Surprising Uses for Your Dishwasher
22 items you can put in a dishwasher, 13 you shouldn't, plus how to cook salmon in it.
Baseball caps can get bent in the washing machine but hold their shape in the dishwasher, especially inside a contraption like the Ball Cap Washer ($7.50, amazon.com). Don’t wash them with dishes; food can get trapped in the cloth.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. (But we found one that uses a heat-resistant adhesive, making it dishwasher-safe: Totally Bamboo GreenLite collection, $11.50 to $40, totallybamboo.com.)
Insulated mugs and containers feature vacuum seals, which can be destroyed if water seeps in.
Computer KeyboardsWhy 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.
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.
SalmonWhy 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.
If you're so inclined: Bob Blumer's Dishwasher Salmon Recipe.
Still curious? Learn more about The Secret Life of Your Dishwasher. Or see 14 Who-Knew? Uses for Your Microwave.