22 Unexpected Things to Wash in the Dishwasher

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The dishwasher can be a homemaker’s greatest convenience for cleaning and sterilizing if you are willing to think outside the box.  Gone are the days of hand washing and scrubbing!  Placing items in the dishwasher which you wouldn’t normally find there will free up your time while cleaning items more effectively than by hand.  We get questions all the time about which items are safe to wash in the dishwasher.

Keep in mind that a dishwasher’s water temperature must reach 155° F to kill bacteria, so crank the water to hot (many dishwashers have a “sterilization mode” or cycle, which is necessary to ensure the water is heated high enough to kill bacteria).  Run a full load whenever possible to minimize the energy impact on your utility bill.

Small items can be washed in the dishwasher, as long as corralled into handy dishwasher-safe cages and baskets to keep them from flying around during the wash cycle.  Anything made of plastic should go on the top rack to reduce chance of damage.  Plastic (and some other) items that don’t specify “dishwasher safe” on their packaging should be washed the first time with an experimental mindset; some will come out just fine, while some will melt from the heat.  Unfortunately, there is no way around this trial and error approach!

If you can’t get on board with the idea of washing some of the listed items with your regular dishes, simply run them as a separate load.

From the most commonplace household item to the truly bizarre, we’re proud to present:

22 Unusual Things to Wash in the Dishwasher

1.  Kids’ toys. Germophobes everywhere swear by this method of sanitizing baby toys and teethers (including yours truly)  in the dishwasher.

2.  Hairbrushes, barrettes, scrunchies and hair ties. Dirt and oil, as well as residue from hair products, can build up on combs, brushes and hair accessories.  The top rack of the dishwasher is the safest place for these hair tools.

3.  Garden tools. Top rack only for plastic-handled tools.

4.  Baby bottle brushes, scrub brushes, vegetable brushes. Ensure the bacteria hiding in your kitchen brushes is eliminated by sanitizing them in the dishwasher.  As with all plastics, it takes trial and error to make sure the material used is safe for the dishwasher; wash only one of each type at a time until you establish their safety.

5.  Baseball hats. Get them clean and looking as good as new by washing in the top rack of the dishwasher.  There are even cool plastic cap holders for the dishwasher available to protect their shape!

6.  Toothbrushes. Make sure that plaque germs don’t get back into your mouth by way of the toothbrush.  Sterilize in the top rack.

7.  Pet toys. Eliminate pet saliva and dirt periodically with a nice toy wash in the dishwasher (no, you don’t have to wash them in the same load with your dishes!).

8. Faux flowers. No more dusting floral arrangements – wash them in the dishwasher on a light wash setting instead!

9.  Kitchen sponges. Kill the germs instead of spreading them around.  Sponges can handle 2-3 hot dishwasher cycles before they start to break up.

10.  Makeup brushes. Dirt and oil from skin can cling to bristles; sterilize every 2-3 months, depending on frequency of use.

11.  Shoes (including athletic shoes, sandals, jelly shoes, crocs, and rubber boots).

12.  Plastic broom heads and dustpans. Unscrew the head from your broom handle and kiss the germs goodbye.  Top rack placement is recommended to protect the plastic.

13.  Keyboards. This how-to article directs washing a keyboard in the dishwasher (be warned: there is some swearing in the linked article).

14.  Cages of fans. Completely dismantled (read: no electrical pieces and/or cords!), the front and back cages, as well as removable fan blades, can be washed in a dishwasher to get rid of dirt and grime that clings from the air.

15.  Tooth brush holders. Toothpaste and minerals from water can build up on your accessories; wash in the dishwasher from time to time to prevent build-up.

16.  Refrigerator shelving. Most modern refrigerator shelving is designed to be dishwasher safe (older appliances are likely not).  If in doubt, only wash one shelf to ascertain its dishwasher-safeness.  Removal of the top dishwasher rack may be necessary to fit shelves in properly.

17.  Soap dishes. Soap buildup can be hard to remove (seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?!).  Dishwashers can have soap dishes looking brand new in no time.

18.  Pen holders. Ink from leaky pens can pool up in the bottom of pen jars and cups.  A thorough washing may not remove the ink stains, but will prevent the spread of gummy ink to your pens and papers.

19.  Cup holder inserts from your car. Many cars now have removable cup holders that are dishwasher safe (thanks go out to Chrysler/Dodge for pioneering this feature for busy moms on the go).  No more sticky cup holders!

20.  Glass globe covers for light fixtures (don’t use a heavy wash setting).  The top rack of the dishwasher is safest for these.  You can even “wedge” them into place with sponges against the rack to keep fixtures from possibly moving or breaking.

21.  Cooking foods. No this one isn’t a joke!  People have honestly cooked meals in their dishwashers.  It works because of the containment of extreme heat and steam, causing convection of sorts.  Lasagne has been cooked in the dishwasher with success; so has fish (general) and salmon with cilantro.

22.  Trash can lids and trash cans. Take out the top rack to fit a small to medium sized garbage can in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning.

If you found this article useful, please help support our site by linking to it on your blog!   Thank you!  Read our other fun kitchen tips.

22 Unexpected Things to Wash in the Dishwasher was originally published July 16, 2008. Photos by plindberg, anamoly23, abbybatchelder.

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