There are quite a few things you can wash in a dishwasher besides dishes and kitchen ware. This means that in many cases, you can combine some cleaning jobs with your regular dishwashing, saving you time and money on your water and electricity or gas bill. The dishwasher can also give a really thorough cleaning to some gunky items around the house that might defy your elbow grease.
Not all of these items can or should be washed alongside your dishes or pots and pans. I’ve noted which ones need a separate load. Keep in mind that a separate load actually means you’re using more water and electricity/gas than you normally would. Sometimes it’s more frugal to clean these items by hand, using a very thin stream of very hot water and a brush, or hosing them off while you simultaneously water some outdoor plants. Of course, sometimes even if a job’s going to use some extra water and electricity, it’s still worth it to get things clean (and most of those items are not things you would wash more than once or twice a year).
Dishwasher safe items
- Ziploc bags. A trip through the dishwasher will give used Ziploc bags a good cleaning. Just make sure you spread the bag open on some prongs, so the water gets down in it completely.
- Bathroom wastebaskets. Bathroom waste baskets can collect some nasty gunk over time. Fit them into the dishwasher (you may need to remove the top rack) and run them through a normal cycle.
- Plastic or glass art stuff. Your paint mixing cups or brush-rinsing jars should do just fine in the dishwasher. If you don’t clean these items regularly, scraping off the crud by hand can be an awful job. Scrape off any big, dried chunks first (the ones that come off easily) to avoid gumming up the works in the dishwasher.
- Plastic Hair Brushes, Combs, headbands, barrettes, etc. These items can get gunky from hair oils and product over time. Pull any strands of hair out of them, then put them in a dishwasher basket on the top rack and run them through a typical cycle. Please note: only do this with plastic a metal items. No wood handles and no natural brush fibers.
- Pet dishes. It’s actually recommended by vets to run pet dishes through a dishwasher at least occasionally, to prevent them growing bacteria which can make pets sick. You can do this alongside people dishes, unless you have a baby and/or a family member with immune system problems – in that case, you’d want to run them separately on the sanitizing cycle.
- Soap dishes, toothbrush holders, other bathroom items. Personal care items that get gunky or filmy over time can be run through a normal cycle on the top rack, along with your other dishes on a routine dishwashing.
- Metal fixtures. Put clogged shower heads, grungy faucets and similar gunky items through a pots and pans cycle on the top rack, along with your regular pots and pans.
- Sponges and dish brushes. Along with a regular dishwashing on a normal cycle, throw in your sponges and brushes for dishes to give them a thorough cleaning and, in the case of the sponges, remove the bacteria so they’ll be safe to use until they start falling apart.
- Gardening tools. Wash plastic-handled (no wood!) trowels and other small gardening tools on the top rack, in a separate load (just in case they have traces of fertilizer and other stuff you don’t want getting onto your dishes).
- Plastic baby toys. Teething rings and other plastic toys babies put in their mouths deserve a good cleaning. Put them in the dishwasher basket or in a mesh bag on the top rack and wash them along with the regular dishes.
- Fake plastic flowers. Run them through on a normal cycle to restore their original luster. Make sure every part of the fake plant is plastic – sometimes they have paper stems (but you may be able to pop the plastic petal part off, wash it, and pop it right back on).
- Microwave trays, drip pans, etc. Use a normal cycle to clean the tray from your microwave, your drip pans and any other metal grease-collecting objects that could use their shine restored.
- Dust pans. Dust pans collect bacteria over time, and that gets on your broom, so you’re cleaning your floor with icky stuff. Run a dust pan through on the top rack, in a separate load from plates you eat on.
- Keyboards. You can actually wash a computer keyboard in the dishwasher. This is a great idea if, like me, you tend to munch snacks over your keyboard.
- Light fixture globes. Glass and acrylic light fixture globes can be run through a delicate cycle, without a drying cycle.
- Baseball caps and visors. Plastic hats will benefit from a wash on the top rack, in a separate cycle from your usual dishwashing, with borax instead of dish detergent. You may need to reshape the hats a little while you set them somewhere to dry.
- Fans – any removable plastic bits. The cage and blades of a fan gets incredibly disgusting over time. Remove it and any removable fan blades and put them through a regular cycle on the top rack on a separate load from dishes (this may be slightly paranoid, but I can’t stand the idea of that gunk getting on the dishes, even though I know the gunk is in the air). Do NOT include any electrical cords or parts that could contain electrical bits, as they will not dry out and you could get shocked badly if you turn on a fan with water in the motor.
- Golf balls. Toss them in with the dishes, in a dishwasher basket so they can’t bang into the rest of your load and break things.
- Spice and condiment containers. Empty your spice containers once in a while, and run them through a regular cycle. Be sure they’re completely dry before you put the dry ingredients back in.
- Pet door flaps. Remove that pet flap that lets your pet come in and out of the house and throw it in the dishwasher now and then for a good cleaning.
- Shoes. Sneakers, crocs and sandals can generally be run through the dishwasher. Avoid putting shoes with suede, leather or wood parts into the dishwasher, as they can shrink and/or crack.
- Sports equipment. Shin guards and other plastic sports equipment can be run through a dishwasher on a normal cycle. Skip the dry cycle.
- Removable car cup holders. Or any other plastic removable bits from a car can be run through on a normal cycle, as part of a normal load.
- Fridge shelves. Many fridge shelves can be put in the dishwasher to wash, though you may need to pull out the top rack to fit them in.
- Vent covers. Those metal plates that cover a central air or furnace shaft in your home can be unscrewed from the wall and run through a normal cycle.
- Potatoes. You can clean potatoes on a quick rinse cycle without detergent. This is probably a complete waste of water and electricity compared to doing it the hard way, but it’s a good time saver when you’re in a rush.
- Vacuum cleaner attachments. Run them through on a normal cycle if they’ve developed gunk.
Someone left this in comments, and it very nearly went in the spam folder (we get a lot of spam where people are just trying to hawk their products). But this is so cool, I’m adding it to the post. WashyWonder gives you a way to wash plastic storage bags and make sure they get clean and can be re-used safely – as many as 25-30 times. The product is basically plastic sticks that fit into the dishwasher and keep plastic bags open so they can’t avoid getting cleaned on the inside. They’re not cheap, but the reuse of the bags should pay for it over time. Plus, those bags are not recyclable in many (any?) areas, so you’re keeping a little more trash out of the landfill.