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

And your secret weapon to really making them gleam.

December 27, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland

If you’re the hostess with the mostest this holiday season, you’ve probably been diligently cleaning, organizing, and planning for the big event, checking items off your to-do list one by one. But is “clean 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 sans stems) have water spots on them—ultimately harmless, but it definitely ruins the aesthetic appeal of a perfectly poured glass of vino. To help you get your glasses pitch-perfect and ready for any event, we turned to expert Melanie Wynne for advice.

Currently the marketing and PR coordinator for Moshin Vineyards in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley, Melanie has previously worked in a boutique wine shop and a winery tasting room, cleaning upwards of 3,000 wine 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.

You’ll want to 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 industry, is safe for the dishwasher, but they recommend a using 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.

No matter what kind of glasses you’re washing, you’ll want to carefully place them 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 It By Hand

If your wine glasses aren’t dishwasher safe or you’re just nervous to put them in the dishwasher—after all, they can be quite pricey—you can always 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 a miniscule amount of any dishwashing liquid on the outside, including the rim,” says Melanie.

“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 an OK wine glass and a brilliant one is polishing, as this will remove any water spots or blemishes, helping the glass to really shine. When it comes to polishing wine glasses, a microfiber cloth is an absolute must-have.

“Use two microfiber towels to dry and polish your glasses,” explains Melanie. You can usually get a large pack online easily and affordably.

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.”

“Keep a little grappa (clear grape brandy) 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 tricks up your sleeve, your stemware will shine like never befor. Now where's that grappa...

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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Libbi V
    Libbi V
  • Sheila
  • Chief


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.