There are quite a few things you can clean 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).
Things You Can Clean in a Dishwasher
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 dish washing.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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).
10. 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.
11. 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).
12. 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.
13. Dust pans
Run a dust pan through on the top rack, in a separate load from plates you eat on.
14. Light fixture globes
Glass and acrylic light fixture globes can be run through a delicate cycle, without a drying cycle.
15. Baseball caps and visors
Plastic hats will clean up with a wash on the top rack. Wash them in a separate cycle from your dishes and use borax instead of dish detergent. You may need to reshape the hats a little while they dry.
16. Fans – any removable plastic bits
The cage and blades of a fan get disgusting over time. Remove those parts and put them through a regular cycle on the top rack. Do NOT include any electrical cords or parts as they won’t dry out and could shock you when you plug them in.
17. Golf balls
Toss them in with the dishes, in a dishwasher basket so they can’t bang into the rest of your load.
18. 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 spices back in.
19. Pet door flaps
Remove that pet flap from your door and throw it in the dishwasher for a good cleaning.
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.
21. Sports equipment
Shin guards and other plastic sports equipment can be run through a dishwasher on a normal cycle. Skip the dry cycle.
22. 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.
23. Fridge shelves
Many fridge shelves can be put in the dishwasher to wash. You may need to pull out the top rack to fit them in.
24. Vent covers
You know those metal plates that cover a central air or furnace shaft? Unscrew them from the wall and run them through a normal cycle.
You can clean potatoes on a quick rinse cycle without detergent. This is probably a waste of water and electricity compared to doing it by hand unless you’re doing dishes, too.
26. Vacuum cleaner attachments
Run them through on a normal cycle if they’re gunky.
27. Hub caps
Make them look shiny and new by putting them through a normal cycle.
NOTE: It used to be safe to wash computer keyboards in the dishwasher, but modern ones have more circuitry than the older ones, and circuits don’t do well in water. We now recommend against washing keyboards in the dishwasher!