The Secret Life of Dishwashers |

The Secret Life of Dishwashers

By E.C. Bristol

You depend on it to scrub your plates, glasses, pots, pans, and utensils, but your dishwasher has a whole other personality. Use it to get the grime off 11 surprising household items.


First consider the material of the item. Many metals, hard plastics, and silicone pieces are okay, but never put anything that’s fragile, wooden, insulated, or containing an electrical element in a dishwasher. Fine mesh bags (the type used for delicates in a washing machine) will keep smaller elements from becoming lost in the bottom of the machine.


Choose the right rack and setting. The lower rack is much hotter than the upper, and although you can use it for large, sturdy items, most things will go on top. You can use the utensil bins to corral small, sturdy objects. In most cases you’ll want to turn off the machine’s heated-dry option.


Depending on what you’ve washed, you’ll probably want to clean the filter before doing the next load of dishes. Then run a cycle with a dishwasher cleaner such as Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner or Cascade Platinum cleaner pods.

Baseball caps
Only attempt with caps that do not have a cardboard stiffener in the brim, and never put a vintage or keepsake cap in the dishwasher. For all
others, prep the cap by placing it on the top rack, using the pegs and clothespins to hold the shape. Set the cycle for warm and turn off the heated dry option. Re-shape and air-dry.
Wash with a load of dishes? No.

clean flip flops in dishwasher

Flip flops
Unless they have fabric or leather components, rinse off any loose dirt or grime and place these on the top rack, selecting a non-heat setting. As with baseball caps, turn off the heated-dry option and allow to air-dry. Crocs and
rainboots (lay them down horizontally) can also be washed in the top rack.
Wash with a load of dishes? No.

Kitchen sponges and plastic scrubbers
Your dishwasher is the best way to clean these grime collectors, eliminating almost 100% of bacteria if set at the longest, hottest cycle. Toss them into the top rack when doing a regular load of dishes. Scrub brushes and wands,
as long as they do not have wooden handles, can go in the utensil bin.
Wash with a load of dishes? Yes.

clean shower puffs in dishwasher

The multiple jets of a dishwasher are an efficient way to get rid of bacteria that hides in the folds. As with sponges, place them on the top rack and run the dishwasher on the longest, hottest cycle available.
Wash with a load of dishes? No.

clean dog dish in dishwasher

Pet dishes
Unless there’s a baby in the house (or someone with a compromised immune system), put your pets’ food and water bowls in with your regular load to prevent bacteria growth.
Wash with a load of dishes? Yes.

Plastic hair brushes and combs
Remove hair from the brush, using a comb to coax out every last strand. (Otherwise the hair will clog up the drain.) Place the brush and de-haired comb in the utensil bin.
Wash with a load of dishes? No.

Clean baby toys in dishwasher

Rubber and plastic kids’ toys
No electronics, of course, but most kids’ and pets’ toys can take a light wash cycle, placed on the top rack. Use a mesh bag to keep small pieces (plastic figurines, play foods) from falling into the machine’s nether regions, and avoid the heated dry option, to avoid melting.

Teething rings can also be cleaned in your dishwasher, placed in a mesh bag on the top rack. Wash with a load of dishes? No for toys, yes for
teething rings.

Shower caddies & soap dishes
Get rid of gunk and residue by placing them on the top rack and running a cycle with detergent. Wash with a load of dishes? No.

Silicone oven mitts and heat pads
Toss them in with your dishes whenever they’re looking grimy.
Wash with a load of dishes? Yes.

If the key-ring is meta or plastic, just loop it over one of the top-rack pegs. Be sure to remove any electric keys! Wash with a load of dishes? Yes.

Golf balls
Rinse off any caked-on mud and grass, then grab one of your mesh bags, load it up with golf balls, and place it on the bottom rack. You can use a hot wash and dry setting, as well. Wash with a load of dishes? No.

For more summer tips, check out the complete HOME Summer 2022

e-edition here.

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