How to Care for Your Wine Glasses

Everything you need to know to care for your wine glasses and ensure they won't detract from your wine's flavors – whether your glasses are fancy or not.

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Picture this: You’re hosting a dinner party. You’ve planned an amazing meal that fits everyone’s outrageous dietary restrictions. You’ve picked the perfect bottle of wine for appetizers, entree, and dessert. And then you take out your wine glasses. They’re cloudy and splotchy and they smell a little bit like… last week’s wine. Cue the horror movie soundtrack. Here’s the thing: If you don't learn how to care for your wine glasses, not only will they look bad, they’ll also affect the way your wine tastes. And this applies to all wine glasses – not just the fancy ones. But not to worry. You can avoid a glassware disaster by showing your wine glasses a little TLC. Here’s everything you need to know about washing, drying, and storing your wine glasses.

Know Your Stemware

First, not all stemware is the same. Some wine glasses are, as the name would suggest, glass. Others are crystal. Knowing the difference is essential if you want to properly care for your wine glasses. So, what are the differences? And why might you choose one over the other?
  • Glass is more affordable. If you’re ballin’ on a budget or you have slippery hands and might need to replace your wine glasses every so often, glass is definitely the way to go.
  • Crystal is more expensive. It refracts light, so you can really get a good look at your wine. Plus, it’s generally more durable. If you’re on the fast track to becoming a wine expert or if you’re having dinner with the Queen, it might be time to break out the crystal.
One more critical difference: Crystal is more porous than glass. Even though it looks as smooth as J. Lo’s perfect face, crystal actually has tons of microscopic crevices where residue can build up. That residue can cause discoloration and weird smells that get in the way of enjoying your favorite vino. Because of this, you need to care for crystal differently than glass. 

Washing and Drying Do’s and Don’ts

If you’re working with glass wine glasses, check the box they came in to see if they are dishwasher safe. Some are, which can be a huge time saver. Some experts will say to “never dishwash your wine glasses at any time under any circumstance,” but the reality is that time is precious and ultimately you’ve got to do you. If your glasses are dishwasher safe and you choose to go that route, DO:
  • Dishwash stemware all by itself to avoid any potential bangs, clangs, and breakage.
  • Wash with hot water only. No detergent necessary.
  • Use the air-dry setting or just open the door after the cycle and let your glasses dry au naturel.
When hand-washing glass wine glasses, DO:
  • Wash with hot water and the tiniest drop of unscented dish soap – if you choose to use soap at all. Hot water alone should do the trick.
  • Use a soft sponge. If you’re worried your sponge isn’t soft enough, just use your hand.
  • Hold the glass by the bowl, low in the sink.
  • Focus on the outside and rim of the glass.
  • Rinse with cold water.
  • Use a scented soap.
  • Twist the glass or hold it by the stem when hand-washing, or you could end up in shard city.
  • Use steel wool or a rough material to wash glassware.
When it comes to crystal wine glasses, DO:
  • Hand-wash only.
  • Wash with lukewarm water and a mild unscented soap.
  • Ever use a dishwasher. For real.
When it’s time to dry your wine glasses, whether they’re crystal or glass, hand dry with a lint-free cloth. Or, better yet, air-dry glasses upside down on a baking rack. One last word on washing: It’s best to rinse your glasses as soon as possible. However, if you’re totally wiped after a long night of hosting, it’s fine to soak them overnight and wash them in the morning.

Hot Tips on Stains Removal

Time to get real. Those who tell you not to wash with soap insisting that hot water alone is totally enough have never dined with your Aunt Linda, whose deep garnet lipstick will live on your cheeks and your glassware for all time. Here are some tips and tricks for tackling the worst stains of all, lipstick stains:
  • Wash with hot water and a little fragrance-free OxiClean or baking soda. There are also soft foamy brushes designed for crystal that are tough on stains but gentle on glass.
  • Try a fizzy denture cleaner like Fixodent mixed with hot water.
Pro Tip: If you want to avoid lipstick stains in the first place, you can opt for a lip stain over lipstick, which won’t smudge once it’s dry. Voilà

Storing Glassware

Let your glassware breathe. It’s best to store glasses in a well-ventilated area, like a glass rack where they can (literally) hang out. If you keep your glasses in a cabinet, stand them upright. If you flip them over, the rim could chip. Be sure to give your glasses some elbow room so they don’t accidentally knock into one another. If you notice that your glasses start to get that musty cabinet smell, just make sure you air them out before you use them. If your glasses start to look foggy, soak them in white vinegar for a few hours before washing. For extra credit, you can (and should) polish your glasses every so often. If you have time to do this, here’s how: First, steam your glasses by holding them above a boiling teapot (careful of those fingers!). Then, polish with a soft cloth. Your glasses will shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.

In Vino Finito

When you’ve done the hard work of picking the perfect wine, don’t let cloudy wine glasses spoil the fun. Take care of your wine glasses and they will return the favor by looking shiny and pristine. Cheers!
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