I'll be the first to admit that I hate handwashing dishes. There's just something about the scrubbing, rinsing, and drying process that I don't have the patience for. If I can save a few minutes of time (not to mention water and money) by sticking my plate in the dishwasher instead, I'll do it in a heartbeat. So a recent discovery that my dishwasher's cleaning capabilities go beyond dishes was ground-breaking for me. There are actually tons of surprising things you can clean in your dishwasher, which means I can avoid handwashing even more household items (win!).
I reached out to a few experts, including Adam Hofmann, director of engineering for dishwasher advanced systems at GE Appliances, to learn more about what I can (and cannot) wash in my dishwasher. He advises against getting too adventurous, noting that items like electrical appliances, greasy car parts, and shoes typically shouldn't go in the dishwasher. "Plastic rated for dishwasher use, ceramic, metal, and glass items are the categories of items recommended for use in a dishwasher," he says.
Deciding which plastic items can go in your dishwasher requires a little forethought, as the high heat can damage some materials. "It's essential to research the types of plastics you place in the machine to avoid items melting or releasing toxins as a result of long-term exposure to high temperatures," says Max Appel, the founder of Powerizer Complete, an all-purpose detergent. When in doubt, look for the dishwasher-safe icon on the bottom of the item or in the manufacturer's instructions.
With those precautions in mind, there are plenty of dishwasher-safe items outside your kitchen cabinets that could use a good cleaning. But if you wash anything particularly grimy or gross, you may want to do it separately and run a sanitation cycle before your next load of dishes. Here are 16 things you can clean in your dishwasher, along with tips on how to get the best results.
1. Phone cases: Silicone, rubber, and plastic phone cases are generally dishwasher-safe. However, cases with multiple glued-on pieces may come apart in the dishwasher, so use caution. Remove the case from your device and place it on its side on the top rack.
2. Dog toys: Run rubber, nylon, and hard plastic dog toys through the dishwasher to kill bacteria and germs. Check the manufacturer's instructions beforehand to ensure it's dishwasher-safe.
3. Stand-mixer parts: Mixer bowls and many of the attachments (such as beaters and stainless-steel whips) are dishwasher-safe. Remove the attachments and place them in the top rack of your dishwasher.
4. Baseball caps: Pre-treat stains (such as sweat around the cap's interior rim) with a stain remover spray before washing in the dishwasher. Place hats on the top rack so they keep their shape.
5. Kids toys: Many plastic baby and kids toys are labeled as dishwasher-safe. It's best to put plastic in the top rack, which is farther away from the heat source, says Allison Gillespie, senior brand manager for Maytag. Place smaller pieces (such as Lego building blocks) in a mesh bag to prevent them from moving around during the wash.
6. Microwave turntable: Remove the turntable from the microwave and load it like a plate in the dishwasher's lower rack.
7. Mouthguards and baby teething guards: Sanitize sports mouthguards or baby teething guards by washing them in the dishwasher. Place them in the silverware caddy so they stay in place.
8. Dustpans: Wash dirty dustpans by loading them like a plate in the dishwasher. "Load items at an angle with dirty surfaces facing down, so they are sprayed directly," Gillespie says.
9. Vacuum attachments: Many vacuum attachments, including brushes and detachable filters, can be cleaned in the dishwasher. If space allows, stand the attachments up in the top rack. Place larger attachments on the lower rack or lay them on the top rack horizontally. Rinse filters before loading them in the lower rack standing up.
10. Grill grates: You should scrape off your grill grates after each use, but an occasional deep clean is helpful, too. Once the grates are cool, scrape off stuck-on food and char before placing them in the dishwasher. It's important to note, however, that cast-iron grates and specialized grilling equipment shouldn't go in the dishwasher.
11. Oven mitts: Silicone oven mitts and pot holders can go in the dishwasher on the top rack.
12. Rubber bath mats: Quickly sanitize your rubber mat in the dishwasher. Appel recommends weaving it around the vertical pegs of the top rack like an accordion, which helps ensure maximum exposure to all surfaces. If the water hasn't thoroughly drained from the mat after the cycle, dump out any excess water that may be trapped in the crevices.
13. Faux flowers: To easily remove dust from plastic synthetic flowers, lay them horizontally on the top rack before running a regular dishwasher cycle.
14. Workout gloves: Stand gloves up on the top rack, placing at least one finger over a vertical peg to keep it upright during the cycle.
15. Manicure and pedicure tools: Metal nail files, clippers, and other manicure and pedicure tools can be washed like silverware in the dishwasher's utensil caddy. For small tools that would slip through the holes in the bottom, Appel suggests placing a jar cap on the bottom of the compartment before loading the tools.
16. Slides and flip-flops: Although sneakers and boots typically shouldn't go through the dishwasher, rubber slides and flip-flops are fair game. Load them on their sides like plates.