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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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
iStock

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.

10 Facts About the Winter Solstice, the Shortest Day of the Year

Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Amid the whirl of the holiday season, many are vaguely aware of the approach of the winter solstice, but how much do you really know about it? Whether you're a fan of winter or just wish it would go away, here are 10 things to note—or even celebrate—about the shortest day of the year.

1. The winter solstice HAPPENS ON DECEMBER 21/22 in 2019.

Sun setting behind a tree in the winter
buxtree/iStock via Getty Images

The date of the winter solstice varies from year to year, and can fall anywhere between December 20 and December 23, with the 21st or 22nd being the most common dates. The reason for this is because the tropical year—the time it takes for the sun to return to the same spot relative to Earth—is different from the calendar year. The next solstice occurring on December 20 will not happen until 2080, and the next December 23 solstice will not occur until 2303.

2. The winter solstice hAPPENS AT A SPECIFIC, BRIEF MOMENT.

sun setting through the trees
yanikap/iStock via Getty Images

Not only does the solstice occur on a specific day, but it also occurs at a specific time of day, corresponding to the instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth's axis. This is also the time when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. In 2019, this moment occurs at 4:19 a.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on December 22. For those on Eastern Standard Time, the solstice will occur at 11:19 p.m. on December 21. And regardless of where you live, the solstice happens at the same moment for everyone on the planet.

3. The winter solstice mARKS THE LONGEST NIGHT AND SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEAR FOR THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE.

sun setting over Central Park
rmbarricarte/iStock via Getty Images

As most are keenly aware, daylight hours grow shorter and shorter as the winter solstice approaches, and begin to slowly lengthen afterward. It's no wonder that the day of the solstice is referred to in some cultures as the "shortest day of the year" or "extreme of winter." New York City will experience 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight, compared to 15 hours and 5 minutes on the summer solstice. Helsinki, Finland, will get 5 hours and 49 minutes of light. Barrow, Alaska, will not have a sunrise at all (and hasn't since mid-November; its next sunrise will be on January 22), while the North Pole has had no sunrise since October. The South Pole, though, will be basking in the glow of the midnight sun, which won't set until March.

4. ANCIENT CULTURES VIEWED THE WINTER SOLSTICE AS A TIME OF DEATH AND REBIRTH.

snow on tree branches
Eerik/iStock via Getty Images

The seeming death of the light and very real threat of starvation over the winter months would have weighed heavily on early societies, who held varied solstice celebrations and rites meant to herald the return of the sun and hope for new life. Scandinavian and Germanic pagans lit fires and may have burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the light. Cattle and other animals were slaughtered around midwinter, followed by feasting on what was the last fresh meat for several months. The modern Druidic celebration Alban Arthan reveres the death of the Old Sun and birth of the New Sun.

5. THE  shortest DAY of the year MARKS THE DISCOVERY OF NEW AND STRANGE WORLDS.

Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth on December 21, 1620, to found a society that would allow them to worship freely. On the same day in 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium, ushering in an atomic age. And on December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 spacecraft launched, becoming the first manned moon mission.

6. THE WORD SOLSTICE TRANSLATES ROUGHLY TO "SUN STANDS STILL."

colorful sunset
a_Taiga/iStock via Getty Images

Solstice derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means "sun," and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning "to make stand." This comes from the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice. In modern times, we view the phenomenon of the solstice from the position of space, and of the Earth relative to the sun. Earlier people, however, were thinking about the sun's trajectory, how long it stayed in the sky and what sort of light it cast.

7. STONEHENGE IS ALIGNED TO THE SUNSET ON the WINTER SOLSTICE.

Stonehenge sunset
jessicaphoto/iStock via Getty Images

The primary axis of the megalithic monument is oriented to the setting sun, while Newgrange, another structure built around the same time as Stonehenge, lines up with the winter solstice sunrise. Some have theorized that the position of the sun was of religious significance to the people who built Stonehenge, while other theories hold that the monument is constructed along natural features that happen to align with it. The purpose of Stonehenge is still subject to debate, but its importance on the winter solstice continues into the modern era, as thousands of hippies, pagans, and other types of enthusiasts gather there every year to celebrate the occasion.

8. ANCIENT ROMANS CELEBRATED REVERSALS AT THE MIDWINTER FESTIVAL OF SATURNALIA.

Saturnalia parade
A Saturnalia celebration in England in 2012.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The holiday, which began as a festival to honor the agricultural god Saturn, was held to commemorate the dedication of his temple in 497 BCE. It quickly became a time of widespread revelry and debauchery in which societal roles were overturned, with masters serving their slaves and servants being allowed to insult their masters. Mask-wearing and play-acting were also part of Saturnalia's reversals, with each household electing a King of Misrule. Saturnalia was gradually replaced by Christmas throughout the Roman Empire, but many of its customs survive as Christmas traditions.

9. SOME TRADITIONS HOLD THAT DARK SPIRITS WALK THE EARTH ON THE WINTER SOLSTICE.

Snowy woods
Serjio74/iStock via Getty Images

The Iranian festival of Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian lore holds that evil spirits wander the Earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. People are encouraged to stay up most of the night in the company of one another, eating, talking, and sharing poetry and stories, in order to avoid any brushes with dark entities. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also echoed in Celtic and Germanic folklore.

10. SOME THOUGHT THE WORLD WOULD END ON THE 2012 WINTER SOLSTICE.

snowy woods with sun through the trees
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

December 21, 2012 corresponds to the date 13.0.0.0.0 in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar used by the ancient Maya, marking the end of a 5126-year cycle. Some people feared this juncture would bring about the end of the world or some other cataclysmic event. Others took a more New Age-y view (literally) and believed it heralded the birth of a new era of deep transformation for Earth and its inhabitants. In the end, neither of these things appeared to occur, leaving the world to turn through winter solstices indefinitely, or at least as long as the sun lasts.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

11 Gifts for the Curious Kids in Your Life

The Play Gym by Lovevery
The Play Gym by Lovevery

No matter their age, you want to find gifts that will keep the kids in your life entertained, stimulated, and give them a sense of accomplishment—even during playtime. Luckily, these 11 gifts will do all of that, and will encourage their curiosity to grow.

1. The Play Gym by Lovevery; $140

Baby playset
Lovevery / Amazon

Specially designed by experts to stimulate infants for their first year, this play mat grows with your favorite baby. It has five developmental zones and multiple activities—like teethers, mirrors, and colorful flash cards. And, when baby becomes a toddler, the mat converts into a tent fort for further imaginative play.

Find It: Amazon

2. Real Insect Superpowers Comic Book; $18

Follow the adventures of the Supersonic Assassin, the Malevolent Mimic, and other insect superheroes as they smash, zap, hypnotize, and sting in this 88-page book that's part comic, part nature encyclopedia.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

3. Droid Inventor Kit; $100

This is definitely the droid you’re looking for. Recommended for kids in grades eight years and up, this customizable robot comes with an app that defines more than 22 missions as well as easy block-based coding activities. And for any Star Wars fans, the Droid makes 20 different sounds, just like from the movies

Find It: Amazon

4. Solar System Chalk; $40

Solar system chalk
Uncommon Goods

This nine-piece chalk set features all the planets in the solar system, along with Pluto. Each piece has multiple colors, which represent the planets' cores, layers, and crusts. And for each set sold, $2 will be donated to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to support autism research.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

5. Jr. NASA Rocket Scientist Lab Coat; $20

Jr. NASA coat
Aeromax / Amazon

Get kids excited about science early with this lab coat, which comes in sizes for boys and girls. Alongside three pockets, the jacket also has the NASA logo and the words “Rocket Scientist.” When your astronaut-in-training is done playing, the coat can be tossed in the washing machine.

Find It: Amazon

6. 3Doodler 3D Pen Set; $50

This wireless pen allows kids to freestyle draw in the air—the eco-plastic filament cools in place quickly, giving kids plenty of practice with spatial reasoning without the costs of a full 3D printer.

Find It: Amazon

7. Giant Coloring Poster; $19

Giant coloring poster
O'Kroshka / Amazon

If your kid is going to color on the wall, you may as well give them a designated place to do so. Children can use pencils, markers, and paints on this 33''x 45'' poster that depicts all types of animals in a zoo. This gift will not only encourage creative expression, but it can also help kids work on their motor skills.

Find It: Amazon

8. Root-Vue Farm; $39

A little girl poses behind the Root Vue farm
Young Explorers

Whether they join FFA or not, kids can get a head start on understanding horticulture with this indoor garden system. Plant the included seeds—for carrots, radishes, and onions—and watch them obsess over the underground view of their harvest.

Find It: Amazon

9. Geosafari Jr. Kidnoculars; $9

Kid-proof and specially designed for tiny hands and faces, these binoculars can help preschoolers get to know the world around them. Play a game like “I Spy” and have them find squirrels in trees, clouds in the sky, or all those Cheerios they spilled behind their bed.

Find It: Amazon

10. Dimpl Baby and Toddler Learning Toy; $13

This brightly colored sensory toy holds a young one's attention with 100% food-grade silicone bubbles they can press and poke—perfect for keeping kids occupied in a stroller or car.

Find It: Target

11. Otamatone; $30

The face on this highly kawaii ribbon synthesizer is made of rubber, and by manipulating it with one hand you can make cool sounds (the other hand controls the pitch along the ribbon controller). With a bit of practice, you can even play real music—check out this entertaining cover of "Take On Me."

Find It: Amazon

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