29 October 2009

Fun uses for your dishwasher

I always feel like I'm derelict in my duties when I do a non-design post like my PSA on the flu this morning. So here's a topical quickie, stolen shamelessly from the pages of Real Simple magazine's website. I rarely have any use for that magazine or the idea that I need to pay someone to tell me to get rid of all my crap so I can replace it with more crap that costs more money but takes up less space. Why not just get rid of my crap and not replace it with anything? Hmmmm. Anyhow, here's their list of  dishwasher fun facts.

You Can Put These in the Dishwasher

Baseball caps can get bent in the washing machine but hold their shape in the dishwasher. Don’t wash them with dishes; food can get trapped in the fabric.

Action figures and other small toys can ride in a mesh lingerie bag on the top rack (but don’t wash Barbie or she’ll have a horrible hair day).

Rain boots should have the liners removed and lie horizontally. Hook flip-flops on tines in the top rack.  (FYI, Crocs are not dishwasher-safe.) [editor's note: that should matter because none of my readers own something called "Crocs"]

Tools with metal or plastic handles will be fine. Towel-dry afterward to prevent rusting.

Ceramic cabinet knobs do well in the silverware basket, so if you feel like embarking on the process (remove, wash, replace), go for it.

Hairbrushes and combs made of plastic can take a spin, but not wood or natural boar-bristle brushes. Be sure to remove all the hair first to protect the drain.

Fan grilles, switch plates, and vent covers are in if they’re plastic, aluminum, or steel. Enameled, painted, or plated should stay out.

Shin guards, knee pads, and mouth guards―toss them all into the top rack.

Light-fixture covers are fine in the top rack, as long as they’re not antique, enameled, or painted.

Garden tools may have come in contact with pesticides or animals, so don’t mix them with a load of dishes. (And don’t wash those with wood handles.)

Potatoes can get nice and clean in the top rack with a rinse-only cycle (no detergent). Sound crazy? It makes mashed potatoes for 20 a lot quicker.

Things You Thought Could Go in the Dishwasher But Really Shouldn't

Cast-iron, enameled-cast-iron, and copper pots and pans are on the never list. Why? Cast iron rusts; enameled cast iron chips; copper dents.

Formal dishes and nice flatware can get worn with repeated washings. Rule of thumb: If it’s something you would cry over harming or losing, don’t put it in. (If you do put sterling silver in the dishwasher, use about a tablespoon of detergent and don’t mix it with stainless-steel flatware; a chemical reaction between the metals can discolor the silver.)

Wooden spoons can warp and crack. If you don’t mind replacing them frequently, throw them in; otherwise wash them in the sink.

Good kitchen knives and steak knives aren’t cheap. Why risk dulling their blades?

Crystal glasses are especially vulnerable. Food particles can etch them; heat can cause cracks. After hand washing (it’s usually safer than using the china/crystal setting), dry with a cloth that hasn’t been laundered with fabric softener, which can leave a film.

Insulated mugs and containers feature vacuum seals, which can be destroyed if water seeps in.

Brass items should never see the inside of a dishwasher. Hot water can remove the natural protective layer that forms on brass.

Wooden cutting boards can swell and contract, leaving them teetery and essentially useless on a counter. Most bamboo boards are susceptible, too.

Technically Acceptable for the Dishwasher...But Too Questionable for Us to Endorse

Broom Ends (and Dust Pans, Scrub Brushes, and Vacuum Attachments)
Why you would: It’s the only way to get them clean.
Why we wouldn't: Ick.
If you're so inclined: Shake loose dust into the trash first, says Shannon Lowe, the Tulsa-based author of the blog rocksinmydryer.typepad.com. Stick brushes and attachments in the silverware basket and broom ends and dust pans on top.

Computer Keyboards
Why you would: Because you spilled coffee on it. A crazy, last-resort attempt to save something that may be ruined, but some techies swear by it. Terry Jarrard, a computer programmer in Collinsville, Oklahoma, has washed his keyboards “at least a half-dozen times and never had a problem.”
Why we wouldn't: We don’t believe in Santa Claus or unicorns, either.
If you're so inclined: Place the keyboard facedown on the top rack, don’t use detergent, and skip the drying cycle. Afterward, unscrew the back, if possible, or pop off the keys (take a picture beforehand so you remember where they go). Air-dry two to five days. Pray the Computer Fairy is looking down on you, then reassemble.

Why you would: Because it’s an Internet cliché that happens to work. Impress friends! Make kids laugh!
Why we wouldn't: Our food editors tested this “recipe,” and though the fish did cook, the dishwasher reeked afterward (shocker). Plus, you’re actually cooking the salmon with your crusty dishes and coffee-stained mugs.


  1. I'm surprised that they haven't added 'dentures'.
    Before you ask, no I haven't and no I don't have any !

  2. What a great idea! Thanks for checking in from Luxembourg. Oh! From the sound of things, I will be in Italy again in the beginning of summer this year. If the stars align I will make it back down to Positano. I'm telling you, just the thought of it warms my heart.

  3. All of the parts from my range that can come off and need cleaning like the knobs, burner covers and oven racks that will fit in the DW. BTW --Crocs are very useful in rainy climates. Both of my grown children (one lives in Southern Oregon) wear them as do their children. They even have decorative charms you can add to them (which probably don't go in the DW either.)

    Out of sheer laziness, I often wash cutting boards, wooden spoons and my pizza stone in the DW and have never had any problems even though I've been told not to.

    I like the idea for washing potatoes for a large crowd. Might come in handy with the holiday season upon us.

    After reading this, I wonder how many people consider that it is important to clean the dishwasher itself once in awhile.

  4. I love it! But honestly, you took my blog idea for off-label uses of dishwashers. I've been compiling ideas for a roundup. Had the potato one, but how about filling a dish drawer with ice to make a beverage cooler for entertaining? Great post!

  5. I do the same thing with cutting boards and wooden spoons. I'm always surprised by how few people actually clean out their dishwashers. It doesn't take much to rinse out the gunk screens at the bottom of one at the very least.

  6. All I did was steal Real Simple's. Have at it! One that gets overlooked a lot is the ability of a dishwasher to sanitize kids' toys. With flu season upon us, it a good thing to know.

  7. I throw teething rings and small plastic toys into a delicates bag and put them on the top rack. They come out nice and clean! You can do the same with dog toys -- but not at the same time. :)

  8. Angela, welcome to Kitchen and Residential design and thanks for your comment. I just read your profile and I have to tell you that "A Journey into Michaelangelo's Rome" sounds like an amazing work. If it involves the great city of Roma, I am all about it. Send me a link to your book!

  9. Good lord, I'd have never thought of most of these! Particularly cooking salmon that way. Who on earth comes up with this stuff?


  10. I'd like to know the answer to that one too Wendy. I'd imagine that a lot of it comes from the manufacturer's testing labs. Product developers and industrial engineers are a pretty fun bunch and I can imagine that they play around a lot with their creations. Marketing departments love to make hay from the engineers' hijinks.


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