Those fortunate enough to have a dishwasher are in for good news: you can use your dishwasher to clean many household items, too!
Check out the list below for things you can stop washing by hand in the sink, and put that helpful kitchen appliance to work for you instead.
Tips on Using Your Dishwasher to Clean Stuff
Don’t just start throwing things in your dishwasher willy-nilly. There are some essential things to know first, both to protect your possessions as well as your health.
Choose the Right Rack to Use
- In general, if a plastic item bends easily, it goes in the top rack.
- Some things may indicate they are dishwasher safe, which means they can go on either shelf.
- If the label says “top rack only,” then follow that instruction.
Keep Things from Flipping Over in the Dishwasher
It’s frustrating to run a dishwashing cycle only to find things that have turned over and are full of dirty water. Here are three ways to keep stuff like small bowls or other items from flipping while the machine runs.
- Lean heavier objects against lighter ones. Slip a glass over the rim of a food storage container, for instance.
- Put a metal dish drainer upside down over items in the rack. You’ll get a clean drainer, too!
- Stretch a bungee cord over lightweight items from one side of the rack to the other.
The list below indicates whether to wash things separately or if they can go in the same load as plates and eating utensils. Be sure to check!
Things Your Dishwasher Can Clean
Save yourself time on cleaning day by letting your dishwasher do some of the hard work for you.
To make this efficient, start your tidying session by gathering the items in a room that can be cleaned in the dishwasher and start the load before you start work. By the time you’ve finished, the dishwasher will have, too.
Tuck these items in your dishwasher with your plates, glasses, and utensils. It’s a great way to turn a half-empty load into a full one that makes running the washer worth it.
- Kitchen sponges, dish wands, and produce brushes. These can all go on the top rack or the utensil caddy. Be sure to give the dishwasher time to cool off, so you don’t get scalded by dripping hot water.
- Ziplock bags. Turn them inside out and slip them over the prongs on the top rack, then weight the edges with a glass or bowl. Remove them before the heated drying cycle and pat them dry with a towel.
- Microwave splatter covers and turntables. The covers can help keep smaller items from flipping over, too.
- Refrigerator shelves and drawers. Let them sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes first to prevent cracks from extreme temperature changes. Shelves can go on the bottom rack and drawers on the top.
- Silicone baking mats. Get your Silpats or other silicone mats squeaky clean by draping them over a row of prongs on the top rack. Weight them down with glasses or other dishes.
- Kitchen trivets. Crusty trivets clean up well in the dishwasher, as long as they’re not hand-painted. Put plastic ones on the top shelf, while metal or tile trivets can go on either rack.
- Instant pot lids, rings, inserts, and accessories. Every part of your Instant Pot is dishwasher-safe except the electric cooker base. Put the lid and silicone ring on the top rack, while the steel insert and most accessories can go on the bottom shelf with other pots and pans.
- Utensil drawer inserts. Silverware drawer organizers and other drawer inserts are easy to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher, so long as they’re not wood.
- Stove knobs and enamel-coated burner grates. As long as your knobs are plain (no painted arrows, for instance) and your gas stove’s burner grates are coated on all sides, they can go in the dishwasher. Put knobs in the utensil caddy. Grates can go on either rack.
- Sink strainers. The filter that keeps debris from going down your drain gets nasty and can attract fruit flies or other household pests. Wash it in the top rack of your dishwasher. (Here’s how to clean that stinky drain while you’re at it.)
- Range hood filters. The metal mesh filters in your range or stove’s hood vent can become fire hazards if they aren’t degreased regularly. Stick them on the top rack when you’re doing dishes to get them clean.
Although we love our pets dearly, their stuff should never be washed with our dishes. That’s because dogs, cats, and other pets’ mouths contain different types of bacteria, which can make humans sick.
- Pet bowls. Since pets’ food and water bowls are the fourth germiest place in most homes, they should be cleaned daily with hot, soapy water. At least once a week, follow this by running them through a sanitizing cycle in your dishwasher.
- Rubber or plastic pet toys. Chew toys, Kongs, or plastic pet toys are all safe to wash on the top rack of your dishwasher. Shake them out thoroughly afterward to ensure there’s no soapy water inside.
- Woven or synthetic pet collars and leashes. As long as they aren’t made from leather or have leather parts, you can wash collars and leashes on the top rack of your dishwasher. Make sure they don’t dangle below the shelf, or they’ll interfere with the machine’s spinning washer arm.
Baby and Kid Items
Babies and little kids put so many things in their mouths, so it’s essential you keep their stuff clean. Fortunately, you can pop their gear into the dishwasher.
- Baby bottle caps and nipples. You already know most baby bottles can be safely washed on the top rack. It’s easy to clean the lids and nipples in your machine, too. Slip them into their own compartment of the utensil caddy, or tuck them in a dishwasher-safe zippered mesh bag on the top rack.
- Lunch boxes and insulated lunch bags. Keeping your kid’s lunchbox or insulated bag clean helps prevent foodborne illness. As long as the item isn’t covered with stickers or glued-on embellishments, and the seams are all sealed, it can go on the dishwasher’s top rack.
- Toys, pacifiers, and teething rings. Use your dishwasher to clean baby or kid toys made entirely of plastic that don’t have batteries or fabric pieces. Put larger toys on the top rack. Slip small toys, pacifiers, and teething rings into the utensil caddies or use a mesh bag like the one mentioned above.
Bathrooms have germs that you don’t want on your plates or utensils. With the exceptions noted, clean these in a separate load.
- Toothbrushes. Dentists recommend replacing toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months. Between replacements, add them to the utensil caddy when you’re washing a load of dishes — especially if someone in your home has been ill. (Here are more things to clean when someone has the stomach flu.)
- Contact lens cases. Ideally, you should replace your lens case every three months. To keep it clean the rest of the time, tuck it into the utensil caddy when you’re running the dishwasher’s sanitizing cycle for pots and pans.
- Bathroom accessories. Soap dishes, toothbrush holders, and other bathroom vanity accessories all collect a lot of grime. Clean them in the top rack of your dishwasher.
- Small wastebaskets. Whether you use trash can liners or not, bathroom wastebaskets get pretty icky. Clean yours in the bottom rack of your dishwasher when you’re washing the bathroom accessories.
- Plastic combs and hair accessories. Dirty plastic combs, barrettes, and headbands make your hair dirtier, too. Tuck them into the utensil caddy, or pop them into a dishwasher-safe mesh bag on the top rack. Since they’re not bacteria-laden, you can wash them when doing the dishes.
- Synthetic-bristle brushes. As long as the bristles are synthetic and the handle is plastic, it can go in the dishwasher. Use a comb to pull out any stray hairs first. (Here’s how to clean natural bristle or wood-handled hair brushes.)
- Rubber bathtub mats. Nonslip bathtub mats get pretty nasty thanks to soap scum and body dirt. You may also notice a lot of orange mildew on them, too. Clean them easily in your dishwasher by draping them over the top rack with the suction cups facing down.
- Bath poofs and loofahs. These exfoliating things collect a lot of dead skin cells and body oils, but they don’t get thoroughly clean in the shower. Give them a thorough rinse, until you don’t see any suds, then pop them in the top rack of your dishwasher to truly deep clean them.
- Manicure and pedicure tools. Metal callus rasps and files, cuticle scissors, and nail clippers should all be cleaned after use to prevent infection. Stick them in the utensil caddy while you’re washing other bathroom items.
- Bathroom exhaust fan covers. Over time, the plastic cover of your bathroom’s exhaust fan gets pretty dusty. That can keep your fan from working well — something that’s essential to prevent bathroom mildew. Once a season, gently remove the cover and run it through a cycle on the top rack of your dishwasher.
- Razors. Keep safety razors clean and germ-free by washing them in the dishwasher. They should be placed in a compartment of the utensil caddy by themselves when you’re running a load of dishes. Immediately pat them dry after the cycle ends, so they don’t develop rust.
- Shower caddies. Get soap scum and mildew off of plastic or plastic-coated shower caddies and wall racks by washing them in the top shelf. Be sure you take off any removable parts or suction cups first.
- Showerheads. Your metal showerhead can develop mold, mildew, and mineral buildup, all of which can make you itchy or sick. If you’ve never cleaned yours, you should start by giving your showerhead a deep cleaning then keep it clean by washing it in the top rack once a month.
Prevent the transmission of diseases from one plant to another by keeping your garden tools clean. Let your dishwasher help! Do these together in their own load.
- Garden tools. Plastic and metal garden tools can go in the top rack of your dishwasher or in the utensil caddy, as long as they don’t have wood handles.
- Flower pots and drip catchers. After the growing season, give your flowerpots and their drip catchers a thorough cleaning in the dishwasher to eliminate disease, mildew, and pests. Be sure to hose off any dirt first. Use the quick or gentle cycle for clay or terracotta pots.
- Hose sprayer heads. If you have hard water, the removable sprayer head on your garden hose may develop mineral deposits. You can easily clean it in the top rack or utensil caddy of your dishwasher — be sure to remove the silicone gasket first, though.
Sports and Outdoor Items
Use your dishwasher to clean sports gear and outdoor items in loads separate from your dishes.
- Golf balls and tennis balls. Sports enthusiasts swear that dirt interferes with proper play. To clean golf or tennis balls in the dishwasher, pop them into the utensil caddy or a zippered mesh bag on the top rack.
- Sports shin guards and knee pads. Sports gear gets pretty smelly and grimy over time, and dirty equipment increases the risk of infection. If you don’t want to toss them in the washing machine, you can clean shin guards and knee pads in the top rack of the dishwasher. Place other items on their edges to keep them from flipping over or tuck them into a mesh bag.
- Grill tools, grates, and silicone grill gloves. If you’re an avid outdoor cook, you know that soot and oils quickly accumulate on grilling gear and can lead to dangerous flareups. Use your dishwasher to clean grill tools and silicone grilling gloves on the top rack or the utensil caddy. Grill grates should go on the bottom shelf, but be sure they don’t interfere with the spinning spray arm.
House Cleaning Equipment
The stuff you use to clean the house needs cleaning, too. Wash the items below in your dishwasher at least once a month, or any time they look dirty.
- Dustpans and small plastic brooms. Using a dirty dustpan or broom spreads more dirt around. As long as they don’t have wood parts, you can clean them on the top rack.
- Vacuum attachments. Put grimy crevice and upholstery attachments on the top rack or in the utensil caddy. You can do this with vacuum dust brush attachments, too, as long as their bristles are synthetic. (Here’s how to clean the rest of your vacuum.)
- Spray bottles. Some cleaning ingredients are dangerous to mix, even if it’s just a few drops. Pop the bottles over a prong in the top rack and stick the sprayers in the utensil caddy to clean them in your dishwasher before reuse.
- Cleaning caddies and buckets. Whether you store your cleaning materials in a caddy or combine them in a bucket, you’ll want to give these an occasional good cleaning. Wash them on the bottom rack.
Clothing and Shoes
Your dishwasher isn’t a substitute for a washing machine since it doesn’t agitate clothes or thoroughly rinse them. But it can get a few pieces of apparel clean, though not at the same time as your dishes.
- Baseball hats. The rim inside ball caps gets pretty grimy, but you can clean them in the dishwasher easily. Put the hat on the top rack and run a gentle or quick cycle. Place the cap over a bowl to air dry. (Be sure your dishwasher detergent doesn’t contain bleach, or the hat will fade.)
- Plastic or vinyl shoes, unlined rain boots, Crocs, and flip flops. Summer shoes look grungy after just a few wears. Clean them in the top rack of your dishwasher on a quick or gentle cycle using your usual detergent. Remove them to air dry.
If you don’t want to wash knickknacks items by hand, you may be able to clean them in the dishwasher. Since these aren’t bacteria-laden, you can do them when you’re washing dishes, too.
- Some artificial plants or flowers. Plastic flowers and plants clean up quickly in the top rack of the dishwasher when you’re running a quick or gentle cycle. Remove them before the heating cycle and give them a good shake then let them air dry. (Here’s how to clean fake plants made of silk or other materials besides plastic.)
- Desk accessories. Wash inboxes, pencil holders, paperweights, and mail spikes made of metal or plastic on the top rack of your dishwasher using a quick or gentle cycle. Towel dry.
- Flower vases. Hand-washing alone isn’t enough to kill the bacteria that develops in flower vases. Run glass, plastic, or metal vases through the dishwasher to get them truly clean. Do not do this with purely decorative vases or those with glued-on embellishments.
Car and Automotive Items
While following these steps to clean your car’s interior like a pro, let your dishwasher tackle a few things before you head to the carwash to get the exterior spotless.
- Car hubcaps. Get road dirt, dead bugs, and other grime off your chrome hubcaps by running them in the dishwasher on the bottom rack. Fill your dishwasher’s rinse aid compartment beforehand if you want them to come out sparkly clean and spot-free.
- Removable cup holders. If your cupholders pop out, tuck them on the top rack to get them clean.
- Rubber floor mats. Shake off any excess dirt, then drape your rubber car mats in the top rack, and they’ll come out looking like new. For carpeted mats, though, your washing machine works better.
Other Stuff Around the House
Getting the little stuff spotless is part of Spring Cleaning, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to do it all by hand. You can slip most of the things below into your dishwasher while doing the dishes, or run them as a separate load.
- Glass or plastic light fixture globes. Dump out any dead bugs or debris you find, then put it on the top rack. Be sure other items in the dishwasher aren’t going to bang against the light cover, though. They’re not as sturdy as drinkware.
- Light switch and outlet covers. If you can’t get plastic switchplate or outlet covers clean by hand, you probably can by placing them in the top rack of your dishwasher. (Not for covers that are hand-painted or have added decorative embellishments.)
- Cabinet and drawer pulls. Grimy cupboard or drawer hardware is no match for your dishwasher. As long as they’re not vintage or hand-painted, you can clean them in the dishwasher’s utensil basket, or tuck them into a dishwasher-safe zippered mesh bag on the top rack. (Don’t wash the screws, though.)
- Some ceiling fan blades. If your ceiling fan has plastic or vinyl blades, you can get them spotless in the top rack of your dishwasher on a quick cycle. Remove them to air dry and reattach. (Don’t do this with wood blades.)
- Most air vent covers. Cold air return covers, as well as floor and wall vent covers, all collect a lot of dust and grime. If they’re unlacquered or unpainted metal or plastic, you can wash them on the top rack of your dishwasher.
- Window screens. Breezes blowing through dirty screens add more dust to your home. Wash them in your dishwasher on the quick or gentle cycle. If you can remove the top rack, you can clean several at once! Remove them to air dry.
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