Sanitize & Sparkle! Tips on Cleaning Stemware

Tis the season for holiday tables set with gorgeous glassware and New Year’s toasts. Ensure your wine glasses and champagne flutes are sanitized and sparkling by following these professional tips for cleaning delicate stemware.


Professionals from prominent glassware manufacturer Riedel insist that cleaning your glassware in the dishwasher is not a no-no. But there are a few steps that must be followed to ensure they emerge unscathed and relatively spotless.

  • Be sure your dishwasher filters are clean, and all food debris has been removed. If your appliance has an odor even after it has been through a cleaning cycle, it is best to avoid washing stemware in this manner as glass easily absorbs odors.
  • Stemware must not have any embellishments, such as a gold rim. These can be damaged during a dishwasher cycle.
  • Wash stemware and nothing else. This avoids breakage from an errant plate or pot.
  • Avoid using super-heated cycles.
  • Use the air-dry setting, as excessive heat can dull glass over time.


Alcohol is a natural disinfectant so there is really no need to get aggressive with cleaning the inside of most glassware. If you are unable to wash it immediately, glasses should at least be rinsed or soaked overnight in warm water to avoid staining, especially from red wines.

  • Focus on cleaning the outside of the glass and the rim. These areas are by far the dirtiest.
  • Use minimal dishwashing liquid. Dawn is a great option that is gentle yet effective.
  • For the inside, swirling warm water is all that is really necessary, although if desired, use some of the warm water/soap solution.
  • When washing, hold by the bowl and never the stem, which can easily break.
  • Hold the glass low in the sink to minimize the chance of hitting the edge or of it breaking if it slips.
  • Place on a drying rack to allow excess water to flow off.

For glasses with a cloudy or murky appearance, soak in warm white vinegar for an hour. The murkiness is often a result of minerals found in hard water, which leaves a residue and can build up over time. Hard water is also less effective at cleaning as it doesn’t wash away soap and dirt as well as soft water.

Dry Immediately

No matter which method is used to wash your glassware, some water spots are sure to remain. To diminish water spots, it is best to dry stemware immediately after washing.

  • Use microfiber cloths
  • Using both cloths, hold the glass in two hands. This prevents fingerprints and smudges.
  • Dry only easily reachable areas.
  • If you want a streak-free shine, a hairdryer can be a useful drying tool.


Even after drying, glassware may have a few streaks and spots. These can easily be removed, and an eye-catching sparkle achieved by using steam.

  • Place a kettle (or pot) of water on and let it come to a boil.
  • Being careful to avoid scalding yourself, hold a glass above the steam using a microfiber cloth.
  • Using the same two cloth process, polish until all of the moisture is gone.

Decanters, with their shapely curviness, can be cleaned and polished in the same manner. Rinse out any remaining wine, especially reds. Fill with warm water overnight if you can’t clean it immediately. Wash the exterior with warm water and the slightest amount of dishwashing liquid to remove fingerprints. Let the water drain off, then dry only what is reachable. Polish with steam and voila!

For those who enjoy gadgets, here are a few that can be helpful in washing stemware and decanters.

The Sommelier’s Wash Kit includes three different sizes of brushes designed to clean inside glasses.

Glass Drying Towels guarantee a streak-free shine.

The Cuisinox Drying Rack safely holds glasses and decanters, allowing them to drip dry.

Decanter cleaning beads by Riedel carefully removes dirt, residue, and stains.

May your holidays – and your stemware – be sparkling and bright!

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