23 Things You Didn't Know Your Dishwasher Could Do—and 2 'Hacks' You Should Never Try

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If you've only been using your dishwasher to scrub plates and utensils, you're not taking advantage of its full potential. Here are 23 additional ways to put the staple kitchen appliance to work—and two misguided dishwasher hacks you should definitely avoid.

1. COOK SALMON.

Raw salmon on top of asparagus spears and garnished with dill and lemon, all in a bed of aluminum foil.
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Is it the most efficient use of your dishwasher? Probably not. But it's a fun experiment. According to this Real Simple recipe, you just need to season two salmon filets with olive oil, lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper, then seal them in two airtight foil packets. Place the packets in the top rack of the dishwasher and run a normal (soap-free) cycle, then remove and enjoy your fuss-free fish.

2. RINSE PRODUCE.

A pile of dirty, unwashed potatoes
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The next time you bring a large amount of fruits and veggies home from the store or farmer's market, don't waste your time cleaning each individual piece. Rinse them in the dishwasher instead. Put more fragile items such as tomatoes and peaches on the top rack, and toss studier produce like potatoes and cantaloupes on the bottom rack. Set your dishwasher to cold and then run a rinse cycle—no detergent necessary.

3. STEAM VEGGIES.

Asparagus in glass jars
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Brit + Co bravely tested this dishwasher cooking hack for you: Place chopped vegetables—green beans and asparagus work especially well—into a Mason jar, then add one cup of water. Season with herbs, spices, butter, or lemon, then seal it shut. Pop the jar onto the top rack of your dishwasher and run a normal cycle. You should have tasty, perfectly seasoned veggies when your dishwasher is done.

4. CLEAN MAKEUP BRUSHES.

A cup full of makeup brushes of various shapes and sizes sitting on a white countertop.
gerenme // iStock

Don't waste time trying to get all of the built-up product out of your makeup brushes by hand. Instead, place them in the silverware caddy or tray of your dishwasher about once a month to remove dried gunk. This method also works for nail clippers, hairbrushes, and combs.

5. CLEAN YOUR COMPUTER KEYBOARD.

Closeup of keyboard keys covered in dirt and filth
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You may want to save this one for a true cleaning emergency, but sources like CNET say that many computer keyboards can be safely sent through the wash to remove sticky grime. (NPR gave the technique a thumbs up, too.) Some don'ts to keep in mind: Don't use soap, don't use hot water, don't put anything else in the dishwasher, and don't use the heated drying cycle. And once your keyboard has gone through the wash, make sure to let it air dry completely—for up to three days—before you use it again.

6. KEEP FOOD WARM.

A round dish covered in foil sits on a table.
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Need to keep cooked food warm while something else occupies your oven? Your dishwasher can do the job. Just use the heat/dry cycle with no water, and your food will stay toasty until you're ready to eat.

7. WARM YOUR DISHES.

A stack of plain white dishes with a plaid background
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The same trick goes for your dishes. If you want to keep plates warm before serving, place them in the dishwasher with the heat/dry cycle switched on. Some dishwashers even have a specific plate warming setting.

8. CREATE UNDER-BED STORAGE.

Dust collects under a bed.
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When your dishwasher finally goes to that big appliance warehouse in the sky, don't just junk it. The Family Handyman wants you to know that the wheeled bottom rack can roll beneath a bed to create easily accessible storage.

9. MAKE A RIBBON OR THREAD ORGANIZER.

Stacks of colorful spools of ribbon
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Here's another great use for parts once the dishwasher machinery itself bites the dust: Flip the top rack on its side, then mount it in your craft room. According to the household advice columnist Heloise, the tines that hold drinking glasses in place are also perfect for holding anything on a spool. If you don't have any craft supplies to organize, the rack can be used to hang tools in a garage or garden shed, too.

10. DISINFECT STUFF.

A large pile of colorful plastic toys
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From kids' bacteria-covered blocks and plastic figurines to your pets' slobber-covered chew toys, the dishwasher is great for de-germing playthings. Place larger toys on the bottom rack, medium-sized toys on the top rack, and small toys in the silverware basket. To avoid any heartbreaking accidents, make sure to use a light wash cycle and avoid the heated dry option, which could melt plastic toys.

11. KEEP COOKING SPRAY CONTAINED.

A dishwasher with its door open
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The next time you need to coat a baking dish with aerosol cooking spray, use your dishwasher door as a shield. Open your dishwasher door completely and hold the dish above it as you spray, and the inevitable over-spray will end up on the door instead of all over your kitchen. The inside of the door will get a thorough wash the next time you do dishes, so there's no need to wipe up the mess. (But make sure that the dishes inside are dirty, or you'll end up getting oil all over your clean plates.) The same trick also works for measuring out messy powdered ingredients like flour.

12. COOK LASAGNA.

Lasagna with meat sauce sitting on a white plate on top of a green checkered tablecloth
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As Mythbusters and Alton Brown proved, it is totally possible to make an entire lasagna in your dishwasher. You'll want to ditch your baking dish for something a little more watertight, though—PartSelect recommends arranging the lasagna directly on a piece of foil, then folding it up tightly. Of course, you can cook a lasagna a lot faster in your oven, and cooking the noodles in your dishwasher isn't going to produce a crispy top. But your family members will definitely raise their eyebrows when you put "dishwasher lasagna" on the menu for the week.

13. PREPARE NO-FUSS LOBSTER TAILS.

Lobster tail and dipping sauce on a plate
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The Sporkful's recipe for dishwasher lobster is super easy. All you need to do is cut a de-veined, de-shelled lobster tail in half, then put it in a sealable Mason jar with a stick (yes, a whole stick) of unsalted butter. Send it through a wash cycle, then enjoy flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth lobster.

14. MAKE A RAISED GARDEN BED.

Beet greens poking up through soil
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Instead of throwing out your dishwasher when it nears the end of its lifespan, take the whole thing outside, fill it with dirt, and grow some veggies in the tub. (These instructions are for an old refrigerator, but they'll work for other empty appliances as well.)

15. WASH SHOES AND HATS.

A pair of really dirty white flip-flops sitting on top of very green grass
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From sweat-stained baseball caps to mud-caked shoes and sandy flip-flops, you can throw plenty of apparel in the dishwasher. Just don't wash your dirty shoes with your dishes.

16. RIPEN AVOCADOS.

A pile of avocados in various stages of ripeness
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A restaurant worker on Metafilter spilled the beans on his employer's trick for force-ripening avocados: Throw them on the top rack of the dishwasher for a cycle.

17. ORGANIZE WRITING UTENSILS.

Closeup of forks and spoons in a white dishwasher basket
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When you toss your old dishwasher, keep the removable silverware basket. It's great for sorting pencils, markers, crayons, and other arts and crafts supplies.

18. GET YOUR HUBCAPS SHINY.

A hubcap of an old-fashioned red car with whitewall tires that show palm trees reflected in the hubcaps
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Instead of crouching down and trying to scrape all of the gunk and grime from your hubcaps by hand, remove them from the car and put them on the bottom rack of your dishwasher instead—preferably without your dishes.

19. CLEAN YOUR FAUX FLOWERS.

A basket full of pastel-colored fake roses and daises
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Plastic flower arrangement getting a little dusty? Sure, you could dust each individual petal—or you could just throw the whole thing on the top rack of your dishwasher and call it good.

20. MAKE A SPRAY-PAINTING BOOTH.

A gloved hand holding a spray paint can with a finger on the trigger.
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When you remove an old or broken dishwasher, you can use the box-like tub for spray-painting projects in your garage or shed. Spray whatever you're painting inside the tub, and it will contain keep the fine mist contained, preventing it from coating areas you didn't intend to paint.

21. BUILD A HAND-CRANK GENERATOR.

A close-up of a shining light bulb
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If your dishwasher dies but the motor is still serviceable, it may just help you survive the zombie apocalypse—or, more likely, help you charge your electronics while you're camping. If you're handy, making the motor into a pretty powerful little generator like this is a snap.

22. DRY YOUR HAND-WASHED DISHES.

Female hands washing a clear glass under a stream of water in a sink
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If you're hand-washing dishes, there's no need for the stack of clean plates to clutter up your kitchen afterward. Leave them in the empty dishwasher to air dry. You can run the dry cycle, or simply crack the door and let them air out naturally. (Bonus tip: If you need your dishwasher to dry a full load of dishes more quickly than usual, there's a hack for that—they'll dry faster if you open the dishwasher door during the regular dry cycle.)

23. CLEAN YOUR HOUSE KEYS.

A woman dangles her keys in front of the camera.
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You probably haven't ever washed your keys (or thought about washing them), but let’s face it: They're disgusting germ factories. Keys touch a lot of different surfaces, bang around in your purse or pockets, get dropped on the ground, shoved into locks, and so much more. Who knows what nasty stuff they've come into contact with? To get them clean, just remove any novelty keychains, loyalty cards, or other items that shouldn't get wet, then toss the keys in the dishwasher, keyring and all. Be sure to thoroughly dry each one afterward to prevent rusting.

However, while there are many things you can do with your dishwasher, there are also a couple of things that you really, really shouldn't try:

24. DON'T USE IT FOR WATER-TIGHT FLOOD STORAGE.

Important documents such as a life insurance policy, 401k statements, last will and testament, all fanned out on a wooden desk with a cup of coffee sitting next to them
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You may have seen this so-called "helpful hack" online during recent hurricanes, but just because a dishwasher can keep water in, doesn't mean it will keep water out. In cases of severe weather, the dishwasher could come open, soaking whatever you sealed inside.

25. DON'T USE IT TO SEAL JARS.

Offset rows of sealed glass canning jars filled with peach preserves
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Rather than using the usual water-bath method, some home-canners suggest tossing filled jars in the dishwasher to seal the lids and kill the harmful bacteria. But it's not actually a safe canning technique, since the temperature in the dishwasher doesn't get high enough to properly kill the microorganisms. Stick to boiling instead.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

9 Unsung Heroes of the Underground Railroad

An illustration depicting fugitives along the Underground Railroad in Maryland, taken from William Still's 1872 book The Underground Railroad.
An illustration depicting fugitives along the Underground Railroad in Maryland, taken from William Still's 1872 book The Underground Railroad.
Philadelphia, Porter & Coates, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Considering that the massive network of hidden paths and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad stretched from the Deep South all the way to Canada, it makes sense that hundreds of people were involved in its operation. Some, like Harriet Tubman, were “conductors,” who led the rescue missions, while others—John Brown, for example—were “station masters,” hosting fugitives in their homes and arranging safe passage to freedom. Here are nine other valorous heroes who risked life and limb to help people on their way to liberty.

1. William Still

A sketch of William Still from Wilbur Henry Siebert and Albert Bushnell Hart's 1898 book The Underground Railroad From Slavery to Freedom.Macmillan, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Born to formerly enslaved parents in New Jersey in 1821, William Still moved to Philadelphia at age 23 and took up the abolitionist mantle in more ways than one. He taught himself to read and write, got a job as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and advanced through the organization until he was named chairman of its new Vigilance Committee in the early 1850s. In that position, Still oversaw the region’s network of safe houses—his own house among them—and raised money to finance key rescue missions, including a few of Harriet Tubman’s.

It’s estimated that Still ferried about 800 people to freedom during his tenure; one of them was his brother Peter. But there’s another reason he’s often referred to as “the Father of the Underground Railroad.” Still documented the stories of more than 600 escapees and published them all in a groundbreaking volume called The Underground Railroad in 1872, making him the only Black person ever to write and self-publish a firsthand account of activity on the Underground Railroad. He hoped that the “extraordinary determination and endeavor” exhibited in the harrowing narratives would inspire Black Americans to continue the struggle for civil rights.

“The race must not forget the rock from whence they were hewn, nor the pit from whence they were digged,” he wrote in the introduction. “Like other races, this newly emancipated people will need all the knowledge of their past condition which they can get.”

2. John P. Parker

Parker's house in Ripley, Ohio.Nyttend, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When John P. Parker was 8 years old, a merchant separated him from his enslaved mother in Norfolk, Virginia, and sold him to a doctor in Mobile, Alabama. There, Parker apprenticed at an iron foundry—and learned to read and write, with the help of the doctor’s children. At age 18, he persuaded one of the doctor’s patients to purchase him and let him gradually buy back his freedom with his foundry earnings. The plan worked, and Parker left for Ripley, Ohio, where he built a house, started a family, and patented a few popular mechanical parts for tobacco machines during a successful career as a foundryman.

Through it all, Parker made regular excursions across the Ohio River to spirit fugitives from Kentucky back to Ripley’s safe houses (one belonged to John Rankin, a prominent white abolitionist who lived less than a mile from Parker). Parker’s rescue missions were especially dangerous, partially because bounty hunters looking for fugitives knew who he was, and partially because Parker himself was dauntless. Once, an enslaver suspected a married couple would attempt to escape, so he took their baby and put him to sleep in his room. Parker snuck into the room, carefully plucked the child from the bed—where the enslaver also lay sleeping—and dashed back through the house. The enslaver awoke and tore after him, firing his pistol, but Parker and the family managed to escape across the river.

Parker recounted these rescues to journalist Frank M. Gregg during a series of interviews in the 1880s, but the manuscript sat forgotten in Duke University’s archives until historian Stuart Seeley Sprague unearthed it and published it in 1996.

3. and 4. Harriet Bell Hayden and Lewis Hayden

A portrait of Lewis Hayden from William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper The Liberator.The Liberator, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Born enslaved in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1812, Lewis Hayden watched enslavers tear apart his family not once, but twice. First, his siblings were sold to a different enslaver; and later, his wife and son were bought by Kentucky senator Henry Clay [PDF] and sold somewhere in the Deep South. Hayden never saw them again. In the early 1840s, he married an enslaved woman named Harriet Bell, adopted her son, and soon began plotting their escape.

With the help of Calvin Fairbank, a minister, and Delia Webster, a teacher, the Haydens fled their enslaver’s estate and eventually arrived safely in Canada. By 1846, they had returned to the U.S. and settled in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, where they opened a clothing store. Before long, Lewis and Harriet had joined the Boston Vigilance Committee and turned their home into a boarding house, which became a highly trafficked stop on the Underground Railroad.

A drawing of Harriet Bell Hayden from her obituary in The Cleveland Gazette.The Cleveland Gazette, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Though slavery had been illegal in Massachusetts since 1783, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stated that enslaved people who had escaped to free states could still be found and returned to their enslavers in the South. The Haydens fearlessly protected hundreds of people from bounty hunters who tried to do just that. Ellen and William Craft, for example, had garnered widespread attention for their risky escape from slavery in Georgia, which involved Ellen impersonating a white man and William posing as her Black servant. When bounty hunters pursued them to the Haydens’ house, Lewis announced that he’d readily blow up the whole property with the two kegs of gunpowder he kept inside if they tried to kidnap the Crafts. The bounty hunters didn’t chance it, and left empty-handed.

Lewis also helped recruit Black soldiers for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry—one of the Union’s first all-Black military units—and was even elected to the Massachusetts General Assembly in 1873. When he died in 1889, Boston’s city council praised him as “one of the pioneers in the freeing of this country from the curse of slavery.” Harriet, who died in 1893, donated her entire estate to Harvard Medical School for the purpose of establishing a scholarship for Black students, which still exists today.

5. Henrietta Bowers Duterte

A photo of Henrietta Bowers Duterte with one of her children.Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1852, Henrietta Bowers, a 35-year-old tailor, married a Haitian-American undertaker named Francis A. Duterte. They both came from well-respected Philadelphia families, and Francis’s mortuary was successful; in other words, it should have been a long, happy union. But by the end of that decade, Henrietta was alone: Her children had all died young, and Francis had also passed away suddenly. Instead of handing the mortuary business over to a man—which would have been expected at the time—Henrietta took it over and, in addition to running the mortuary, turned it into an especially clandestine stop on the Underground Railroad.

Not only did Henrietta use funeral processions as opportunities to help disguised fugitives slip unnoticed through the city, but she also sometimes smuggled them out of Philadelphia in actual coffins. The mortuary continued to be lucrative, and Henrietta funneled the profits into organizations that served Philadelphia’s Black community, like the First Colored Church and Stephen Smith’s Philadelphia Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons. In 1866, she helped arrange the Freedman’s Aid Society Fair to support formerly enslaved people in Tennessee.

6. David Ruggles

A political cartoon depicting a slave owner raging against Ruggles and two other abolitionists who had helped one of his servants escape.Edward Williams Clay, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

David Ruggles, born free in Norwich, Connecticut, in 1810, moved to New York City at age 17 and opened a grocery shop, which he staffed with emancipated Black Americans. Before long, Ruggles pivoted to lending and selling abolitionist books, pamphlets, and newspapers, too, making him the nation’s first Black bookstore owner. In 1835, Ruggles and other local abolitionists founded the New York Vigilance Committee, an interracial organization which, like the one in Philadelphia, helped people escape from slavery. Not only did he provide legal aid to Black Americans targeted by bounty hunters, but he also housed many fugitives in his own home on Lispenard Street.

One of these temporary guests was Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery and arrived in New York penniless and famished in 1838. He was rescued, he explained in his 1845 autobiography, “by the humane hand of Mr. David Ruggles, whose vigilance, kindness, and perseverance, I shall never forget.” Douglass wrote to his fiancée, Anna, who joined him within a few days, and Ruggles even arranged a marriage ceremony in the house. Soon after the wedding, Ruggles gave the couple $5 and booked their passage on a steamship to New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Throughout his years as an Underground Railroad station master, Ruggles distributed countless anti-slavery publications and advocated for “practical abolitionism,” or the idea that each person should actively take part in emancipating Black Americans. He wasn’t without enemies: twice his shop was burned down, and he was physically attacked on several occasions. By his late twenties, Ruggles’s health was failing, and abolitionist Lydia Maria Child encouraged him to come live with the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a self-sufficient community in Florence, Massachusetts, that championed equal rights for all. There, Ruggles regained some of his strength through hydrotherapy, and he eventually opened his own hydrotherapy hospital, where Douglass often visited him. When he died at age 39, it was Douglass who wrote his obituary.

7. and 8. Harriet Forten Purvis and Robert Purvis

A daguerroeotype of Robert Purvis from the 1840s.Boston Public Library, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Robert Purvis, the son of a white man and a free Black woman, was active in practically all facets of Philadelphia’s anti-slavery movement from the 1830s through the Civil War. He helped found and lead the Vigilant Association of Philadelphia and its Vigilance Committee, which offered boarding, clothing, medical attention, legal counsel, and northern passage to fugitives; and he also worked alongside prominent abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison to establish the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society a few years later.

Since women weren’t originally allowed to be members of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Robert’s wife, Harriet Forten Purvis, joined Lucretia Mott and other activists in forming the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in December 1833. Harriet, like Mott, would go on to become a leader in the suffrage movement, too.

Robert and Harriet had both come from extremely successful and respected Philadelphia families, and they used their influence—and financial resources—to assist escapees in any way they could. Their house on Lombard Street became a well-traversed thoroughfare for fugitives heading north.

“He was President of the ‘Underground Railroad,’ and throughout that long period of peril his house was a well-known station where his horses and carriages and his personal attendance were ever at the service of the travelers upon that road,” read Robert's 1898 obituary in The New York Times.

A portrait of Harriet Forten Purvis circa 1874. ExplorePAhistory.com // Public Domain

The couple’s high-profile work sometimes made them a target for those who opposed the upward mobility of Black Americans. In August 1842, a parade celebrating the eighth anniversary of the end of slavery in the British West Indies devolved into violence when an Irish mob—resenting their own low position in society—attacked the revelers and began looting and setting fire to Black-owned buildings along the street. The rioters planned to progress to the Purvises' house, where Robert stood armed and waiting, but a Catholic priest reportedly diverted them.

After that, Robert and Harriet moved their family to a farmhouse in Byberry, a northeastern neighborhood of Philadelphia, and promptly turned their new estate into another station on the Underground Railroad. Robert approximated that between 1831 and 1861, he had helped emancipate about one person per day (though it’s possible that this calculation included his broader work with various anti-slavery organizations).

9. Samuel D. Burris

A sketch of Samuel D. Burris from William Still's book The Underground Railroad.Delaware Historical & Cultural Affairs, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Samuel D. Burris worked tirelessly during the 1840s to lead fugitives through his home state of Delaware and into Philadelphia, where he lived with his wife and children. Though Burris was a free man, he could be imprisoned and sold into slavery if caught helping fugitives in Delaware—and in 1847, he was.

Officials apprehended Burris when he was trying to smuggle a woman named Maria Matthews onto a steamship. Since they set his bail at $5000 (more than $157,000 today), he was forced to spend months in jail while awaiting trial. “They uphold and applaud those slave traffickers, and those inhuman and unmerciful leeches, in their soul-damning conduct, by making the colored people legal subjects for their bloody principles to feast on,” he wrote from his cell, in a letter that was later published in William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper The Liberator.

On November 2, 1847, Burris was convicted, fined $500, and sentenced to 10 more months in prison. After that, he’d be sold into slavery for 14 years. While Burris was serving his 10-month sentence, a group of Philadelphia abolitionists amassed $500 and sent a Quaker named Isaac Flint to pose as a trader and purchase Burris at the auction. Luckily, Flint ended up being the highest bidder (though according to William Still’s account in The Underground Railroad, luck had little to do with it: Flint savvily bought off a Baltimore trader who had tried to top his bid).

“[Burris] was not by any means aware of the fact that he had fallen into the hands of friends, but, on the contrary, evidently labored under the impression that his freedom was gone,” Still wrote. “The joyful news was whispered in the ear of Burris that all was right; that he had been bought with abolition gold to save him from going south.”

As Delaware State University historian Robin Krawitz told CNN, Burris continued helping fugitives after his release, and angry Delawarians actually petitioned the government to discipline him more severely. After officials enacted legislation that recommended public whipping as punishment for anyone caught a second time, Burris halted his operations in Delaware. Instead, he moved to San Francisco, where he raised funds to help newly freed people establish themselves.