This amazing appliance has been preventing dishpan hands (and domestic disputes) for more than a century. Here are 10 unexpected ways to get your dishwasher doing double duty.
1. Sponges and dishcloths
Stop germs from thriving by frequently washing your kitchen scrubbers in the dishwasher. Secure sponges in the silverware basket so they don’t move around, and be sure to use the hottest setting possible.
2. Fan grilles and vent covers
Fans can get filthy. Place the grille in the dishwasher to remove hard-to-reach grime. Plastic and aluminum furnace vent covers can also be cleaned this way, but enamelled, plated or painted covers are handwash only.
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3. Cleaning tools
Plastic broom heads, dust pans, vacuum attachments and floor brushes can all go in. Remove excess dust and hair first to prevent a clog. Secure smaller items in a mesh laundry bag. Skip the dry cycle.
4. Plastic toys
Plastic toys like blocks and action figures can be run through a full cycle, even along with your dishes. To prevent them from flying all over the place, secure them in a mesh laundry bag on the top rack.
5. Pet stuff
Many pet toys are dishwasher-safe, and say so on the package. Run them through a regular cycle. (Don't wash rope toys or hides, as they won't fare well.)
6. Baseball caps
Secure your family’s caps to the top rack with rubber bands to keep them in place and run a cycle with no detergent. This will blast the germs lurking under the brim while preserving the hat’s shape.
7. Hair-care products
Plastic hairbrushes, headbands and combs can be cleaned the very same way. Remove any excess hair first so it doesn’t clog your drain. (Don’t try this with natural bristles or wooden handles; the water and heat can damage them.)
8. Canvas kicks, flip flops and rubber boots
Prevent footwear funk with a dishwasher cycle. Remove shoe liners first. Instead of detergent, add baking soda for extra freshness. Skip the dry cycle (let them air-dry). If the idea of washing stinky shoes and silverware in the same place makes you squeamish, run an empty cycle between loads.
9. Light fixtures
Sturdy glass globes can easily be placed on the top rack and run through a gentle cycle (skip the heat dry, though). Antique or delicate glass fixtures should always be washed by hand.
10. Sports gear
Knee pads and shin guards can go on the top rack. Some mouth guards can be cleaned in the silverware basket, but you should always check the package to be sure yours is dishwasher-safe.
A version of this article appeared in our January 2014 issue with the headline “All hail the dishwasher,” p. 57.