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Seventeen Surprising Uses for the Dishwasher

Cleaning is a real pain in the neck. It’s a never-ending cycle that dries out my hands and strains my back, and I’m always looking for the latest shortcut to cut down the amount of time I spend scrubbing and sweeping. I was surprised to learn that there’s an overabundance of unconventional items that can be cleaned in the dishwasher. While most people cringe at the thought of washing sweaty shoes with forks, it’s actually extremely hygienic as the heat and soap of the dishwasher kill any lingering bacteria. Though most of us use this appliance solely for washing dishes, that spray of hot water with soap can be used to clean so much more. 

1. 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. 

2. 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. 

3. 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 …) 

4. Garden Tools
Shovels, shears, pruners, and hoes are meant to get dirty. However, a routine cleaning will ensure your garden tools last a lifetime. 

5. 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. 

6. Flip Flops, Wellies, and Crocs
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. 

7. Hubcaps and Wheel Covers
Forget ruining your manicure scrubbing away at road grime and tire oil. Run your hubcaps and wheel covers in the dishwasher on the pots-and-pans cycle for shiny rims. 

8. 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.) 

9. Shin Guards and Knee Pads
Sports equipment gets sweaty and smelly fast. They too can lose shape in the washing machine. Throw them in with your dishwasher for a reek-free game. 

10. 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.

11. Hair Accessories
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. 

12. Toothbrushes
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. 

13. 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. 

14. Light Fixture 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. 

15. 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. 

16. 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. 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. 

It’s best to rinse your dishwasher out with baking soda every few months (even if you’re not using it to clean your shin guards) to ensure your washer stays germ- and bacteria-free. Also, for most of these items, especially the clothing-related ones, it’s best to wash them separately and not with your regular dishes. While I probably won’t use my dishwasher for scrubbing potatoes or cleaning my electronics, it’s always handy to have an extra device around for getting things spic and span.

 Updated October 22, 2010