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

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iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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.
iStock

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.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

9 Outdoor Accessories for the Perfect Backyard Party

Amazon/OtterBox
Amazon/OtterBox

Hosting the perfect party in the great outdoors doesn't have to involve you moving any further than your own backyard. Whether you’re looking for games to play with friends, chairs to keep you comfortable, or tents to turn your yard into your own personal campsite, check out some of these essential products that will transform your own patch of nature into a true outdoor oasis.

1. Wine Tumbler; $20

Tumblers from Otterbox
OtterBox

These wine tumblers from Otterbox will make your backyard the toast of the summer. Made from 100 percent stainless steel and lined with copper, these 10-ounce cups will keep your wine at the perfect temperature until the last s’more is eaten and the fire is put out. Each tumbler holds two standard wine pours and has a sweat-resistant design so you can leave your coasters inside. And each tumbler is fitted with a press-in lid, keeping your drink secure whether you’re taking a walk or playing a game with friends.

Buy it: Otterbox

2. Wood-Burning Fire Pit; $300

Wood-burning fire pit from Wayfair.
Martha Stewart/Wayfair

This steel wood-burning fire pit is exactly what you need to create a little ambiance once the moon is out and friends and family are ready to unwind with some roasted marshmallows. The pit itself is only a few feet across, so you'll be able to build a cozy fire for a handful of people, and the mesh screen that secures over it will keep the sparks away from you and your party. 

Buy it: Wayfair

3. Kabob Grilling Baskets; $17

Kebob grilling baskets on UncommonGoods.
UncommonGoods

No backyard adventure is complete without a tasty meal, and these kabob grilling baskets will help you spend less time on the grill and more time enjoying the beauty of nature. These baskets can be packed with all the ingredients you could ever want for kabobs, and without wooden skewers involved, you’ll avoid any unwanted splinters in your meal. With the ability to customize each basket, you’ll have the flexibility to create the perfect portable dinner for guests (or just for yourself).

Buy it: UncommonGoods

4. Beer Caddy; $25

A beer caddy on Amazon.
LEGACY/Amazon

Beer lovers won’t have to worry about foregoing a cold one while spending some time outside. This soft cotton canvas caddy can hold up to six bottles or cans, and it comes with a removable inner divider, so you have the flexibility of mixing and matching different-sized beverages. Its attached bottle opener—which is hooked to the caddy via a retractable cord— can be stowed in a side pocket for quick access, allowing you to open your drinks with ease.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Outdoor Jenga; $119

A large outdoor Jenga game
Jenga/Amazon

Mix up the usual ghost stories and campfire singalongs with this giant game of outdoor Jenga. Fifteen times larger than the size of a standard Jenga game, these extra-large Jenga blocks can stack up to over 5 feet high and are the perfect size for a deck or beach towel. This set comes with a portable bag for all the blocks so you can easily transport the game from one spot in the backyard to another.

Buy it: Amazon

6. and 7. Camping Chair; $30 and Loveseat Camping Chair; $73

A Colman outdoor chair on Amazon.
Coleman/Amazon

If you’re not a fan of sitting on wet grass or getting bugs on your clothes, this camping chair from Coleman will help you kick back in style. The chair has a cushioned seat and back for maximum outdoor comfort, and it also has a built-in four-can cooler pouch to keep cold beverages handy. It even comes with a nifty side pocket for books, magazines, and newspapers.

An outdoor loveseat that's available on Amazon.
Goplus/Amazon

For anyone who hates toting multiple chairs outside, check out this loveseat-style camping chair! Its ergonomic design seats two people with ease, and it’s supported by a rust-resistant steel frame and weather-resistant fabric for withstanding the elements (or just a shower from a nearby sprinkler). Even though it can hold up to 400 pounds of weight, the chair itself weighs only 11 pounds, making it an ideal choice for anyone who wants to avoid making extra trips to the garage for gear.

Buy itAmazon (camping chair); Amazon (loveseat)

8. Camping Hammock; $29-$40

A hammock that's available on Amazon.
Wise Owl Outfitters/Amazon

If you're one to go a bit horizontal toward the end of a party, take a look at this hammock from Wise Owl Outfitters. Made from heavy-duty parachute nylon, this hammock is incredibly durable and can be secured to trees with a simple set of straps. The hammock comes in two different sizes, a twin and a full, so you can choose the size that's right for you. And best of all? The largest one weighs only 26 ounces, making it easy to take comfort on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Magnetic Door House Tent; $172

A magnetic door house tent on Wayfair.
Wayfair

Mosquitos, flies, and other outdoor pests don’t stand a chance against this portable screened-in porch from Wayfair. This outdoor sanctuary is big enough to fit a picnic table (and all of your friends) inside, and it features two magnetic-close front and back doors. This tent even comes with a 10-year warranty, so you can rest easy knowing that it will provide you with backyard adventures—and zero bug bites—for years to come.

Buy it: Wayfair

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.