You Can Put These in the DishwasherBaseball caps can get bent in the washing machine but hold their shape in the dishwasher, especially inside a contraption like the Ball Cap Washer ($5, 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).
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.)
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'tCast-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. But we found one that uses a heat-resistant adhesive, making it dishwasher-safe: Totally Bamboo GreenLite collection, $11.50 to $40, totallybamboo.com.
Technically Acceptable for the Dishwasher...But Too Questionable for Us to EndorseBroom 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.
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.
If you're so inclined: Bob Blumer's Dishwasher Salmon