5 Tips for Cleaning Wine Glasses, from a Napa Valley Wine Expert

Keep those wine glasses shiny and chip-free for years to come.

Published Mar. 29, 2022.

I don't consider myself to be a clumsy person, but I’ve cracked more wine glasses than I care to admit. I’ve always wanted to know how the experts keep their glasses in tip-top shape—how servers and sommeliers at restaurants and wineries get their glasses so sparkly and manage to avoid chipping the edges. So on a recent vacation to Napa Valley, I decided to ask someone who would know.

Logan Willis of Envy Wines is responsible for maintaining everything from the winery's "perfect score" wine grapes to their immaculate glassware. With gentle fog crowning the Calistoga hills of Napa Valley as a backdrop, he walked me through the best ways to clean a wine glass while I sipped the best Merlot I’d ever had.

Whether you’ve invested in the finest crystal glasses from your favorite winery or picked up a simple set from the local big-box store, these tips will help preserve your drinkware for years to come. 

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1. At the very least, rinse your glass

Glass is porous and can stain, so if you’re like me and enjoy a glass or three of Bordeaux, make sure to rinse the glass as soon as possible. Yes, even if you aren’t going to fully wash it until later or the next day.

2. Size down your sink

Your sink can be a dangerous place. Slippery hands and wet surfaces are grounds for an easy slip and chipped edge. Plus, when you have multiple stemmed glasses shuffling around, they can break each other simply from impact. (As a general rule, the more expensive the wine glass, the thinner and more delicate it is.)

You might think the dishwasher’s the solution, but the better alternative is to hand-wash in a smaller, less rigid container. There are wash basins made specifically for this task, but the same results can be achieved with a small plastic washtub or even a large silicone or plastic bowl. You can also line a portion of your sink with a rubber shelf liner to minimize the possibility of breakage.

3. Skip the soap (yes, really)

Heavy detergents can do terrible things to your wine glasses. Soap residue can alter the flavor of your wine, and not for the better. If the idea of going soap-free is too much, be sure to use a gentle, fragrance-free option for the gentlest clean. You can purchase special cleaners or rinse aids, but according to Willis, white vinegar or citric acid will do the trick.

4. Air-dry your glasses on a rack

Dry your washed wine glasses by placing them upside down on a dish drying rack. This allows air to circulate underneath and prevents water spots. If you don’t have a drying rack, use a wire rack. (Be careful when placing them on the rack so that you don’t chip their rims.)

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5. Shine gently (extra credit)

Whether you’re on your couch or at a winery in Napa, drinking wine should be an experience. And it doesn’t take much to give your glasses the same shine you see with those in wine bars. 

Using one of the most beautiful wine glasses I’d ever seen, Willis demonstrated how he shines glasses at the winery. Here are his recommendations:

  • Firstly, don’t hold the glass by the stem or base. (The stem is the most fragile part of a wine glass.)
  • Using a clean microfiber towel (no linty kitchen towels or paper towel fuzz here, folks), shine the bowl with both hands. Next, stabilize the bowl in one hand while you wipe the rim, stem, and base with the other hand. 
  • Remember: Always hold the bowl!

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