Melamine Care and Handling
Melamine is widely known as one of the most durable dinnerware materials available, and with good reason. Manufactured from a mixture of plant cellulose and plastic resin, melamine can withstand abuse that would shatter a ceramic piece, making it the ideal material for many commercial kitchens. However, melamine dinnerware does have some maintenance and handling requirements to ensure your plates, bowls, and platters stay in good condition without stains, cracks, or chips.
The most important attribute to know about melamine dinnerware is that excessive heat is its worst enemy. If melamine is repeatedly exposed to high heat, it will dry out and crack, discolor, blister, or break. Because of this, melamine dishes should never be microwaved or used under heat lamps; ovens and open flames are also off-limits.
Despite its durable nature, melamine dinnerware should be handled carefully to help prevent damage. Dishes should never be struck against another surface, which means scrappers will need to get out of the habit of hitting them on the sides of trash cans to remove excess food. Employees should also be careful when bussing tables to set all dishes, including melamine dinnerware, into the bins carefully, rather than tossing them in. To avoid scratches on the surfaces of plates, serrated blades such as steak knives should not be used with melamine.
Learning how to clean melamine dishes is simple, since the pieces are dishwasher-safe, but there are a few guidelines to follow. When using melamine, you should always rinse and wash dirty dishware as quickly as possible to prevent staining. While most stains can be removed, that does add extra labor. Below are some tips for cleaning melamine dinnerware. If you're familiar with handling china, most will already be practices you're accustomed to.
- Rinse food from plate as soon as possible
- Wipe away excess food with a soft sponge
- Wash melamine using either the three-sink method or a commercial warewasher
- Presoak as needed to prevent staining
- Use bleach for cleaning or sanitizing melamine
- Leave acidic foods on melamine for extended periods of time
- Scrub with steel wool or scouring pads
To help maintain your melamine dinnerware's like-new shine, dishes should be soaked in a bleach-free granulated detergent solution every 2 weeks. They should be left to soak for at least 15 to 20 minutes, but can also soak overnight if needed. To remove stains, dishes should be soaked in an oxygen-releasing solution.
Bleach should never be used on melamine dinnerware. Be sure to check your warewashing detergent and sanitizer to ensure the solutions you use do not contain bleach. If they do, contact your supplier about switching to a bleach-free option.
Even with the best care, dishes do need to be periodically replaced. Serving meals on cracked, chipped, scratched, or stained dishware can give customers poor impressions of your restaurant and, in some cases, may cause patrons to question the cleanliness of the kitchen, as stained dishes may look dirty even after being cleaned and sanitized. Replacing older, damaged dishware and integrating new pieces will keep your melamine dinnerware supply looking fresh and help uphold the appearance and integrity of your brand.
Quarterly or bi-annual inspections are the best way to find and replace dishes that are past their prime. Look for knife marks, loss of shine, stains, chips, and cracks. Keep track of how many of each dish you remove from service, which will then be your minimum order to restock your kitchen.