Dishwasher tablet hacks: 16 money-saving ways to clean with dish tabs

Bought too many tabs? These dishwasher tablet hacks are handy for when you've got a glut of cleaning capsules to hand

White and blue dishwasher tablets on bright yellow background
(Image credit: Olena Palaguta / Getty (#120172452))

Gone OTT in the cleaning aisle? You need these dishwasher tablet hacks. We're all familiar with the mighty power that these teeny tabs have when cleaning our crockery and cutlery, but did you know that they can be used elsewhere?

It's easy to be sucked in by a promotional offer, especially with the price of everything going up. In most cases, the more dishwasher tablets you buy, the cheaper it works out per unit. And, if they're being used to clean every room in the home, bulk buying certainly has its benefits once you have allocated enough for use in your dishwasher.

We're not asking you to stockpile to the point that you sacrifice crucial cupboard space. In fact, we're encouraging you to use just one product to clean your appliances, upholstery, and even your backyard furniture. So whether you opt for solid blocks, soft and squishy multi-colored pouches, or eco-friendly dishwasher tablets, make them work harder around the home, and scale down that packed under-the-sink space once and for all.

These dishwasher tablet cleaning hacks can compete against all of your current cleaning favorites, saving you money, time spent at the shops, and storage. Win, win, win!

1. Clean your toilet

Cleaning a toilet is not exactly our idea of fun, but considering what the lavatory is used for, it's essential that you give your toilet seat and bowl more than just a wipe down.

'Drop a 3-in-1 dishwashing tablet in your toilet, and leave for as long as possible (minimum 30 minutes). Then, use your toilet brush to remove any stains before flushing.' says Lindsey Davis, editor-in-chief, e-commerce.

We'd recommend doing this when the kids have gone to school to allow the product to get to work, with no interruptions, or overnight.

You might need to clean your toilet brush if it's looking particularly messy after this task. But fear not, with our three-method guide you can choose how you want to go about it.

2. Deodorize your kitchen trash can

A white kitchen with Wesco Living kitchen trash can

(Image credit: Wesco Living)

Let's be honest: while some of us have certain expectations when using the trash can, things can get a little messy when you put the family in the mix. Meat bones, veg scraps, and sauces all combine in one container, and if you have a bin bag that isn't replaced regularly – things can get sticky (not to mention stinky) real quick.

While we love using the best cleaning products like Bin Buddy (opens in new tab), we can't guarantee we'll always have it to hand. And, if you're not a keen baker, the chances are that you haven't been introduced to cleaning with bicarb either.

If you use a dishwasher, it's highly likely that you've got a box of tablets under the sink, so when your refuse bin reeks, crumble a dishwashing lozenge into the bin to remove offensive odors. This can also distract insects and pests, deterring flies, so you won't have to read our guide on killing maggots.

3. Create a DIY oven cleaner

A self-cleaning built-in oven in a traditional white kitchen

(Image credit: GoodHome Kitchens)

Wondering why you should put a dishwasher tablet in your oven? Well, because loads of people are doing it on TikTok, and for good reason too! Oven Pride Cleaner (opens in new tab) is amazing at cleaning your oven, but 1) it can be super strong, and 2) it needs a lot of time to work.

If time isn't on your side or you can't source this product – use a dishwasher tablet. Wearing a pair of kitchen gloves (the Vgo 3-pack from Amazon (opens in new tab) is great value), dip a tablet into water and scrub the inside of your oven (including the oven door). Bear in mind, that this isn't as corrosive as the branded caustic soda solution, you'll need to get really stuck in with it.

And now oven cleaner is another product to knock off your shopping list if you lack space or budget!

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4. Remove residue from pots, pans and Pyrex dishes

We love cooking up a storm in the kitchen – the cleaning? Not so much. But, if you've ever been distracted from your hob (for what felt like a matter of seconds), you might have come back to a seriously-reduced sauce or worst still, an acrid mess in your best saucepan set.

Scourers and a good amount of elbow grease can only go so far. So if you find yourself breaking a sweat in the kitchen while cleaning a burnt pan, tag team with a dishwasher tablet to break down any food debris that's stuck to the surface.

To do this, fill the offending article with water, bring it to a boil, and then drop a tablet into the vessel and simmer for ten minutes. After the time is up, drain away to reveal a clean pan. To save time, you could use your kettle to fill the pot with boiling water.

If you love roasting dishes in the oven, but detest the burnt-on bits, you can also use this trick on your casserole or dutch oven. In this instance, there's no need to bring it to the boil, just let it soak for a while, and then use a non-scratch sponge (we like Scrub Daddy (opens in new tab)) to wipe off any of the remaining baked-on grime.

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5. Clean your washing machine

Shelving in cream fitted inbuilt cabinets with washing machine and tumble dryer in a laundry room

(Image credit: Smeg)

Don't get us wrong, washing machine cleaners are great to get rid of grime and gunk in your washer, but if you don't have a designated utility room – it only takes one more product to topple the Jenga-style arrangement in your cupboard.

Until the appliance brands come out with an all-singing-all-dancing white good, cleaning your washing machine every so often is an essential part of its maintenance. So if you want to avoid clothes coming out dirtier than they were deposited, bung two dishwasher tablets in the drum and run an empty cycle. A 30°C/90°F cycle should be ample to activate the cleaning power in those pastilles!

Still a bit confused on what to do? This TikTok video by @cleaning_withmatthew demonstrates how to go about this hack.

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6. Clean your air fryer – fast

Black air fryer with gingham cloth in kitchen

(Image credit: CASEZY / Getty)

If you're obsessed with cooking everything in your air fryer, you need to know about this dishwasher tablet hack.

While it's meant to be a no-oil cooker, crumbs and batter from our favourite foods can build up on the basket. So, if you're having difficulty cleaning your countertop gadget, fill it with boiling water, add a dish-laundering tablet and let it do its thing for as long as it needs to. You'll see the hot water turn from clear to a murky brown which is sort of gross, but uber satisfying at the same time.

Note, that if you don't have any reason to have dishwashing tablets to hand, good dish soap will also cut through caked-on grease and grime. We've got a step-by-step guide on how to clean an air fryer this way if you need visuals to refer to.

Happy with the results of this dishwasher tablet hack? Great, now you're ready to get stuck into our favorite air fryer recipes.

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7. Unclog your sink drain

pink and purple kitchen with slimline open shelving by a sink with brass taps

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Our kitchen sinks can have it hard sometimes. From dinner leftovers that lurk around the plughole to washing a small pet in the basin – it's no wonder the drain needs a helping hand at times.

This is where we face a dilemma: unclogging a sink drain with a plunger can be time-consuming, but using a commercial product (with corrosive agents) isn't the best idea in a busy family home. But have you tried using a dishwasher tablet to decongest your drain?

Start off by removing your sink strainer basket and setting it to one side. Then place a dishwasher tablet on the strainer itself and pour hot water over the tablet. You can either use your kettle or run a hot tap if that's easier.

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8. Upgrade your upholstery cleaning routine

The best upholstery cleaners can be another cost you don't need right now, but if you've invested in a statement sofa or boujie rug abroad, then you've got to put in the work to keep the respective item in good condition.

Instead of using a bottled solution all the time, why not make your product go further by using this dishwasher tablet hack for minor stain removal? Note, it's always best to test this out in an inconspicuous area before you begin, just to be on the safe side.

How to:

  1. Fill a bucket (a washing-up bowl will do) with warm water and drop in a tablet until it has dissolved.
  2. Dip a clean microfiber cloth (or rag) into the dishwasher tablet solution and wrap it around a small saucepan lid. If you do have an elastic band, you can secure the cleaning cloth in place.
  3. Hold onto the handle side of the pan lid and clean your upholstered item with sweeping, circular motions.

We should mention that a couple of people have commented on this video concerned about soap residue being left on their textile goods. If you too are worried you can suck up any suddy remains with a handheld vacuum cleaner.

9. Make outdoor furniture shine

The best outdoor furniture can last for years, if you look after it correctly. Sure, a few leaves can be swept off, but if bird poop doesn't get cleaned up, it can corrode the material and eat into the rust-resistant coating.

It's pretty obvious but if you've seen wildlife droppings on your patio dining set, this too needs to be cleaned up pronto. This is after all the place you might enjoy a coffee, or alfresco meal, so you'll want a hygienic place to eat.

Cleaning outdoor furniture doesn't necessarily require an expensive kit or even the best garden hose. All you need is a bucket of hot water, a cloth, and a few dishwasher tablets. Create a soapy solution by dropping the tablets into the container, and use the rag to wipe everything down.

10. Get rid of marker pen and crayon marks

We love when our little darlings come home with hand-drawn pictures from nursery and pre-school. But, if they've decided to use your painted walls like a blank canvas, you can bet your bottom dollar that you'll need this dishwasher tablet hack to remove all sorts of scrawls and scribbles.

While our go-to might be a melamine sponge (hello Magic Eraser (opens in new tab)), it's far more cost-effective to drop a tablet into a bucket of hot water and use a normal dishwashing sponge (opens in new tab) to tackle felt tip, colored wax, or biro.

11. Get rid of the grime on your extractor fan

Ever taken the time to examine your extractor fan? If the answer is no, then prepare to be seriously grossed out by what's living on and around your extractor hood!

As this fan is fitted directly above the stove or hob, a build-up of grease and grime and fat is to be expected, but that doesn't mean you should neglect it. Typically, if you've got a product like the Easy Off Heavy Duty Degreaser Cleaner Spray (opens in new tab), you'd be good to go. However, when you compare the cost of this cleaning product versus this dishwasher tablet hack, you'll save yourself a few dollars each year.

This 10-cent trick was found on the Mums Who Clean Facebook group (opens in new tab). With just shy of 350,000 members, this forum focuses on budget cleaning tips for busy moms.
To begin, boil some water (just enough to coat the filter in the sink) and remove the filters from the extractor fan. Then place the filter in the kitchen sink, and pour the boiling water in with a dishwasher tablet. Leave this for two hours, and watch the water turn from crystal clear to a yellowish-brown... Lovely.

12. Get rid of oil or gas stains on the garage floor

Timber garage door on gravel driveway of barn

(Image credit: Hörmann)

If you're fortunate to have a garage, you might be tempted to use this space to undergo a few mechanical jobs DIY. Keeping the fuel tank topped up, and making sure the oil has been changed are all part and parcel when looking after your automobile.

But, unless you've got a comprehensive setup, it's common to accidentally spill the odd bit of gasoline or motor oil. If you are worried about it staining your newly-laid garage floor, don't panic – you might be able clean oil stains from concrete with a dishwasher tablet.

Get a bowl, and crumble the tablet. Then add a few drops of water to create a thick paste and apply this to the area. Leave this on the ground for a couple of days and then wash it away with water. If you do have a pressure washer, this might help in blasting the stain out of a solid concrete floor.

If this fails, use this as an opportunity to paint your garage floor!

13. Clean your bath tub, properly

A tiled bathroom with freestanding bath and shelving

(Image credit: Tile Club)

Many of us are guilty of quickly rinsing down our bath with our high-pressure shower head and calling it a day. But if you've had an intense self-care session (ie: shaving your legs and using bath oils) – you might have seen a film of soapy residue and dead skin in your bathtub – gross.

We love eco-friendly cleaning products as much as the next person (Method's Eucalyptus Mint foaming tub and tile cleaner (opens in new tab) is great), but when we're running low on bathroom cleaner, dishwasher tablets are the next best thing.

'After bathing, throw two or three tablets in the tub and leave them for as long as possible. You don't need to fill a bath full of clean water, as using the stuff you've washed in is fine if you use a tablet with degreaser and water softener,' says Davis.

'Then drain and rise with your shower attachment. This hack cuts through soap scum and limescale a treat.'

14. Get brown stains out of coffee cups and tea mugs

If you live in a hard water area or are partial to letting your tea bag brew (read: stew) in the cup, you've probably noticed a brown stain at the bottom of your favorite cup. But rather than throwing away good China, take the tannin stains away with a dishwasher tablet.

You might think that using a dishwasher will suffice, but targeting your tea cup directly may deliver better results.

Next time round, don't be tempted to steep your tea leaves for longer than five minutes. According to the experts, this is not the proper way to make a cup of tea and can result in a bitter-tasting brew.

15. Make vase stains vanish

A trio of painted Mason jars with gypsophilia flowers and brown twine

(Image credit: Getty/La Bicicleta Vermella (1205697628))

If you're the lucky recipient of a bouquet of flowers, you'll want to show them off in a super-cute sculptural vase. Pretty as they are, blooms only last for around 10 days before they start to wilt, and bacteria from leaves and fallen petals get into the water.

When you come to dispose of your stems, it's not uncommon for the water to appear a little murky (from plant food and green gunk), and if you've really neglected them, the H₂O can hum a little – yep, first-hand experience here.

If you'd rather not deal with a slimy jar, remove the flowers first, then pop a dishwasher tablet into the vessel and fill it with warm (but not boiling) water. Wait two hours before tipping the dirty water into your sink and rinsing the vase again with fresh warm water.  

Want to know how to make your flowers last longer? Our team put five hacks to the test to see if they really work.

16. Clean your floors – tile grout and all

A bathroom with Karndean Knight floor tiles, shower and ladder towel rail

(Image credit: Karndean)

You could choose the best floor tiles or wall tiles on the market, but if the grout is moldy or dirty it'll look cheap and nasty. When looking at how to clean grout on floor and wall tiles, options are to go in with a bit of hydrogen peroxide powder, or take to it with a tub of Stardrops The Pink Stuff (opens in new tab).

Though a tub of cleaning paste only costs a few dollars, if you've got dishwasher tablets, you shouldn't feel inclined to buy a specialist product. Simply crumble a tablet into a bowl, add a few drops of water to create the right consistency, and apply with an old toothbrush.

Note that you can also drop a dishwasher tablet into a mop bucket, fill the contents with hot water and use this to clean your floors. The Vileda Turbo Microfibre Mop (opens in new tab) has been tried and tested by us and would be one of the best mops to use for this tip.

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Smol free trial | Get 9 tablets for £1 (opens in new tab)
A subscription service used by several members of the Real Homes team, Smol dishwasher tablets are brilliant. Not just for cleaning your glassware and your cutlery, but for everything above, too. You can try before you buy and pay just £1 for postage and you'll get 9 tablets. They're also pink in colour and best of all they are eco-friendly so that you can clean with peace of mind.

It's worth just getting one pack for £1, for trying out all of the cleaning hacks above. 

Christina joined the Real Homes team as a digital writer in June 2021. Prior to this, she worked for Good Homes magazine and home interest events including the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live. She lives close to Epping Forest and is spoiled for choice with lush green spaces, but loves her own English garden that adjoins her ground-floor maisonette, complete with a floral melange of roses, lavender, jasmine, and an apple tree.