How to Clean Wine Glasses Properly

Wine glasses require special care when cleaning to preserve their delicate nature. Improperly cleaning wine glasses can lead to damage that ruins their appearance and taste experience. Following proper techniques ensures wine glasses stay sparkling and sediment-free so your wine tastes as intended. We will explore the reasons cleaning wine glasses needs special attention, when to hand wash vs use a dishwasher, appropriate cleansers, drying and storing methods, how to remove stubborn stains, and other essential tips for keeping wine glasses in great condition.

Why Wine Glasses Need Special Care

Wine glasses require gentle care when cleaning for a few key reasons:

Thin Glass

Quality wine glasses have very thin, delicate glass that is more prone to breaking and chipping if handled roughly. Aggressive scrubbing or bumping wine glasses together can cause damage.

Lead Content

Many crystal and handblown glasses contain lead. Strong detergents and dishwasher chemicals can react with lead and cause a film or foggy appearance over time.

Delicate Stemware

The bowl, stem, and foot of wine glasses have fragile points that require gentle handling. Vigorous cleaning risks snapping or loosening parts of the glass.

Maintain Clarity

Any cloudiness, spots, or residue left from cleaning ruins the clear aesthetic of a wine glass. Proper cleaning preserves the glass’s see-through brilliance.

Keep Original Taste

Residual soap, minerals in water, and other debris left from cleaning alters or masks the intended taste of your wine. Thorough rinsing preserves the original flavor.

Prevent Stains

Wine’s acidity can etch stains into the glass that become permanent if not promptly removed after use. Quick, proper cleaning prevents stubborn stains.

Avoid Deterioration

Harsh cleaners and abrasive scrubbing slowly erodes and corrodes the glass over time. Careful washing maintains the structural integrity of wine glasses.

The delicate nature of wine glasses makes properly cleaning them essential for maximizing their lifespan and purpose.

Hand Washing vs Dishwasher

When it comes to cleaning wine glasses, hand washing is generally preferable to maximize control and gentleness. However, modern dishwashers are an acceptable option if certain precautions are taken. Here is a comparison of the two methods:

Hand Washing

More Control

Hand washing allows complete control over water temperature, scrubbing pressure, contact time with cleaning solution, and rinsing thoroughness.

Immediate Cleaning

Hand washing enables wine glasses to be cleaned right after use before stains set in. No need to wait for full dishwasher loads.

Spot Treatment

Stubborn spots or stains can be given extra attention by hand targeting problem areas.

Delicate Handling

Wine glasses can be cleaned individually with delicate handling to prevent damage from bumping together.

Preserves Appearance

Hand washing often does the least damage to the original appearance of fine stemware.

Drying & Storage

Hand washed glasses can be dried and stored immediately in a controlled manner.

The downside of hand washing is the time investment required versus loading a dishwasher.


Time Savings

Dishwashers allow many wine glasses to be cleaned at once without labor intensive scrubbing.


The hot water and drying cycle sanitize stemware more thoroughly than hand washing.


Glasses can simply be loaded and cleaned hands-free after accumulation.

Potential Drawbacks

Improper loading can lead to broken stemware from bumping and clanging during the wash cycle. Prolonged contact with harsh dishwasher detergent can damage glass over time by etching and deteriorating. Extreme heat and agitation can loosen stems and stems over many washes.

To compensate, use gentle cycles with minimal agitation, be sure to affix any loose stems with painter’s tape before loading, use mild detergent, allow to fully dry before unloading, and inspect glasses carefully after washing. Avoid overcrowding and cushion with towel wrappings to prevent excess bumping. Hand wash older or more delicate stemware.

For convenience, modern dishwashers are generally acceptable for sturdy everyday wine glasses if used with care. But for truly special glasses or thorough cleansing, hand washing is still the more reliable method.

Best Practices for Hand Washing Wine Glasses

Follow these techniques for optimal hand washing of wine glasses:

Wash Immediately After Use

  • Wash glasses as soon as possible after use before stains from wine have time to set in. Letting wine residue dry makes removing it more difficult.

Rinse With Cool Water

  • Rinse glasses briefly with cool water first. This prevents hot water from shocking and cracking the glass when washing.

Use Mild Detergent

  • Choose mild liquid dish detergent, never heavy duty or abrasive formulas. Dish soap containing moisturizers helps protect glass.

Soft Sponge & Minimal Pressure

  • Use a soft sponge or cloth when scrubbing. Apply only light pressure to avoid scratching. Microfiber cloths are ideal.

Target Stem & Bowl

  • Carefully clean the interior bowl, exterior stem, and base with light circular motions. Tilt to reach all areas.

Rinse Thoroughly

  • Rinse well with cool clean water inside and out to remove all soap residue. Remaining detergent can interfere with wine’s taste.

Hand Drying

  • Either air dry fully upside down on a drying rack, or hand dry stem and bowl carefully with a soft lint-free towel.

Polish & Inspect

  • Give glasses a light polish with a microfiber cloth once fully dried. Check for any debris or spots missed.

Taking these measures when hand washing will keep wine glasses in beautiful tasting condition. Be extra gentle with very delicate crystal and vintage glasses.

Best Glass Cleaning Solutions

Avoid harsh cleaners when washing wine glasses. Use only mild, pH-neutral solutions to protect the glass:

Dish Soap

  • A small amount of mild, additive-free liquid dish soap diluted in warm water is an effective cleaning solution for wine glasses.

Baking Soda

  • A paste of baking soda and water can safely tackle more stubborn stains. Baking soda is mildly abrasive without being too harsh. Rinse thoroughly.


  • Diluted white vinegar sanitizes and removes grime. Mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water for safe use on glassware. Never use undiluted.

Hydrogen Peroxide

  • As a disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide can blast away germs. Combine with baking soda for added cleaning power. Rinse completely afterward.


  • Highly diluted household ammonia works to degrease glasses and leave a spotless shine. Use sparingly, it can damage some types of glass.


  • For stuck-on stains, make a thick paste with salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Gently rub paste into stain. Let sit briefly before rinsing.

Club Soda

  • The carbonation in club soda lifts and dissolves residue. Use to rinse away soap scum before drying.

Avoid commercial glass cleaners as they can interact badly with leaded crystal. Mild dish soap and water provide the safest cleaning solution for most wine glasses.

Rinsing Techniques

Thoroughly rinsing all soap residue off wine glasses is critical for maintaining their proper function and taste. Here are tips for rinsing stemware:

  • Rinse with room temperature or cooler water, never hot.
  • Hold the bowl under running water and rotate to rinse all sides.
  • Pour water into the bowl and swirl around before dumping out.
  • Invert glasses and let water flow down from bowl completely through the stem and base.
  • Plunge the glass up and down while rinsing inverted to remove soap from the stem.
  • Rinse multiple times until water sheets off the glass clear.
  • Visually inspect in good light that all soap film is gone.
  • Let drip dry inverted on a clean towel before hand drying or air drying.

The more thorough the rinse, the cleaner your glasses will be for pure wine taste.

Drying & Storing Wine Glasses

It’s important to dry wine glasses correctly after washing them to prevent spotting and promote their longevity. Here are some guidelines:

Hand Drying

  • Use a very soft, lint-free towel to gently pat dry, absorbing moisture without adding lint.
  • Carefully dry the interior bowl, exterior base and stem without applying pressure.
  • Make sure to dry any crevices around the stem and base where water collects.
  • Polish lightly with a microfiber cloth once fully dried.

Air Drying

  • Position glasses upside down on a drying rack so all residual moisture can sheet off downward.
  • Space glasses apart so they are not touching as they dry.
  • Ensure glasses are fully dry before storing to prevent molds or odors. May take 4-6 hours.


  • Store wine glasses bowl-down in a cabinet protected from dust or other contaminants.
  • Use glass sleeves on the stems or line shelves with felt to prevent accidental cracking or chipping.
  • For collectible glasses, display inverted on glass racks or shelves designed to secure the stem and prevent toppling.

Proper drying and storage habits preserve the condition and appearance of your quality wine glasses for the long term.

Removing Stubborn Wine Stains

Sometimes wine glasses develop stubborn stains that require extra measures to remove. Here are effective methods:

Sodium Percarbonate

Mix an oxygen-based stain remover like sodium percarbonate with warm water to make a paste. Apply paste to stain, let sit 15 minutes, then wash as normal. Rinse thoroughly.

Lemon Juice & Salt

Make a paste with lemon juice, salt, and a little water. Use a soft cloth to work paste into the stain. Rinse after 5 minutes. The acidity lifts stains.

Baking Soda

Make a baking soda paste with just enough water to form a thick consistency. Gently rub onto stain using a soft toothbrush or sponge. Rinse thoroughly once bubbling stops.

Distilled White Vinegar

Fill stained glass with undiluted white vinegar. Let soak 30 minutes to an hour before washing as normal. Vinegar’s acetic acid breaks down stains.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Apply undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide directly onto the stain. Let bubble for 2-3 minutes before rinsing. Disinfecting properties help clean.

Clear Nail Polish Remover

Use a cotton ball to rub a small amount of acetone-free nail polish remover onto the stain. Rinse immediately afterward.

With trial and error, you can find a stain removal method that works for your type of wine glasses without damaging them. But prevention through prompt washing is best.

Protecting Etched Wine Glasses

The acid in wine can etch its color permanently into glass with repeated use, giving glasses a foggy, etched appearance. Here are some tips to help prevent wine etching:

  • Wash glasses very soon after use before wine has time to bond.
  • Wash in mild dish soap versus harsh detergents that can increase etching.
  • Avoid letting wine or cleaning solutions sit in contact with glasses for extended periods.
  • Use a paste of baking soda and water to gently try and lift etching.
  • Consider using specialized glass sealant products that repel wine’s acidic properties.
  • For collectible glasses, display them inverted and use infrequently to slow etching.

While etched wine glasses are still safe to use, the damage cannot be fully reversed once it occurs. But you can take measures to minimize wine permanently altering the glass’s appearance.

Do’s & Don’ts

Follow these guidelines for properly cleaning wine glasses:


  • Wash soon after use
  • Inspect for stains
  • Use mild dish soap
  • Hand dry delicately
  • Store bowl-down


  • Soak glasses for long periods
  • Use harsh cleaners or abrasives
  • Leave to air dry lying flat
  • Stack glasses when drying
  • Drop or clink glasses together

Common Questions

Does the dishwasher ruin wine glasses?

Dishwashers can damage wine glasses over time through aggressive heat, water pressure, and jostling. But using gentle cycles, lukewarm water, mild detergent, and proper loading arrangements can make dishwashers an acceptable convenience option for sturdy everyday wine glasses. More delicate glasses should be hand washed.

What removes hard water spots from wine glasses?

For light hard water spots, clean with a half-and-half solution of vinegar and water. For heavy mineral deposits, try soaking in undiluted vinegar for up to an hour before washing. Club soda mixed with a little lemon juice can also help dissolve hard water spots when used to rinse glasses after washing.

How do you get lipstick stains off a wine glass?

First try gently wiping a makeup remover wipe around the rim to lift the lipstick. If any stain remains, make a paste with baking soda and water and use a soft cloth to lightly scrub the stained area before washing as normal. You can also try soaking in undiluted vinegar for 30 minutes to dissolve stubborn lipstick stains.

What is the best way to dry wine glasses?

Air drying wine glasses upside down on a rack is ideal to allow all moisture to sheet off the bowl and stem fully. If hand drying, use very soft lint-free towels and gently pat dry without applying pressure. Make sure to dry all residual moisture from the crevices near the base. Hand drying requires extra care not to damage the fragile glass.

How do you clean wine glasses with bleach?

Never use bleach solutions on wine glasses as the harsh chemicals can permanently damage and corrode the glass. Use only mild dish soaps, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and other wine glass-safe solutions. Even if thoroughly rinsed, residual bleach left in glasses can impart unpleasant tastes and smells to wine.

How do restaurants clean wine glasses?

Many restaurants use specialized glass washing machines that control the water temperature, pressure, and soap concentration specifically for cleaning wine glasses without etching or breaking them. Hand washing may also be used. Glasses are generally given an inspection, polish, and air drying after being cleaned before resetting tables.


Cleaning wine glasses properly requires gentle techniques but preserves their appearance and function. Hand wash using mild detergent and a soft sponge as soon as possible after use. Rinse thoroughly with cool water. Allow to fully air dry upside down or hand dry delicately. Store glasses bowl-down and use soft towels or sleeves to prevent damage. Treat stains quickly and avoid harsh cleaners to maintain the brilliance of your stemware. With the right practices, wine glasses can provide clear visual appeal and optimized taste for your wine enjoyment over many years of service.