20 weird ways to use a dishwasher to speed up cleaning

Did you know you could be using a dishwasher for more than just cleaning crockery and cutlery? These weird and wonderful ways to use yours will get all sorts of dirty stuff gleaming – fast

lady using a dishwasher: Beko AutoDose
(Image credit: Beko)

Using a dishwasher isn't just about sticking the chinaware in and pressing 'go'. Nope, there are all kinds of weird and wonderful uses you could put your dishwasher to so that everything in your home, from toys to sports gear and even potatoes, gleams just like new cutlery.

Dive in to these weird ways to use a dishwasher; whether you use them or not, they're a bit of fun*... and might save you time in the long run. For all our cleaning hacks, advice and buys, go straight to our dedicated hub page. 

1. Using a dishwasher to... clean the fridge

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Cleaning the fridge? Cut down on the work by putting all the shelves, fixings and the cutlery tray on a quick cycle in the dishwasher while you clean out the inside of the fridge. Find out the best ways to clean a fridge in our guide.

2. Using a dishwasher to... clean the oven

Everything from oven shelves to pans to the hob grilles and even oven knobs can go in the dishwasher. Make sure you put any small parts in the cutlery tray so that they don't get mislaid. While the dishwasher runs, you can be tackling the inside of the oven. Deep joy. Make that task easier with our guide to how to clean an oven.

3. Using a dishwasher to... clean the drying up rack

You know that drying rack you put your china and cutlery into when you wash up by hand? Over time, that gets quite grimy and limescale can build up on it, too. Whether yours is plastic or chrome, it should be safe on a delicate wash in the dishwasher. Run it through and it will look like new.

4. Using a dishwasher to... clean kitchen brushes

Same goes for those washing up brushes, sponges and cloths. They get very dirty and – guess what? – they harbour tons of household germs, too. The dishwasher can make them germ-free again. Find more ways to get rid of germs in your home with our guide.

5. Using a dishwasher to... clean light cover fixtures

Have you thought about how many fingermarks and germs light fixture covers are harbouring? They're actually one of the most bacteria-populated part of our home, but also one of the most forgotten. So if yours are looking mucky, turn of the electricity and remove the front plates to run them through the dishwasher. A little high maintenance, yes, but worth doing if yours have got beyond scrubbing. Just ensure yours aren't antique, enamelled, or painted, or they'll suffer. Don't miss our list of the places that never get cleaned at home – it'll encourage you to widen your cleaning routine.

6. Using a dishwasher to... clean fan grills

Fan grills, switch plates and vent covers, particularly those in a kitchen where the air gets grime and dust-filled, can become really sticky with muck. That won't just make them look dirty, it will mean they probably won't be working as well. If yours are plastic, aluminium or steel, they can go in the dishwasher; if, like light switches, they're painted, plated or enamelled, do the job by hand.

7. Using a dishwasher to... clean kitchen cabinet knobs

Cabinet knobs, particularly in the kitchen, are quite certainly runners-up to light switches in that they get touched with hands that might well have been handling raw meat in the near past. So, if yours are rust-proof, they'll do just fine in the dishwasher. Simply unscrew, put in the cutlery tray, wash, allow to dry and pop them back on.

8. Using a dishwasher to... cook vegetables (and make great mash)

Yes, really. If yours has just been cleaned (more on that below), using a dishwasher to cook vegetables is a) doable and b) healthy. Simply place your chopped veg into a Mason jar, adding a cup of water and any seasoning you'd like to include. Shut the lid tight, put the jar on the top rack and run a cycle without detergent. Your veg should come out perfectly cooked. 

As for potatoes, pop them on the top rack for a rinse-only cycle. It'll soften them well enough to make mash. Perfect if you're doing lots in one go and your hob is already fully occupied!

9. Using a dishwasher to... clean the bathroom

Well, not the whole bathroom, but you can clean all your bathroom accessories, from soap dishes and toothbrush holders to toothbrushes themselves. Showerheads that are getting blocked up with limescale can go in with a cup of vinegar when you clean the dishwasher too (see hack number 20), but remove any rubber seals first. See more bathroom cleaning hacks in our guide.

10. Using a dishwasher to... clean kids' toys

Children's toys can get really, really grubby. And if your children (or one of them) has had an upset tummy, it makes really good sense to disinfect their toys with by using a dishwasher. Small plastic toys, such as Lego or action figures can go in. Put them in a mesh bag if there are lots of small parts. 

11. Using a dishwasher to clean... faux house plants

Plastic house plants get really dusty and cobweb filled. You can run them under a tap or hose to clean them off, but if they're in a kitchen diner, they might be a little greasy, too. In which case, pop them into the dishwasher for a quick low temperature cycle, and they'll come out looking as good as new.

12. Using a dishwasher to... clean DIY tools

DIY tools can get very dirty, particularly if you don't wash your hands of filler and paint when you're using them. Anything, from screwdrivers to hammers, can be washed, as long as they are metal and/or plastic. Wood and battery-run or electric tools obviously aren't suitable. Did we need to tell you that? Air dry thoroughly before you put them away.

13. Using a dishwasher to... clean garden tools

Garden tools, just like DIY tools, can get mucky and can, in theory go through a dishwasher cycle. A warning though, if you've been using them to clear up pet mess or to add pesticides to your containers, ensure they don't run through with anything else, and clean the dishwasher afterwards (scroll down to hack number 20 for this). Don't put anything wooden in, either. 

14. Using a dishwasher to... clean makeup brushes

You put them on your face every single day so it makes sense to want them clean, right? Well, makeup brushes can go into the dishwasher (unless the handles are wooden or painted, or the bristles natural hair) and will come out without all that product build-up on them. We'd do this once a month for best results.

15. Using a dishwasher to... clean hairbrushes

Just like makeup brushes, you can use a dishwasher to clean hairbrushes and combs, as long as they're made of plastic, and not wood or with natural bristles. Before you pop them in the dishwasher, remove all the hair. This will not only stop the dishwasher's drain from getting clogged up, it'll ensure you don't find hair in your cutlery tray later on.

16. Using a dishwasher to... clean hats

Well, not all hats, obviously. However, baseball caps, which aren't suitable for the washing machine (it will misshape them), can go in a dishwasher. Believe it or not, you can even buy a Ball Cap Washer (yup, that's a thing), which is a frame to help your cap keep its shape. Grubby baseball hats? No more.

17. Using a dishwasher to... clean rain boots

Ever spent time relentlessly scrubbing at grubby Wellington boots so that you can a) put them on with pride or b) pass them on to a smaller child without them knowing they're secondhand (we speak from experience). Well, you can clean plastic rain boots using a dishwasher. Remove all the excess mud, then take out the liners of the boots; put the boots into the dishwasher and lie them down horizontally. Run a delicate cycle (without heat dry) and stand outside in the fresh air to let the insides dry out.

18. Using a dishwasher to... clean shoes

Flip flops looking grimy (that happens fast in summer)? Sneakers looking past their sell-by date? You can clean shoes using a dishwasher. Just ensure the heat dry cycle is off, and don't put Crocs or leather shoes in. And always run a dishwasher cleaning cycle afterwards and before you put plates back in. See hack number 20 to find out how.

19. Using a dishwasher to... clean sports gear

Just like baseball caps, sports protection gear can get really mucky, sweat-grimed and dirty. So, scrape off the mud from knee and elbow pads or shin guards and put them through the dishwasher on the top rack.

20. Using a dishwasher to... clean itself

After all that hard work, your dishwasher will need a good clean. In fact, even if you only (probably wisely) use a dishwasher to clean crockery and cutlery, it will still need regular cleaning.

There are loads of ways to get your dishwasher to clean itself, elbow-grease-free. One is with vinegar. Simply empty the dishwasher, then place 250ml of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack. Set the temperature to high and run for a full cycle. The vinegar mixed with hot water will disinfect everything and wash away any grease and grime and remove musty odours. Do this once a week for best results. Use our guide to cleaning a house with vinegar to find lots more useful tips, and our guide to how to clean a dishwasher to find more methods.

Buy the best dishwashers if yours needs replacing

Here's our pick of the best freestanding dishwasher; find more best freestanding dishwashers in our guide:

This is our best integrated dishwasher; find more best integrated dishwashers in our guide: 

And this is our best slimline dishwasher; find more best slimline dishwashers in our guide:

*Always stick to a lower temperature and experiment with washing items before committing them to a full hot cycle, which might damage them. Avoid a heat dry for any materials that might shrink or melt. Don't mix these items with your crockery and cutlery.

More cleaning tips and hacks for your kitchen:

Lucy Searle

Lucy is Global Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens having worked on numerous interiors and property titles. She was founding Editor of Channel 4’s 4Homes magazine, was Associate Editor at Ideal Home, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of Realhomes.com in 2018 then moving to Homes & Gardens in 2021. She has also written for Huffington Post, AOL, UKTV, MSN, House Beautiful, Good Homes, and many women’s titles. Find her writing about everything from buying and selling property, self build, DIY, design and consumer issues to gardening.