likely to leach toxic chemicals when they’re heated or exposed to light. I thought this was widely known — heating plastic in the microwave is a HUGE no-no! While I realize some plastics are touted as “microwave-safe”, I call baloney on this! The reason being:
- How do you know the exact makeup of said “microwave-safe plastic”? You don’t and I’m not so sure the manufacturer even knows.
- Often the label comes with conditions such as it’s safe if it’s not scratched, only within the first so many washes, or only top-rack safe (as the bottom rack withstands higher temperatures). It’s better to just get out of the habit and transfer the contents to glass before microwaving.
- What if it’s not touching the food, like using plastic wrap? It might be labeled “safe”; however, I don’t want anything in the vicinity of my food if it is NOT 100% safe and can cause things like cancer. Research supports carcinogenic toxins can leach into your food. Furthermore, “studies have shown that chemicals such as polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene can leach from the packaging of common microwavable foods such as pizzas, fries, and popcorn.“
Because of my upbringing, I have tried hard to reduce the amount of plastic touching our food in any way. For the few plastic items we still use, they get washed by hand. I would love to say I throw away any and all plastic that enters our home. But truth be told, I also live by the REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE motto and try to give single-use plastics another purpose before sending it on its way.
What are some safer alternatives to plastic?
Opt for stainless steel, glass, silicone or even bamboo instead! Yes, stainless steel and bamboo both require hand-washing, but your body will thank you in the long run. Since hand-washing isn’t always convenient, especially when you’re holding a little one, I tend to use glassware. At least I can safely run it through the dishwasher and know it’s just as hardy as it was the day it was made.
I have a few varieties of stainless steel thermos-type bottles we use for water. I’ve been pleased with Kid Kanteen by Klean Kanteen. This one is a good option because it doesn’t have a zillion parts to clean and is pretty simple to assemble. It also comes with a silicone insert that reduces leaks and spills, which is so important when using on-the-go.
We were given a stainless steel divided tray as a gift and my son really loves it. He always wants each section filled with something different, so it’s a great way to introduce variety at meal-time. I find the sections are perfect for picky eaters or portioning sauces. I add a bit of maple syrup to one of the smallest sections when serving pancakes because once the pancake soaks up all the syrup, he isn’t convinced I gave him any. We use these at home, but they are super convenient and easy to pack when traveling.
I use Lifefactory glass bottles in my house. I love Lifefactory Bottles because they come with a silicone sleeve to reduce the chance of breakage. I cannot tell you how many times my oldest has “dropped” (thrown) these bottles and we are still on our first set. I was given two of the small and two of the large versions for my baby shower almost 3 years ago, and they are still in perfect condition. They do use plastic collars to affix the nipple, and the sippy cup tops are also plastic. However, hand-washing these pieces are pretty easy so I don’t find that to be a deal breaker.
While not 100% natural like rubber, food-grade silicone is a non-toxic polymer made mostly from silica (sand). It can also withstand heating and freezing without leaching or off-gassing hazardous chemicals – unlike plastics, which contaminate food in these environments. It is odor- and stain-resistant, hypoallergenic, and because of it’s smooth surface, pretty easy to clean. For these reasons, I feel comfortable recommending it as an eco-friendly and non-toxic alternative to plastic. I’m sure you have seen these ezpz Happy Mats before. These are great because they “stick” pretty good to surfaces and help avoid messes when you have a baby that likes throwing everything on the floor. I also like that they are fairly easy to clean; no cracks and crevices to hide food.
As for food, I have both stainless steel and bamboo plates and bowls for my boys. My oldest has a single bamboo set I purchased when he started eating solids. I love this set – Avanchy Bamboo & Silicone Set! I hand-wash it after each meal, for the most part. (I won’t even pretend I’m that good!) It’s simple to clean, doesn’t have any cracks or crevices, and has held up for over two years now. This set comes with bamboo handled spoons with removable silicone tips. I love the simplicity and the fact that bamboo is renewable, so it’s a win-win!
Another suggestion is to use mason jars. I use the little small sized 8 ounce jars for juice and water at meal-time when it’s more supervised. I picked up these silicone elephant sippy tops and have found them incredibly useful! They fit the mason jars perfectly and are great for serving smoothies and other messy beverages. These little cuties stretch to fit the mouth of most containers. They are easy to wash, and are the perfect alternative to hard plastic tops and spouts.
I hope these suggestions are helpful in transitioning your kitchen away from plastics. If you have other recommendations, please comment below. We would love to hear what you use for your children!