Owning a dishwasher is life-changing. It saves hours of standing over the sink, subjecting your hands to hot water and harsh soaps. But you might not realize that your dishwasher can clean a whole lot more than dishes.
There are a number of household items that benefit from a deep cleaning in the dishwasher. “Placing items into the dishwasher guarantees you better results thanks to the stronger detergents these machines use,” said Niklas Fink, a team leader at the U.K.-based company Magic Pro Cleaning. “The heat, in combination with a half-an-hour cycle, is also great to kill off any bacteria.” Plus, he said, the dishwasher is better for the environment. Hand-washing can use up to 27 gallons of water per load, versus an Energy Star-certified dishwasher that uses as little as 3 gallons.
Here’s a look at the various items you should start cleaning in the dishwasher.
1. Children’s toys
From plastic blocks to bath toys, it’s a good idea to sanitize your kids’ playthings regularly. “Think about all the places your kid’s toys have been: in their mouth, on the floor, in the garden,” said Joanne Archer, an editor at Expert Home Tips. “As long as they don’t have any electrical components or places where water might get stuck, pop those plastic toys in the dishwasher.”
2. Toothbrushes, holders and soap dishes
Toothbrushes accumulate bacteria, while other bathroom accessories such as toothbrush holders and soap dishes can end up riddled with soap scum and mold. “Luckily, they’re typically made of plastic, porcelain or ceramic, so it’s safe to blast the grime away in the dishwasher,” Archer said.
3. Nail clippers and tools
Dead skin cells build up on your nail clippers, files and other manicure and pedicure tools, making your personal grooming kit less than sanitary. Archer suggested putting your tools in the cutlery basket, and they’ll be good as new.
4. Dog bowls, toys, leashes and collars
The dishwasher isn’t just for human dishes. If you have dogs (or any other pets, for that matter), you should be cleaning their bowls regularly. “Most pet owners don’t know that they can be the fourth germiest item in your home,” said Matt Clayton, founder and chief editor at Pet Hair Patrol. “A quick daily rinse with soap and water is often enough, but it’s even better if you can use your dishwasher for that purpose. Washing the bowl thoroughly in the dishwasher will remove any nasty bacteria like E. coli, MRSA, listeria and salmonella ― even mold and yeast.”
In addition to their bowls, you can also clean your pet’s rubber and plastic toys, as well as nonleather leashes and collars in the dishwasher. Just be sure to wash these items separately from your own dishes to prevent cross-contamination with bacteria from Fido’s mouth.
5. Pacifiers and teething rings
You want to keep your little ones healthy, which means sanitizing their pacifiers, teethers and anything else that goes in their mouths regularly. “Bacteria die in high temperatures, but neither can the tap provide such heat, nor will your hands be able to withstand it,” Fink said. “Your baby’s paraphernalia will get better cleaning in the dishwasher where the water can also come in contact with the various hard-to-reach places.”
Just think about all the grime and germs your keys probably collect throughout the day ― not to mention how often you touch them. The dishwasher is great for sanitizing keys (plain metal ones, not electronic key fobs), according to Fink. “Don’t be afraid of rust since most keys are made of brass, which means that they will not suffer any corrosion,” he said.
7. Humidifier parts
Humidifiers can build up mold, bacteria and other gunk around the water tank and components, so they need a deep cleaning every now and then. Fortunately, some humidifier manufacturers have made their parts and water tank dishwasher-safe to save time and energy cleaning them. Run these parts through a routine wash to rid them of any buildup. Just keep in mind that not all humidifiers are dishwasher-safe, so read the user manual first.
8. Baseball caps
One household item that can be cleaned very effectively in the dishwasher is hats, said Mindy Jones, a home and parenting blogger. “You can toss in your hats for a quick refresh, or an intense cleaning for those muddy kids sports hats.”
Place them in the top rack by themselves without any other dishes and hook the back strap to one of the pegs. You should use only a tiny amount of dish detergent or non-bleach cleaner such as Borax. Depending on the soil level, you can do a normal to heavy wash. “Let them air-dry and you have a fresh, new looking (and smelling) hat,” Jones said.
9. Fridge shelves and bins
Deep-cleaning the fridge can be a laborious task, but your dishwasher can help. The shelves and bins in your fridge can be easily removed and placed in the dishwasher. In fact, the glass shelves, plastic bins on the door and vegetable crispers can usually all fit into one load, though you may need to remove the top rack to make room. You can give the inside of your refrigerator a good scrub while you wait for the load to finish.
10. Trash cans
Over time, trash cans collect germs, grime and an unpleasant smell that’s difficult to get rid of. Thankfully, the dishwasher can help. “If your trash bins and cans are plastic or metal and they fit in the dishwasher, place them on the lower rack facing downwards,” said Natalie Barrett, service quality supervisor at Nifty Cleaning Services based in Sydney, Australia. For larger bins that don’t fit, you can still clean their germy lids in the dishwasher.
11. Silicone oven mitts
Oven mitts get a lot of use in the kitchen, which means they collect all types of filth and leftover food. Barrett said the dishwasher is great for getting silicone oven mitts sparkling clean again: “All you have to do is leave them on the top rack and let the magic happen.”
There are few things as frustrating as trying to clean clogged shower heads. Rather than wasting your time, Barrett suggested unscrewing the shower head and placing it on the top rack of your dishwasher, then running a regular cycle that you would normally use to wash your pots and pans. “There’s no problem to mix showerheads with other dishes as well,” she noted.
Shoes in the dishwasher? As long as they’re the only item being cleaned, the dishwasher is a great method for killing the dirt and bacteria lurking in rubber boots, Crocs and flip flops. “Simply place them on the upper shelf facing downwards to ensure that they remain protected and the water is safely removed from them during the washing,” Barrett said.
14. Hair brushes and accessories
Considering that combs and brushes regularly touch our heads, Fink said it’s a good idea to put them through the most effective cleaning method: a dishwasher cycle. Strip as much hair from the brush as possible, then place it in the silverware holder. If it’s made of plastic, you can place it in top rack to be safe. Don’t put anything with a wood handle in the dishwasher, however, as the hot water will damage it.
You can clean other hair accessories such as barrettes, headbands and hair ties in the dishwasher as well, as long as they’re made of dishwasher-safe materials. Keep them secure in the utensil holder or another container.
15. Microwave turntables
Between bubbling leftovers and the occasional spill, your microwave can get pretty grimy. But at least you don’t need to spend time washing its glass turntable by hand. “Normally, these glass plates are durable enough to be put on the bottom rack of the dishwasher,” Fink said. Go ahead and clean the turntable along with a regular load of dishes.
16. Home decor
Plenty of decor items in your home, such as vases and desk accessories, can go into the dishwasher too. “They gather dust easily, and a regular cycle can give them a good cleaning by removing the dust and any sticky grime,” said David Cusick, chief strategy officer for House Method. Again, stick to plain plastic, glass and metal, and avoid anything that’s delicate or could be harmed by the high heat and harsh detergents.
Note: HuffPost editors have updated this article to remove a section that was sourced to a website that, upon further review, raised editorial concerns about its credibility.