The Best Way to Wash Wine Glasses, According to the Pros

Plus, a secret weapon to make them really shine.

December 19, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

If you’re this season's chosen hostess, you’ve probably been diligently cleaning, organizing, and planning for this year's big holiday party (or a series of mini ones), checking items off your to-do list one by one. But is “cleaning wine glasses” on that list? If not, it totally should be.

There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing mid-party that all your stemware (and even those glasses sans stems) have water spots on them—ultimately harmless, but definitely ruining the aesthetic appeal of a perfectly poured glass of vino. To help you get your glasses polished to perfection and ready at short notice for any event, we turned to expert Melanie Wynne for advice.

Melanie is the marketing and PR coordinator for Moshin Vineyards in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley, and has a ton of wine glass-cleaning experience from the time she spent working in a boutique wine tasting room. At last count, she had cleaned at least 3000 glasses! We think it’s safe to say she knows her stuff.

The Dishwasher Is Your Friend

Don’t believe the myth that you can’t put wine glasses in the dishwasher. Melanie says it’s actually the best way to go for a thorough clean.

However, you’ll want to first check the care instructions on your wine glasses to see if they’re dishwasher safe—most are, but some have specific instructions attached. For instance, Riedel crystal, one of the top names in the stemware industry, is safe for the dishwasher, but they recommend using only a particular brand of appliance.

“To ensure that our glasses are cleaned gently, we specifically recommend that they are washed in a Miele dishwasher. This produces better results than washing them by hand,” says CEO Maximilian Riedel on the company website.

No matter what kind of glasses you’re washing, you’ll want to place them carefully in the stemware rack, making sure they’re not touching any other metal or glass, which can cause scratches.

Further, Melanie recommends using a specific setting to prolong the lifespan of your glasses: “Be sure to use the air-dry setting, as the heat-dry setting may dull your wine glasses over time.”

When in Doubt, Wash By Hand

If your wine glasses aren’t dishwasher safe or you’re just nervous to put them in the dishwasher—perhaps you have a vintage set you inherited from grandma—you should probably wash them by hand.

“If you wash your glasses by hand, hold each glass by the bowl—rather than the more delicate stem—low in the sink, swirling water over the whole glass and using only a minuscule amount of dishwashing liquid on the outside, including the rim,” says Melanie.

Top tip: Dry them immediately. “No matter how you clean your glasses, water spots are likely, but you'll discourage them if you dry your glasses as soon as humanly possible,” she continues.

Meet Your Secret Weapon: Microfiber Towels

Any wine expert will tell you the difference between a clean-ish wine glass and a brilliant one is polishing, as this step will remove any water spots or blemishes that have formed, helping the glass to really shine. And when it comes to polishing wine glasses, there's nothing quite like a microfiber cloth.

“Use two microfiber towels to dry and polish your glasses,” explains Melanie. Buy yourself a large pack online; it'll come in handy for other household cleaning tasks as well.

Pay attention now, because we’re going to share her tried-and-true technique for the perfect polish: “Hold onto the glass's base with one towel-covered hand, and the bottom of the glass's bowl with the other. Turn gently in one direction and rub lightly on any water spots.”

“If you have grappa (clear grape brandy) at home, always keep a little in a spray bottle,” she shares as a hot tip. “Use it on any lipstick marks or dark wine stains. This will clean your glasses without adding any unwanted flavors or odors.”

With these tips & tricks up your sleeve, your stemware is bound to shine like never before. Now where's that grappa...

What are your tricks for keeping your glassware gleaming? Share them with us below!

This article originally appeared in December 2018, but we've resurfaced it because, well, 'tis the season for filling up our glasses.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • flatiousasd
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  • ajgingrich
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.


flatiousasd March 13, 2021
There’s simply no denying the potential these smart glasses show. When the smart glassefirst came out as a prototype in 2013, people were skeptical. Certainly, the $1500 price tag was a deal-breaker.

Redcataroma February 17, 2020
Why Grappa?
Dianne February 17, 2020
It’s grape based, clear, 90 proof alcohol which will cut through just about anything, including your tongue (kidding about the tongue) 😉
Dianne January 25, 2020
Most of us in Wine Country are using water from a groundwater well. Although filtered, we are always fighting HARD WATER. We wash in very hot soapy water, rinse, rinse, rinse and dry with a 100% cotton flour sack towel, which has been laundered without fabric softener or dryer sheets, lined dried is always preferable. p.s. my nickname at work is “the glass nazi.” My mantra... Beautiful wine deserves a beautiful glass.
Brooke O. January 24, 2020
I was hoping this article would address my biggest issue with washing wine glasses. Every time I do it--and that's pretty much every day, folks--no matter how fresh my drying towel (linen or otherwise) is, the glass retains a funky smell. I've taken to drying my glasses with paper towels, which I was honestly trying to get away from. Thoughts?
ajgingrich January 24, 2020
I always hand wash my Riedel. I tried the dishwasher but a few came out scratched. With that being said I dreaded drying them. They always seemed to have some kind of smudge with my Riedel drying cloth. My savior is the Magic Glass Drying towel that I found at Bed Bath and Beyond. It is AMAZING!!! The price is a mere $3.49 and the results make drying wine glasses much more palatable. Did I mention this cloth is AMAZING?!! I highly recommend! (enough for me to write this comment :))
ajgingrich January 24, 2020
And don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets on these cloths in order to keep your glasses smudge free.
Marie-Josée B. January 23, 2020
I always add a good splash of white vinegar to lukewarm water and a few drops of liquid soap to hand wash my wine glasses. Then I rinse well and dry with a linen tea towel. There is nothing like linen to dry glasses, no water spots guaranteed.
Janee’ January 23, 2020
Hand wash always! Super hot water. Air dry on rack. Wipe with flour sack towel!! Been doing it for years !
Jason January 23, 2020
This “tried and true” drying technique makes NO’s completely counter to washing directions “hold by the bowl not the stem”. Sheessh.
Libbi V. December 27, 2018
I used to work at a country club, and we had to polish wine glasses all the time. We would use a pitcher of boiling hot water to dunk or steam the glasses (just hold the glass upside down over the water for the steam to collect) and then polish out spots with a flour cloth towel. Easy and effective.
Sheila December 27, 2018
I can't picture how the "tried and true technique for the perfect polish" gets rid of water spots on the inside of the glasses. Could we get a photo of this in action?
Chief December 27, 2018
The dishwasher is not your friend if you do want to taste the soap film the dishwasher leaves. Hand wash your glasses next day and rinse throughly (always wash when sober)
then dry immediately.

Robert Parker was invited to a wine collector’s home for a tasting so the collector could impress him with his vast collection. The wine was impressive....but the soap film from the dishwasher on the stemware was not. A cocktail, beer or wine should always be served in film free glass so you can taste just the beverage. Cascade is for plates and silverware.