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When dishes discolor

Dishwashing is finished but sometimes users come in for a surprise when their dishes comes out stained. At fault are foodstuffs such as tomato sauce, vegetables, tea or coffee which leave behind in part very stubborn stains.
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Why does dishes discolor?

The type and state of food has a huge impact on discoloration.

A further major role is played by:

  • Exposure time
  • Temperature of food
  • The material and condition of the load. Even the seemingly smooth and intact surfaces of plastics or porcelain are susceptible to discoloration.
Coffee cup tips over and creates a stain.

Why and how are dishes damaged?

If discoloration is only superficial, it can generally be treated and removed by further washing. If, however, surfaces are damaged, stains become more difficult to remove. Such damage occurs during everyday use when, for example, knives and forks scratch surfaces or dishes are stacked.

How can stains be removed?

One tried-and-tested way of removing, for instance, brownish stains on coffee cups is bleaching. This involves the use of a detergent containing a bleaching agent, typically active chlorine or active oxygen. Bleaching oxidizes pigments during the wash cycle, rendering discoloration 'invisible' in the process.

Why are plastics particularly difficult cases?

On plastics, even bleach often does not have the desired effect. One reason for this is the chemical structure of plastics: They consist of countless chains of carbon molecules. Pigments from foodstuffs adsorb onto the surfaces of this structure permanently, making their removal a difficult task. If the surface has fissures or scratches, pigments diffuse with ease deeper into the material. Once ingress has occurred, pigments cannot be removed either chemically or mechanically. These stains are permanent, and no end to scrubbing or bleaching will help.

How can discoloration be avoided?

In order to avoid discoloration in the first place, dishes soiled with food and drinks which are rich in pigments should be rinsed briefly immediately after use. Coarse food residue should also be removed to prevent it from drying. Beware: A plate with tomato ketchup placed in the dishwasher can result in pigments being released and redepositing on other load items, once again causing discoloration.


Foodstuffs such as tomato sauce not only cause stubborn stains on tablecloths; they are also often the cause of the unsightly discoloration of plastics. In both cases, the same applies: Stains are annoying but not necessarily irremovable. By acting promptly and using the correct means, customers can be assured many years of pleasure with their tablecloths – and their dishes.

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