Whether you drink from fancy stemware or affordable Ikea finds, it’s important to keep your wine glasses clean and crystal-clear. Stains and residue from soap or previous pours can alter the appearance and aromas of your wine, which will affect how you perceive its color, scent and taste.
“You don’t want anything to distort the wine in your glass,” says Regina Jones Jackson, CSW, FWS. She’s the owner and principal wine consultant of Corks and Cuvée wine shop in Atlanta. “What you’re seeing in the glass will tell you a lot about the wine itself. If you have a little film or it’s not quite clean enough, all of that is going in your wine.”
So, what’s the best way to keep your glasses in peak condition? Sommeliers, wine buyers and other wine professionals share their strategies.
How to handwash
For many glasses, a sponge and unscented soap will do the trick.
“At home, I wash all my glasses by hand,” says Sarah Goler, wine director at Tannat Market and Tavern in New York City. “I just use dish soap and a sponge.”
“You don’t want anything to distort the wine in your glass.” —Regina Jones Jackson, Corks and Cuvée
If your stemware is fragile, however, you might want to use specific tools.
“We’re a big fan of Grassl glasses in my house—beautiful, handblown wine glasses, but extremely delicate,” says Kristin Olzewski, wine director at Gigi’s in Los Angeles and cofounder of Nomadica. “It’s always the most devastating day when one breaks.”
Olzewski soaks them in warm water with a touch of soap. For tough red-wine stains, she recommends these decanter cleaning beads.
“They’re essential for cleaning decanters, but sometimes I use them on my glassware,” she says.
There’s also an array of wands and brushes specifically made to clean stemware safely. Jackson uses a brush “and do a circular motion from the base all the way up.”
In the dishwasher (maybe)
If your wine glasses are on the hardier side, it’s absolutely okay to put them in the dishwasher, says Victor Rabot, fine wine buyer at Sotheby’s Wine. “I run mine with soap, so there’s no bad aroma left in the glass,” he says.
The key is to load them carefully, preferably in the top rack where they’ll jostle less.
“Place glasses securely upside down, without allowing them to touch dishes or one another to avoid scratching,” wrote Tammie Teclemariam and Marguerite Preston in The Wirecutter. “Some dishwashers come with clips on the racks that you can use to secure glasses by the stem.”
If your glasses are too tall for the upper rack, you might be able to lower it. If the dishwasher racks aren’t adjustable, simply load glasses into the lower rack where they won’t touch any other dishes or glasses.
Air-dry or hand-dry?
After she washes her glasses, Goler air dries them, but she warns that could result in faint droplet stains, depending on the mineral content of your water. So, Rabot recommends you dry glasses right after you clean them.
Those pesky spots may not alter a wine’s taste, but they will obscure its color. Jackson suggests polishing your glasses with a microfiber cloth right after you wash.
“Polishing cloths really, really help to make sure there are no streaks on there,” says Jackson. “I use them to dry my glasses so they look very nice, clean and almost sparkling.”
Use a gentle hand here.
“When I’m drying, I hold the stem and never the base of the wine glass,” says Olzewski, who uses a microfiber cloth on her glasses right after she washes them. “Holding the base can result in breakage, and I’ve seen some really insane restaurant accidents involving broken stems.”
Your safety is more valuable than any stemware.