Sure, your dishwasher makes quick work of dirty plates and cups. But lots of other stuff will get squeaky-clean in there, too. “Dishwashers are real time-savers for cleaning many household and personal items,” says Liz Trotter, owner of American Maid Cleaning in Olympia, Washington. Read on to find out how you can save yourself some serious scrubbing. Photo by Thinkstock
1. Glass Globes from Light Fixtures
It’s amazing how much brighter a room will look after this cleaning task is checked off your to-do list. “Run these through on the top shelf and make sure there’s space between them because the glass is more fragile than what’s used for drinking glasses,” says Trotter. Use the delicate, china or crystal cycle if available, and skip the heated dry option. And to be safe, avoid washing antique or hand-painted globes or those with gold-leaf trim in the dishwasher.
2. Shower Heads and Faucet Handles
If your shower head is spraying sporadically from clogged holes or your faucet handles aren’t as shiny as they used to be, place these on the top rack and run the pots and pans cycle. It’s fine to run cookware through at the same time, so you’re not wasting a wash for these few items.
3. Plastic Hair Brushes, Combs, Clips and Barrettes
These personal care items get coated with hair products, but clean up well in the dishwasher, says Trotter. Remove all strands of hair, then corral everything in a mesh bag or dishwasher basket on the top rack. Run a normal cycle. One note: Don’t try this trick with wood-handled or natural bristle brushes because the water and heat can damage them.
4. Baseball Hats and Visors
“The dishwasher is a fantastic way to make sure hats keep their shapes,” says Linda Cobb, a cleaning expert who is also known as the Queen of Clean. Put hats on the top rack, head opening down, on a separate wash cycle from dishes because you can’t use dishwasher detergent (many contain bleaching agents). Instead, fill the detergent cup with borax, found in the supermarket laundry aisle. Run a regular cycle without the heated dry option, then place hat over a glass or jar to dry. Reshape brim while damp.
5. Plastic Toys
Small plastic items such as baby toys, teethers and action figures can get funky pretty fast. Toss them in a mesh bag or dishwasher basket and place on the top rack. “Wash these on a normal cycle along with your other dishes,” says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Cleaner.
6. Pet Bowls and Toys
It’s generally fine to load these with other dishes. “Wash them regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria that can make both you and your pet sick,” says Kimberly May, DVM, of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “But it’s prudent to run a separate load or use the sanitize cycle if you have a baby or a familymember with a suppressed immune system.” Most dishwasher-safe toys are labeled accordingly on the package or manufacturer’s website. However, if you’re not sure whether the material will hold up in the dishwasher, just to be safe, you can also soak toys in 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, and rinse well. Rope toys and rawhide chews can’t be cleaned; toss when icky.
7. Kitchen Dish Sponges and Brushes
Load these up at the same time you do the regular dishes, suggests Smallin. The top rack is usually the best place so you can stand them up or wedge between other items. Run through on a normal cycle.
8. Kitchen Appliance Parts
Once a week, load all of these into the dishwasher to make the whole kitchen seem shinier: chrome drip pans, enamel-coated gas grates and burner caps, fridge water dispenser grate, sink plugs, microwave tray and range hood grease filters. Use the normal washing cycle.
9. Butter Dishes, Sugar Bowls, Spoon Rests, and Salt and Pepper Shakers
“We handle all of these things every day, so they collect lots of grease and grime, which you may not even notice,” says Trotter. Periodically empty sugar, spice and condiments and wash these containers along with your regular loads. Once they are completely dry, you can refill them with the contents you set aside before washing.
10. Personal Care Items
Toothbrushes, toothbrush holders, goopy soap dishes, nail brushes, plastic makeup brushes and bathtub drain plugs all benefit from an occasional run through the dishwasher. Place on the top rack with smaller items tucked in a dishwasher basket, and wash on a normal cycle with your other dishes.