A friend recently told me that she and her boyfriend had a huge fight because he opened the dishwasher and found her flip-flops right next to his dinner plate. He was disgusted and shocked. My friend calmly explained to him that it’s actually completely hygienic as the heat and soap of the dishwasher kill any lingering bacteria. I’ll admit that I too was a bit taken aback by her unconventional use of the dishwasher at first, but after doing some research for myself, I was surprised to learn that there are many unconventional items that can be cleaned in the dishwasher and that there are some unique uses for the dishwasher itself. While I advise against washing your shoes with your forks (purely because of the grossness factor), there’s nothing wrong with using your washer instead of that nasty old sponge to clean pesky household objects.
1. Clean kids’ toys. From Legos to rubber duckies, all of your children’s toys can be run through your dishwasher to kill germs and bacteria. (There are some unimaginably nasty things growing on some of those GI Joes …)
2. Cook salmon. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, right? Place the salmon filets on two sheets of aluminum foil. Squeeze on some lemon juice and pat on a little butter. Seal the fish tightly in the foil and place the filets on the top rack. Do not add dishwashing soap. Set the dishwasher on the hottest wash and dry cycle, and let it run through a full cycle. When the cycle is complete, the fish will be cooked just right.
4. Wash baseball hats . Baseball hats can get extremely smelly. When run through the clothes washer, they lose their shape. However, placed on the top rack of your dishwasher they’ll come out stink-free and perfectly in shape.
5. Use it as storage space. I always struggle with where to store my Tupperware. It’s too oddly shaped to fit in a drawer and it takes up too much shelving space in the cupboard. For anyone in need of a little more kitchen-cabinet space, this is the perfect spot for storing your plastic containers.
6. Clean pets’ toys. Man’s best friend deserves a germ-free plastic hot dog to chomp on. Run your pet’s chew toys through the dishwasher to ensure your pet (and floor) have exemplary hygiene.
7. Sparkle up shoes. Your rubber shoes could probably use a good cleaning. Run a wash with a little baking soda added to clean your tootsie-wear and simultaneously get rid of any residual gunk in your dishwasher.
8. Degrease car parts. Forget ruining your manicure scrubbing away at road grime and tire oil on your hubcaps and wheel covers. Run your hubcaps and wheel covers in the dishwasher on the pots-and-pans cycle for shiny rims.
9. Shine up tools. Hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches get oily and rusty. Cycle them through the dishwasher to return them to their original shiny state. (Just remember to leave the electric ones behind.)
10. Freshen up sports gear. From shin guards to knee pads, sports equipment gets sweaty and smelly fast and can lose shape in the washing machine. Throw equipment in the dishwasher for a reek-free game.
11. Degerm your dustpan. Your dustpan is one of the dirtiest pieces of cleaning equipment in the house. Run it through the dishwasher to kill the all the germs and dust it collects.
12. Get the gunk off bobby pins and hair ties. From oily tresses to product overload, hair accessories need to be cleaned often. Run your combs, brushes, ties, barrettes, and hairpins through the dishwasher for gunk-free hair.
13. Give your toothbrush a good scrub. Toothbrushes are a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and viruses. While most dentists advise rinsing them with hot water on a daily basis, a weekly run through the dishwasher can ensure your teeth, gums, and mouth are receiving the best care possible.
14. Beautify your makeup brushes. Makeup brushes collect oils, product residue, and bacteria that can lead to clogged pores and acne. Run them through the dishwasher for clean brushes and clear skin.
15. Light covers.Light fixtures with glass covers tend to collect a large amount of dust. Remove the cover and run it through the wash to get some sneeze-free light. Just avoid any fixtures that are antique, enameled, or painted.
16. Scour refrigerator shelves. Refrigerators can get stinky, real quick. It’s laborious and tough to scrub each individual shelf and drawer. Throw them in the dishwasher to get them shiny and stank-free.
17. Resuscitate your keyboard. While I generally don’t advise doing this as electronics and water are far from a match made in heaven, if you spill a drink on your keyboard and it refuses to work, run it through the dishwasher and let it dry completely. Place your keyboard face down on the top rack, don’t use soap, and skip the dry cycle. After a few days of air drying and prayers to the keyboard gods, your keyboard should be up and running.
18. Get the funk out of kitchen sponges. I’ll never be able to explain why or what that revolting smell is in kitchen sponges after only a week of use. Instead of tossing them into the trash, though, throw them in with your dishes to get another week or two of use.
19. Wash Potatoes. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, right? But instead of standing over the sink scrubbing all morning on Thanksgiving, imagine how much easier making mashed potatoes will be if you just run your potatoes through the wash.
20. Spiff Up Your Garden Tools. Shovels, shears, pruners, and hoes are meant to get dirty. However, a routine cleaning will ensure your garden tools last a lifetime.
22. Make it a dish strainer. Many people who live alone or with one other roommate choose to simply hand wash dishes instead of using their dishwasher. In this case, the dishwasher makes an excellent storage space for air-drying dishes. Run a bit of bleach or baking soda through it every so often to keep it clean and fresh.
It’s best to rinse your dishwasher out with baking soda every few months (even if you’re not using it to clean your sports gear) to make sure your washer stays germ- and bacteria-free. While I probably won’t use my dishwasher for washing my baseball hat (I don’t have one) or cleaning my electronics, I might try poaching some salmon in it tonight.