Plastic Dinnerware Finds a Place at the Table as an Everyday Dining Essential

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Plastic glasses and dishes designed to withstand the rigors of restaurant use are an ideal choice for busy homes… if you know a few dirty little secrets about your dishwasher.

Move over glass, make way stoneware -- today's busy lifestyles and demanding schedules are leading more and more people to seek "stress-less" alternatives when outfitting their home. This shift to less worrisome homewares is readily seen in the kitchen, with the increasing popularity of durable plastic glasses, stemware and dinnerware as everyday essentials.

Once found almost exclusively in seasonal and children's styles, plastic tableware is quickly ousting its ceramic and glass counterparts for a place at the table year-round, and it's no wonder. Attractive, resilient plastic tableware designed to meet the rigors of busy restaurants is finding its way into consumers' hands, thanks to companies like SimplySmartLiving.com.

"Improved plastics like polycarbonate, SAN and enameled melamine create tableware that mimics fragile glass and ceramic in look and feel, yet greatly outperforms in durability -- being practically unbreakable in most cases." says SimplySmartLiving.com founder, Krista Fabregas.

"The qualities that make this plastic tableware great for restaurant use -- presentation, longevity and safety -- make it an ideal, worry-free choice for everyday use at home," says Krista.

Performance in the dishwasher is another concern plastic tableware users know all too well. Acrylic glasses, even those labeled "top rack dishwasher safe," almost without exception display a crackled, cloudy finish after mere weeks of dishwasher use. And that's just one of myriad dishwasher woes expressed by consumers.

Happily, restaurant-quality tableware is designed to take on the dishwasher without the crazing, clouding and cracking problems common to lesser plastics. But, Krista warns, users of even the highest-quality plastic tableware should be aware of some changes to household dishwashers in recent years.

"Newer Energy Star-rated residential dishwashers feature built-in water heaters that can greatly exceed the temperatures of commercial dishwashers," says Krista. "Water temperature in excess of 140º-150ºF can be damaging to many clear, glass-like plastics -- even restaurant-quality polycarbonate."

So how can you know if your dishwasher might damage plastic tableware... before it happens?

Dishwashers featuring "sani-cycle," "pot scrub" or "extra heat" selections likely have a built-in heater that further heats incoming water during the wash cycle. Water heaters are an energy-saving feature on most upscale brands and newer models. By heating the water used for washing, these new dishwashers allow consumers to lower their home's water heater to 110ºF, from the standard 140ºF needed for optimal dishwasher efficiency.

Ideally, the dishwasher's heater makes up the difference and dishes are washed at about 140ºF. But if the home's hot water heater setting remains high, water temperature in the dishwasher can reach 160ºF or more. While not a problem for glass, ceramics, metal, and even melamine plastic, excessive heat can damage polycarbonate -- and definitely will damage acrylics.

Fortunately, most of these energy-saving dishwashers also feature a "normal wash" setting that does not further heat the incoming hot water, and that's the best setting to use to avoid damage to plastic glasses and dinnerware.

So, for those seeking a little more sanity and lot less worry at mealtime, look to innovative retailers like SimplySmartLiving.com for restaurant-quality plastic tableware that combines good looks with durability suited to everyday use. And now that you know the dirty little secrets to keeping it clean -- without damage -- you'll be sure to enjoy it over the long term.

Krista Fabregas is the founder of SmartLiving Companies, Inc., providing consumers with excellent resources and worry-free products to help create stylish, safe homes and low-maintenance lifestyles. Online at http://www.SimplySmartLiving.com and http://www.KidSmartLiving.com.

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