Is It Safe to Use Fiestaware?

Everybody needs a set of good dishes, and it’s a total bonus if they’re colorful and fun to use. Fiestaware has been around since the 1930s, and it has certainly made a statement in the world of ceramic dishware. However, there have been a few claims that original Fiesta is radioactive and unsafe to use, and we should probably determine whether those claims are true or not.

Fiestaware produced after 1986 is safe to use unless it has started to show serious signs of deterioration. If the glaze has begun to crack and rub off, harmful chemicals could be released into food. Original Vintage Fiestaware dishes (made between 1936-1972) might be radioactive and unsafe for use.

The word radioactive probably sounds pretty bad, but don’t worry. There are easy ways to tell if you have radioactive dishes or not and other signs that will tell you whether you can still use your Fiestaware. Read on to learn a few tips on the matter!

Vintage Fiestaware Multicolor Relish Tray Rare Original Colors Fiesta Set by Homer Laughlin
Vintage Fiestaware Multicolor Relish Tray – $950 from ThisandthatforDaniel on Etsy

Is Fiestaware Really Safe to Use?

To find out if Fiestaware is safe to use, let’s answer some common questions.

Is vintage Fiestaware safe to use?

Believe it or not, the year your Fiestaware was made could be all you need to tell you whether or not it’s safe for use. Original Fiesta was marketed in the early 1930s and continued until the 1970s. After 1972, Fiestaware changed its design and stopped using uranium oxide to make dishes.

If you are the owner of Fiestaware pieces that were made before the 1980s, then they are likely somewhat radioactive, because they will likely have uranium oxide in their glaze. If this is the case, you will probably want to use them only occasionally, or consider using them for display and decorative purposes only.

Can you eat off of old Fiestaware?

This depends. If, as said above, you’re using Fiesta from the radiation era (1930s-1970s), then the answer is probably not. The Fiestaware colors that are from this era and therefore are somewhat radioactive and unsafe to eat off of include:

  • original red (often called radioactive or atomic red)
  • cobalt blue
  • light green
  • yellow
  • turquoise (original 1937-1969)
  • old ivory
  • forest green
  • rose
  • chartreuse
  • gray
  • medium green
  • antique gold
  • turf green
Fiestaware Radioactive Red Fiestaware Carafe Water Jug - Atomic Red Fiesta
Fiestaware Radioactive Red Fiestaware Carafe Water Jug – Atomic Red Fiesta from CanadianaCollector on Etsy

Need help determining whether your Fiestaware is vintage or modern? See our Fiestaware identification guide.

If you have a Fiesta set that is simply old and used but was manufactured after the radiation era (post-1986) then you’re probably fine to use them. Just make sure the glaze is not cracked or chipping away because then chemicals could still find their way into the food.

Can you eat off of Fiestaware?

Yes, you can safely eat off of modern Fiestaware that was manufactured after the line was reintroduced in 1986. Fiestaware is still widely used and sold today. Just look online or find them at Walmart, Kohl’s, and Macy’s. Because ceramic dishes must be FDA approved, the Fiestaware you’ll find nowadays isn’t going to be radioactive. You can use Fiestaware for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and never have to worry about turning into the Hulk.

Collection of Original Fiestaware by Homer Laughlin - Vintage Fiesta
Collection of Original Fiestaware by Homer Laughlin – Vintage Fiesta from AlanDesignStudio on Etsy – $950

Are there Harmful Chemicals in Fiestaware?

We’ve already seen that there has been at least one chemical used in the manufacturing of Fiestaware. Uranium oxide was largely used back in the 1930s-1970s which is the chief reason for Fiestaware’s toxicity and radioactivity. There have been a few other chemicals, such as lead and cadmium, that we haven’t talked about just yet.

Is there lead in the old Fiestaware?

According to the Fiesta factory, their dinnerware products have been “lead-free” since 1986. However, they only became certified lead-free in 1992. Before 1992, Fiesta dinnerware products may have had trace amounts of naturally occurring lead in them.

While this wasn’t as prominent a problem as the uranium oxide, cracked and broken dishes could very well leak lead into the food you eat. Lead poisoning is certainly no joke and can cause serious symptoms in both adults and children.

Does Fiestaware contain cadmium?

Some Fiestaware does contain cadmium but in very scant/trace amounts. The cadmium that is in Fiestaware has been encapsulated, meaning it will not leak into food. The fact that it’s there might bother a few people, but the likelihood of you suffering ill effects from using dishes with tiny amounts of cadmium is a pretty small one. This is not something you need to concern yourself greatly with.

How Tough is Fiestaware?

Can you put Fiestaware in the microwave?

As a line of dishware that has been around for so many years, Fiestaware is certainly pretty tough. It is indeed microwave safe. It might get a little warm to the touch when you pull it out of the microwave, but microwaving is an overall safe practice for Fiestaware and shouldn’t negatively impact the dishes.

Does it make a difference if you’re microwaving vintage Fiestaware? The radiation in old Fiestaware isn’t anything huge, but it’s big enough to be somewhat concerning. You may want to avoid the microwave with your older Fiestaware, just to be safe. However, anything newer than the 1980s should be perfectly safe in the microwave.

Can Fiestaware go in the dishwasher?

It is equally safe to put Fiestaware into the dishwasher. Of course, you should handle it very carefully and make sure not to knock the dishes against anything. Cracks in Fiestaware (and any other dishes for that matter) will likely deem them unsuitable for use. As long as your dishwasher isn’t rough on your dishes, everything should be fine.

Can Fiestaware go in the oven?

Fiestaware can go in the oven as well, but this is an area that should be explored with a little more caution. Fiesta recommends not heating Fiesta plates any higher than 500°F and keeping them away from any open flame. Putting it under a broiler could technically be fine, but if you’re worried about subjecting your ceramic dishes to that kind of direct heat, it might be better to play it safe and avoid the broiler.

Overall, Fiestaware is a pretty tough line that can be relied upon to last for a good long while. Your responsibility as the owner is simply to make sure that you’re taking the best care of your dishes as possible. Keep them in good shape, and they will last you a good many years.

At the end of the day, if you’re asking yourself whether or not Fiestaware is safe to use, the answer is yes. There were some issues with manufacturing back in the day but now that the world has been upgraded and the FDA has to approve everything, it’s far less of a concern. Fiestaware is bright, colorful, and sturdy. If you’re careful with it, you shouldn’t encounter problems of any kind.

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