Milky wine glasses explained

What can be done to fix milky glasses, and if the answer is ‘nothing’, what can be done to avoid it happening in future? (Photo: Tips & Tricks website)

It’s very annoying when your wine glasses turn milky-white after being in a dishwasher. Several readers have posed the questions: what can be done to fix milky glasses, and if the answer is ‘nothing’, what can be done to avoid it happening in future?

I asked Mark Baulderstone, of RSN Australia, distributor of Riedel, Spiegelau and Nachtmann glassware, for his reaction.

“Modern machines, detergents and glass compositions mean this issue should be a thing of the past.” – Mark Baulderstone

“Firstly, not all glasses are made equal, nor are dishwashers and cleaning chemicals,” he said.

“There has been a significant amount of change in all these areas over the past 15-20 years.

“In the past, it was very common for glasses to go cloudy and milky, due mostly to the alkalinity of detergents and the high heat of the machines, which affect the surface of the glass, turning it milky white over time.

“Sadly, once it goes to this stage you won’t get it back.

“Modern machines, detergents and glass compositions mean this issue should be a thing of the past.”

He said that without knowing the precise circumstances, it’s difficult to say exactly what has gone wrong.

“What I can say, is that all Riedel, Spiegelau and Nachtmann glasses are produced using our own glass composition, which we mix in-house. We do this to ensure consistency and quality. Sadly, this is not an industry standard, but something we pride ourselves on.

“We have been working with Miele in a partnership for many years as they are, in our opinion, the best home dishwasher you can get. All my glasses go through my Miele using the Miele certified cleaning products and my glasses are in perfect condition. Miele have certified all our glasses dishwasher-safe for 1,500 cycles. This covers scratching, breakage and clouding.”

The dishwashing product Miele recommends is its own brand, which can be hard to find, but Baulderstone also recommends Finish Quantum, which I can buy at my local supermarket.

3 thoughts on “Milky wine glasses explained”

  1. Gillman Ken says:

    As far as I understand it, the origin of crystal glass was born out of the necessity to have a high refractive index (and therefore more sparkly) glass that could be cut easily with the technology available when this was the fashion in the 19th century. Thus, heavy lead crystal glass emerged, which is essentially soft easy to cut, high refractive index, but very breakable (the heat stress of hot water is frequently sufficient to make it crack), and subject to chemical attack, hence going ‘milky’.
    Glass technology has moved on, and few people now use large heavy lead crystal glasses, so sparkly high refractive index glass is less essential. Modern glass is much harder and more resistant to chemical attack, and quality spectacle lenses (and some wine glasses, but producers seem shy about revealing where they contain their glass) are now made out of glasses with various combinations of titanium and whatever it is that makes them hard and less breakable. The latest developments enable the production of glass that has such resistance to cracking and shattering that it is more like a metal – but I don’t think it’s possible to produce it outside the laboratory as yet, unless that’s being done in some secret military installation.
    I have not yet read Shackleton’s book but I’m sure it will enlighten us all.

  2. Gillman Ken says:

    I suspect this book by Shackleford at UC Davis will answer this, and many other, questions
    https://books.google.com.au/books?id=C19CDwAAQBAJ&dq=Shackelford+glass+wine&lr=

  3. Paul Mahon says:

    I have several Riedel glasses (vinum burgundy to be precise) than have gone milky. They have never been in a dishwasher or otherwise exposed to detergents. They are always hand washed in hot water then steam cleaned as per Riedel instructions. Yet they are milky. Clearly there is more going on. I suspect there is a physicist/chemist somewhere who deals with crystal properties who could suggest likely mechanisms. I hope you can find them and share!

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