What Happens with Melted Plastic in Dishwasher? and Why?

Melted Plastic in Dishwasher: Why and What to do

Imagine opening your dishwasher, anticipating a rack full of clean dishes, but instead, you are greeted with the unwelcome sight of melted plastic.

A dishwasher’s efficiency can sometimes be its downfall when it comes to handling delicate materials, and that’s exactly what happens with plastic. However, we’ll be taking this article in a broader view.

Why Plastic Would Melt in the Dishwasher?

As we all know, dishwashers have become a non-negotiable in today’s busy world.

They offer the undeniable appeal of minimal effort paired with maximum efficiency. However, they do have one noteworthy nemesis – plastic. You might be wondering, why would plastic melt in the dishwasher?

To answer that question, let’s take a minute to understand how dishwashers work.

These ingenious machines use hot water and steam to clean and sanitize our dishes.

Temperatures can reach as high as 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or even more, depending on the specific settings and dishwasher model.

Plastic, on the other hand, is known for its light weight, flexibility, and affordability.

But it’s not exactly famous for its heat resistance. Different types of plastic have varying heat tolerances, but most of them don’t get along well with high temperatures.

Many plastics, especially those not explicitly marked as ‘dishwasher safe,’ start deforming at temperatures as low as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

This means when we accidentally toss a plastic container, lid, or any other item into the dishwasher, we’re playing a risky game unless we’re able to tell if it’s actually dishwasher safe.

If that plastic isn’t heat resistant and ends up near the dishwasher’s heating element (typically located at the bottom), it can quickly turn into a melting mess. And let’s be honest, that’s not the kind of surprise any of us want to discover when unloading our freshly washed dishes.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are actually some plastics that are safe with dishwashers.

Potential Dangers of Melted Plastic in the Dishwasher

Your plastic melting in the dishwasher isn’t just a smelly inconvenience – it can also pose potential dangers. Here are some of the negative impacts melted plastic can have on your dishwasher:

  1. Melted plastic can damage the heating element in your dishwasher: If plastic is stuck to the heating element, it can cause the element to overheat and potentially burn out, resulting in costly repairs or even needing to replace the dishwasher entirely.
  1. Melted plastic can leave a foul smell and taste on your dishes: Nobody wants to eat off plates that smell like burnt plastic or have a plastic residue on them, and it can be difficult to get rid of the smell and taste.
  2. Melted plastic can release harmful fumes and chemicals into your dishwasher and onto your dishes: This can be particularly concerning if you’re using plastic containers to store food in the dishwasher, as chemicals from the melted plastic can potentially contaminate your food.

Here’s What to do if you have Melted Plastic in the Dishwasher

If you’ve discovered melted plastic in your dishwasher, don’t panic! Here are steps you can take to clean it up and prevent it from happening again.

  • Turn off your dishwasher and unplug it from the wall. This will ensure that no further damage is done while you work on removing the melted plastic.
  • Remove any dishes or utensils from the dishwasher and inspect them for any signs of melted plastic residue. If you find any, hand wash these items to ensure that all the plastic is removed before using them again.

Now, remove the melted plastic from your dishwasher.

One method is to let the dishwasher cool down completely, then use a plastic scraper or spatula to gently scrape away any large chunks of melted plastic. Be careful not to damage the interior of your dishwasher while doing this.

After removing the larger chunks, you can try using a mixture of baking soda and water to scrub away any remaining residue. Baking soda is a gentle yet effective cleaner that can help break down plastic and remove any lingering smells.

If the melted plastic has caused damage to your dishwasher, such as sticking to the heating element or melting onto the racks, you may need to call in a professional for repairs or replacement parts.

How to Prevent Melted Plastic in the Dishwasher

Nobody wants to deal with the hassle of melted plastic in their dishwasher. However, in case it occurs, here are some tips to keep your dishwasher plastic-free:

  1. Make sure that you only put dishwasher-safe plastics in the dishwasher. This might seem obvious, but it’s an important step to prevent melted plastic. Check the labelling on the item or do some research to ensure it can withstand high temperatures and harsh detergents.
  2. Avoid putting plastic containers with a high melting point in the dishwasher, such as plastic storage containers. These containers are designed to withstand high temperatures in the microwave or oven, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe for the dishwasher. It’s best to hand wash these containers to ensure they don’t melt and release harmful chemicals into your dishwasher.
  3. Place plastic items on the top rack of your dishwasher, as the bottom rack is usually closer to the heating element and can get hotter. By placing plastic items on the top rack, you’re reducing the risk of them melting due to the heat.
  4. Consider using dishwasher-safe glass or metal containers instead of plastic whenever possible. These materials are more heat-resistant and won’t melt in the dishwasher.
  5. Make sure to regularly clean your dishwasher to prevent any buildup of residue or debris that could potentially melt onto your plastic items. Use a dishwasher cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to clean the interior of your dishwasher.


Finding melted plastic in your dishwasher can be a potentially dangerous experience and frustrating. However, by understanding why it happen and taking preventative measures, you can reduce the risk of it happening again in the future. If you do find melted plastic in your dishwasher, don’t panic. With some quick action and the right cleaning methods, you can remove the melted plastic and restore your dishwasher to its normal state.

Remember to always prioritize safety and use caution when handling melted plastic, as it can release harmful chemicals. By following these tips as well as taking care of your dishwasher, you can ensure that it stays in good working condition.

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