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Is Bamboo Dishwasher Safe?

Can you put bamboo kitchen items in the dishwasher?

When it comes to bamboo kitchen items, not all of them are created equal. This means, that the answer to the common question – is bamboo ok to put in the dishwasher – will depend.

Is the item you use a single piece or made by using some glue and pressure?

This is the main difference between the products you use and determines whether you can put them in the dishwasher.

What kind of bamboo utensils can go in the dishwasher?

To confidently say – this is a dishwasher safe bamboo product, make sure these simple things are true:

  • The utensils are made from a single piece of bamboo, no glue is used
  • There is no lacquer coating on them

If the piece is made from layers that hold together thanks to glue and pressure being present in the manufacturing process, there is a possibility that the layers will separate, some cracks could appear as a result of high water temperature and detergents.

The same is true with coating that may start flaking off.

This means that utensils that are made from a single bamboo piece and have no coating can go in the dishwasher and will be OK. This set of bamboo spoons is a good choice if you`re looking for a dishwasher safe option.

However, it is still recommended to hand wash bamboo. The long exposure to hot water in the dishwasher tends to overdry bamboo. That may lead to a shorter life of the utensils, that may otherwise last a lifetime.

If you do machine wash your bamboo utensils, remember to treat them with food-safe mineral oil from time to time.

Oiling helps to retain moisture and prevents overdrying and cracking. This will take only a couple of minutes but will have a huge impact in helping to prolong the life of your tools.

How to oil bamboo kitchen items

  1. Choose a food-safe mineral oil. Don`t use cooking oils, as some of them can go rancid.
  2. Make sure that the tools are dry and clean before you start applying the oil.
  3. Use a generous amount of oil and apply with a clean, dry cloth. Apply the oil evenly all over the items, not just some parts.
  4. Air dry overnight and rinse before the next use.

Bamboo cutting boards

As you probably know, bamboo is not considered a wood but a grass.

Nevertheless, bamboo cutting boards are very similar to the wood ones in the way they behave and have to be cared for.

Because of the biology of bamboo growth, it is not possible to make bamboo boards that are a one piece like it is possible with wood boards.

Bamboo boards are made using a method that requires glue and pressure treatment to flatten the bamboo. This makes them vulnerable to the heat and water inside a dishwasher.

If you put a bamboo board in the dishwasher, don’t be surprised if you find it cracked or losing shape.

Best way to clean bamboo

While putting bamboo in the dishwasher is not advised in most cases, it does not mean that cleaning it is complicated.

Bamboo utensils, bowls, boards e.t.c. should be hand-washed immediately after use. Take a soft sponge or cloth and wash it with hot water and soap. Then let it air dry before storing away.

That is pretty much all there is to it.

Avoid abrasive cleaners and tools when cleaning and don`t soak bamboo. If immersed in water for a long time it can swell up and crack the same as wood would.

If you want to sanitize your bamboo tools after using them with raw meat, a solution of 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water will do the trick.

Wash it with the solution, then pat dry.

Is bamboo antibacterial

Many argue that plastic is safer because it can be put through dishwasher and will withstand high water temperatures.

The problem with plastic is that it`s easy to scratch and cut it. Water and bacteria will hide into the cuts and will multiply fast.

Bamboo and wood evaporate the excess water and have naturally antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria, even if they find a way to hide in some cuts in the surface.

There are not that many of the cuts for bacteria to go into hiding anyway because bamboo is a very strong material that scratches minimally.

If you oil it on a regular basis then it becomes even more hygenic because the oil fills the cracks and there is no place for bacteria to hide.

A fun fact: There was a case study that found that using plastic cutting boards doubled chances of contracting salmonella. But the people using wood cutting boards(that are similar to bamboo) were half as likely of contracting it as the general public.  

A UC Davis study showed that time-worn wooden cutting boards functioned almost the same as new wood, while plastic became damaged a lot with time.

Wood vs bamboo

I have mentioned several times that bamboo acts a lot like wood when it comes to keeping it clean. So how do you choose between wood and bamboo?

I would argue that if in doubt – choose bamboo.

Botanically speaking bamboo is not a wood, it’s a grass. So even though it has a lot of similarities with wood, it’s more sustainable when grown responsibly.

Hardwood takes decades to grow, and much-needed forests are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate. Bamboo grows incredibly fast, requires no pesticides, and thoughtful harvesting leaves behind a blanket of rhizomes (root system) and new plants that will grow without replanting.

Image by Kent Wang; CC BY-SA 2.0