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Safest Dishes To Use at Home – How to Avoid Toxic Dinnerware

safest dishes to use
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In this guide, you’ll discover the six safest dishes to use at mealtime, and more.

Now, maybe you know that dishes can ooze toxins into your food. But do you know why or how to tell?

Lead and cadmium hide in the glaze of brightly colored, decorated dinnerware. That’s why you should always choose more plain-looking sets. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You hop online, only to have a million various plates – ceramic, glass, porcelain, bone china, melamine plastic, etc. – thrown at your face. Some of these dishes are fine for decoration, but not for eating (especially those super colorful, vintage plates!)…

How can you tell which dinnerware is actually non-toxic? This post shows you how to make that judgment. Below, we’re focusing on non-toxic, lead-free dinnerware brands alone – none of which are made in China.

You’ll uncover our top six safest dishware options, how toxic materials end up on your dinner plates, how to tell if a dish contains lead, and the health risks of toxic dinnerware.

Let’s get started.

Why (& How) Toxic Dinnerware Exists

toxic dinner plates

The two primary culprits of toxic dinnerware – lead and cadmium. These are the two main types of dinnerware to avoid.

Lead helps improve durability and seal plate glazes and decorations. It also helps make colored glazes bright and shiny.

Cadmium adds bright colors to dishes, such as yellow and orange.

For example, Mexican Terra Cotta, vintage China, and other hand-crafted/ painted dishes.

Also, sometimes you’ll detect lead in glass dishes. Lead crystal, for example, contains up to 24% lead – avoid that stuff.

Not only that, but even plain white dishware may carry lead or cadmium in its glaze. Lead increases durability and helps fuse the porous clay shut – necessary for ceramic to hold food or liquid.

The FDA states: When manufacturers properly bake ceramic, the lead shouldn’t leach out. When improperly baked, however, lead may contaminate food.

That’s why it’s vital to know which brands are safe. We’ll get to that later.

While lead affects people of any age, it’s especially hazardous to children, pregnant women, and unborn babies—

“Children can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” according to the World Health Organization.

Even spookier, lead accumulates in your body, so small amounts can pose a health hazard over time.

Now, touching lead isn’t the issue so much as swallowing or inhaling it. As long as you wash your hands after setting up decorative dishes, you’re in good shape.

But never eat off of those old, brightly-colored dishes.

However, I’m not saying every colorful plate leaches lead, but some have a greater chance. You’ll discover how to tell if your dish leaks lead shortly.

Keep in mind; lead doesn’t just hop into your food. Lead leaches during a few key situations:

How Lead Leaches into Food

First – serving hot food on the plate. The heat extracts chemicals right out into food.

Secondmicrowaving. The heat can leach lead into your meal.

Third – serving acidic foods on the plate. Acids fast-forward toxic leaching. Which acidic foods?

Soy sauce, citrus fruit, tomatoes/ pasta sauce, lemon chicken, sauerkraut, and vinegar-containing salad dressing, to name a few.

The bottom line: If you have kids running around the house or you’re pregnant/ planning on it, do a safety and risk assessment of your dinnerware.

Moving on.

How To Tell If your Dishes Have Lead

As I touched on above, it’s tricky to tell which dinnerware leaches lead just by sight.

But several dishes have a higher chance of bearing lead than others. Here’s what to look for:

How-to-tell-if-your-dishes-have-lead
  • Traditional glazed Terra Cotta (clay) dishware made in Latin American countries and the southwest, such as Mexican bean pots.
  • Homemade and hand-crafted tableware, unless you’re sure the creator uses lead-free glaze.
  • Highly decorated traditional dishes used in some Asian communities.
  • Decorations on top of the glaze, instead of underneath. For example, if you can feel the raised decoration when you rub your finger over the dish. Or, if you notice brushstrokes above the glazed surface, the decoration likely sits on top of the glaze. If the decoration has begun to wear away, the lead hazard increases.
  • Antique tableware handed down in families or found in antique stores or garage sales (especially from pre-1970 – before the FDA began regulating dishware).
  • If you notice a corroded glaze or a dusty, chalky grey residue on the glaze after you wash a piece. Tableware in this condition represents a severe lead hazard – stop using it at once.
  • Bright orange, red, or yellow: Lead helps to boost these colors’ intensity.

Also, stay wary of plastic dinnerware sets due to the hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastic.

This statement carries 10x the weight if you have small children.

Chemicals and materials in plastic dishes include Phthalates and BPA, which mimic estrogen in the human body.

In fact, there’s a name for this – EA chemicals (short for “Estrogenic Activity”).

Mimicked estrogen can lead to health issues like negative effects on the heart, brain, and child development.

Something else to look out for… Melamine dinnerware. You might have heard about it and its popularity. But is melamine safe?

Is Melamine Safe?

melamine-plate

Melamine makes for strong, hard plastic dinnerware, but it has some issues. Manufacturers use formaldehyde – a controversial substance – to craft melamine dishes. Now, the FDA has ruled melamine safe to use, but with some restrictions…

You should not microwave food on melamine plastic, especially acidic ingredients – such as heating pasta with red sauce. Heat can pull these chemicals into your food. Plus, old and worn-out melamine plastic leaches much easier.

For those reasons, it’s wise to ditch melamine-containing products altogether. And not just melamine-plastic… Watch out for melamine-containing bamboo. You’ll find it in most bamboo plates and even cutting boards.

Now let’s tackle a couple of common dinnerware safety questions:

Are Dishes Made in China Safe to Use?

Are dishes made in China safe
Source: Amazon

Dishware made in China receives a lot of skepticism – and it’s no shocker… Through the years, China-made products have suffered a reputation for being low-quality or unsafe. Here’s one reason – in China, manufacturing practices do not fall under the same strict regulations they do in the US. That begs the question: Are dishes made in China safe to use?

Sometimes no, sometimes yes. Here’s the deal…

Many low-quality products come from China. But, many high-quality products too.

You want to stay vigilant and choose only lead-free dinnerware brands.

Here’s the key – trust the company you buy from and make sure they’re transparent about any lead or cadmium in their dinnerware.

How? Always check that the manufacturer has done proper safety testing on their products.

Look for the testing documentation (often displayed on the product’s web page).

You can also check for labeling on the plate’s bottom (either in-store or through online images):

decorative plate not for food use

If a plate leaches more than three parts per million (the FDA’s legal limit), you “should” see a label with one of the following phrases:

  • “Decorative”
  • “For Decorative Purposes Only”
  • “Not for Food Use”
  • “May Poison Food”
  • “Glaze Contains Lead”
  • “Food Use May Result in Lead Poisoning”
  • “Not for Food Use – Food Consumed from this Vessel May be Harmful”

I wrote “should” because some non-regulated plates from shoddy factories slip through the cracks.

You can also scan for California’s (even stricter) Proposition 65 label. Prop 65 has a leachable lead limit of 0.226 parts per million.

Here’s what it looks like:

proposition-65-label

To sum it up, use your discretion based on the information above when ordering China-made.

Or, forget all that and let me do the heavy lifting. Browse the researched recommendations down below!

Is There Lead in Vintage Dishes?

lead in vintage dishes

Another common question out there: Is there lead in vintage dishes?

Many of us have old ceramic dishes and vintage dinnerware lying around. We got it from our grandparents, antique stores, garage sales; you name it.

While beautiful, an essential thing to remember is that the FDA began testing dinnerware for safety starting in 1970.

So, China and other colorful dishware made before 1970 are likely to contain high lead levels, so avoid using antique China in general.

Save it for decoration.

Is Corelle safe?

corelle-dish
Source: Corelle

Corelle is a very popular brand of dinnerware due to its unique glass lamination process.

Corelle uses Vitrelle, a tempered glass product consisting of two types of glass laminated into three layers.

Vitrelle makes the product highly durable, but is Corelle non-toxic?

Corelle makes its products and glazes from clay-based materials and glazes used throughout the industry.

Any decorations present contain low-lead enamels fired at over 1000°F. This heat binds the heavy metals, reducing their release.

As you saw above, the leachable lead’s current limit for dishes sits around three parts per million (or less). A tiny amount. To put this in perspective, that’s (at most) three small drops of water from an eyedropper in a 10-gallon drum.

Corelle claims never to have exceeded this amount, so while not necessarily lead-free, these are considered lead-safe.

But, Corelle products bought before 2005 may not follow current FDA regulations. So, avoid eating from older, pre-2005 Corelle dinnerware (especially if there’s worn-out, chipped glaze). Check out our complete guide to lead in Corelle dishes to see which are safe and which aren’t.

Once again, here’s the common theme—

Avoid (eating on) highly decorated dinnerware, especially antiques.

Instead, pick from the list below. Each lead and cadmium-free dinnerware set we feature here ranks as one of the highest online. These are tried and true companies with a strong focus on quality and safety.

And, unlike most of the market today, none are made in China. In other words, you can enjoy total peace of mind.

Let’s jump in!

Which Materials are the Safest Dishes Made From? What to Look For

Let’s review the safest materials that most non-toxic dishware options are made from. Or, head straight down to my top six recommendations for safest dinnerware brands.

Glass –  Glass is one of the safest materials for dishware because it is non-toxic and chemically inert. It doesn’t contain any harmful substances that could leach into your food, ensuring that your meals remain fresh and free from any unwanted flavors or contaminants. Plus, glass is easy to clean, and it won’t absorb odors or stains, maintaining its pristine appearance and safety over time.

Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is a fantastic choice for dinnerware due to its non-toxic nature and remarkable durability. It is composed mainly of iron, chromium, and nickel, all of which are safe and non-reactive elements. This means that stainless steel won’t release any harmful chemicals or metallic tastes into your food, even when exposed to acidic or hot dishes. 

Lead- and Cadmium-Free Ceramic –  When choosing ceramic dinnerware, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s free from lead and cadmium, as we discussed above. You can find great porcelain and ceramic options from many modern brands that no longer rely on lead or cadmium. You can see my picks for the best non-toxic ceramic and porcelain dinnerware below.

6 Safest Dinnerware Brands to Use at Home

safest dinnerware

Now that you know how and why toxins end up in dinnerware – let’s dive into the article’s meat. Below you’ll find six prime examples of the safest dinnerware. And you’ll notice something about these dishware picks… They’re unstyled, for the most part; here’s why.

When you demand the absolute safest plates, choose simple. Remember earlier you saw how bright-pigmented dishware can often contain lead and cadmium? That’s why the following options have little color or decoration.

But plain doesn’t mean dull or unattractive.

Plain means sleek, modern – and safe! As I always say, let your food steal the show.

And, of course, the below dinnerware picks are not made in China. Plus, they’re entirely free from lead, cadmium, all bisphenols (not just BPA), melamine, and other toxins. After countless hours of researching (not kidding, I wish I was), I can confidently say these are among the safest dishes, period.

Now, although safe, there’s one primary disadvantage to these dinnerware picks (except for #6!). They can break if dropped, despite these brands making some of the most robust glass and ceramics today.

safest plates to use
Anchor Hocking
  • 12-pack
  • 10” diameter; 1.4 lb per dish
  • Lead and cadmium-free tempered soda-lime glass
  • Made in the USA since 1905

Need a set of easy-cleaning, eye-catching glass dinner plates? Give Anchor Hocking’s non-toxic dishes a shot.

Anchor meticulously crafts their plates from clean, tempered soda-lime glass. They leave out all toxic metals and chemicals from their production process. Instead, Anchor mixes a simple blend of sand, soda ash, and limestone, free from impurities. After tempering, they polish the dishes to eliminate uneven edges.

As a result, you don’t just get some of the safest glass, but the strongest… This thick, high-impact soda-lime is nearly twice the strength of ordinary glass (though not as strong as borosilicate). And with such good shock resistance, it can better withstand drops or rapid temperature changes with minimal chipping.

In other words, your food stays untainted, and your plate remains unbroken – regardless of heat!

You can use the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher to free up time after dinner without worry.

Worried about matching your decor? This plate goes together like PB&J with all meals and dining room layouts, as its attractive glass sheen enhances anything near it.

Grab this 12-pack of non-toxic plates from Anchor Hocking here.

Is the 12-pack sold out?

You can try their 13” dinner plate 6-pack here. Or their 12-pack of 8” salad plates here.

Looking to buy secondhand? You’ll find many sets from Anchor Hocking here on Etsy.

Fiestaware lead free dishes
Fiestaware
  • 4-pack
  • 10.5” diameter; 1.4 lb per dish
  • Lead and cadmium-free vitrified ceramic
  • 5-year chip-replacement warranty
  • Made in USA since 1936

Next up – Fiestaware’s vitrified ceramic plates: They complement any other tableware you own without seeming out of place.

This is a 100% non-toxic dinnerware set, as Fiestaware removed toxic metals from their processes in 1986! Today, Fiestaware shapes its plates with high-quality, reinforced vitrified ceramic. It contains 60% silica and 40% clay, sealed tight by a heat fusion process. Lead and cadmium are left out altogether.

Compared to standard ceramic (which has lower silica), vitrified has greater strength, a shinier, smoother finish, and a more impervious surface. Here’s why that’s important…

Second only to breakage, dishwashers ruin ceramic dinnerware faster than anything else. High heat and detergents can slowly degrade the surface.

However, Fiestaware’s robust vitrified ceramic remains unaffected by hot dishwasher cycles. It effectively resists stains, odors, chips, and scuffing from silverware, making this set more cost-efficient.

Simply put, vitrified ceramic will last longer, stretching your investment further. Chuck your Fiestaware plates into the fridge or freezer, then toss them into the microwave or oven to reheat without exploding. Afterward, slip it in the dishwasher to save cleanup time.

Each plate features a slightly curved edge, great for holding liquids. I’ve served pot roast with brown gravy on these and had no issues with spills. Yet, the angle isn’t too extreme, so you can easily cut steaks.

Grab your 4-piece set of Fiesta dinner plates – click here!

Want to buy somewhere else?

Etsy is a treasure trove for Fiestaware items – check it out here!

durable non toxic dinnerware
Libbey
  • 12-pack
  • 10.5” diameter; 1.5 lb per dish
  • Lead and cadmium-free soda-lime glass
  • Made in USA and Mexico since 1945

Next up, check out Libbey Crisa Moderno’s safe dinner plates, also crafted from soda-lime glass. Of course, no lead, cadmium, or other toxic ingredients exist in these.

Libbey crafts their dinnerware using a state-of-the-art production process (and has for nearly 200 years). I won’t bore you with the process details, but you get some of the highest-quality soda-lime glassware available… A flawless, smooth surface – free from uneven bubbles.

When you have guests for dinner, you’ll be proud to serve them on this solid glassware. For one, clear glass enhances any dining room decor or meal. And Libbey has just enough heft for that high-quality feel without being cumbersome.

You can heat food with Libbey’s non-toxic dinner plates in the microwave, then chuck your dish in the dishwasher – they’ll come out crystal clear. Also freezer-safe.

Click here to grab Libbey’s dinner plates!

And check Etsy for more from Libbey, including drinking glasses and serving dishes… All sold from small, ethical sellers with carbon-neutral shipping.

lead and cadmium free dinnerware sets
Sur La Table
  • 16-piece set
  • 4x dinner plates (10.5”), 4x salad plates (9”), 4x bowls (6.75”), 4x mugs (10oz)
  • Full set weight: 21 lbs
  • Lead and cadmium-free white porcelain

This gorgeous dinnerware set from Sur La Table includes everything you need to entertain guests. Its clean, straightforward design flatters any tablecloth, decor, or flatware – while letting your food stand out.

Sur La Table produces its dinnerware from high-quality, 100% lead and cadmium-free white porcelain. They don’t bake their ceramic as some other second-rate brands do.

Instead, Sur La Table uses much higher temperatures than competitors. The extra heat builds superior strength and chip/ stain resistance.

Each versatile, heat-resistant plate handles the oven up to 392°F (200℃), the microwave, and the freezer.

For cleanup, simply toss them in the dishwasher; these plates emerge shining like new without streaks.

Grab this chemical-free dinnerware set direct from Sur La Table here. Also available on Amazon.

Is the 16-pack unavailable? Try their 8-pack of 10.5” bistro plates or the single 10.5” dinner plateOr, explore all of Sur La Table’s dinnerware here.

chemical free dinnerware
Duralex
  • 4-pack
  • 9.25” diameter; 1 lb per dish
  • Lead and cadmium-free tempered soda-lime glass
  • Made in France since 1939

Our fifth pick comes from Duralex, another brand producing clean soda-lime glass dishware.

They leave out all toxic metals from production. Unlike many lower-end brands, they also refine and strengthen the glass through their time-tested tempering process.

With Duralex, you don’t need to sacrifice durability to find safe dinnerware… Nor high-end appeal.

Duralex’s tempering process more than doubles each dish’s strength. Its perfect transparency, impact resistance, and heft make it ideal for entertaining guests.

Speaking of tough, these lead cadmium-free dinner plates chuckle at temperature extremes. They’ll withstand -4°F to 266°F without exploding like a hand grenade. Again, we can thank the tempering process.

You can toss this dinnerware set in the microwave to reheat, then into the fridge or freezer to store leftovers without food containers. Once finished, slip it into the dishwasher to save time!

Fun fact: Duralex is the only glass manufacturing company that manufactures all of its products in France!

Score this 4-pack from Duralex here. (This set often sells out for extended periods. If you catch it in stock, pull the trigger!)

Or, check out Etsy for more Duralex items sold by small sellers (try to stick with clear glass options for safety).

non toxic plates and bowls
HaWare
  • 4-pack
  • 8” diameter; roughly 0.4lb per dish
  • 304-grade stainless steel
  • South Korean-Made

This final dinnerware pick is unique. Rather than glass or ceramic, HaWare offers unbreakable 304-grade stainless steel dinner plates.

These dishes offer a massive advantage over the previous sets: Far more durability and a longer lifespan, despite a fraction of the weight per plate.

Stainless steel plates will never shatter if dropped, not even when thrown at a brick wall! If you have small kids at home and want to avoid broken glass, ceramic shards, or dangerous plastic – these fit the bill.

Not just one of the safest dishes to use, but these steel plates are perfect for outdoor recreation—

I bring them on all my camping trips as they’re unbreakable, lightweight, and low-maintenance… 304-grade stainless steel does not rust, so it’s ideal for outdoor use. You don’t have to baby it!

And whether outdoors or indoors, these non-toxic dinner plates will never leach toxins. There is zero lead or cadmium. Stainless steel contains only iron, nickel, and chromium – none of which cause harm in small amounts (unless you’re allergic).

For care, steel plates clean up beautifully in the dishwasher. These plates are also fridge, freezer, and oven-safe. They’re my go-to for heating those small personal pizzas in the oven!

As for drawbacks, you can’t microwave steel dinnerware. So you’ll have to heat food separately or use the oven/ toaster oven (carefully). Also, the plates weigh very little and sometimes spin while I’m snacking on lightweight finger foods. Not a big deal, but keep this in mind.

Grab your 4-pack of safe stainless steel plates here!

Need extra? Here is a 6-pack. Or, grab the larger 12” version here.

Recap & Conclusion:

Phew, you made it! Let’s recap:

First, you saw how and why toxic chemicals/ metals end up in dinnerware. Then, you discovered the critical dinnerware concerns. And finally, you uncovered the six best and safest dinnerware sets.

To wrap up, follow these guidelines to stay safe:

  • Do not heat food or drink in ceramic that may contain lead – cooking or microwaving speeds up the lead-leaching process.
  • Do not store food or drink in dishes that may contain lead. The longer food/drink stays in contact with a lead-leaching surface; the more lead gets absorbed.
  • Do not put acidic foods on leaded plates. These foods will suck lead out of dishes much faster than non-acidic foods. Common examples include citrus fruits, tomatoes/ pasta sauce, soy sauce, and salad dressing.
  • Avoid the dishwasher because it will damage the glazed surface. Damaged glazes have a higher chance of leaching lead the next time you use that dish. In some cases, lead also contaminates other plates in the dishwasher.
  • The best tip? Avoid toxic metals and chemicals in your dinnerware altogether – grab one of the above options instead!

P.S. After grabbing your non-toxic dinner plates, consider other areas.

Why? The above options are safe for eating, but other items used to prep and store meals might not be—

What’s the point of safe dinnerware if you pollute your food beforehand (or afterward).

So, opt for plastic-free eating utensils… And don’t stop there – food storage containers, pots and pans, and bakeware are three other vital places to detoxify.

Bottom line: Don’t stop with the safest dishes to use at home – instead, continue your journey!

Adam Heck
Adam Heck

Hey, I'm Adam - TGL author and founder. Since 2016, I've produced and sold non-toxic kitchenware throughout the US. Today, I'm using my background in sustainable product manufacturing to help families avoid unsafe reusable foodware. When I'm not writing, you'll find me throughout Appalachia camping, hiking, or both!

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