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Fresh Uses for Dishwashers

Cleaning guru Sandra Phillips has a few crazy non-kitchen items that can actually get clean in the dishwasher.


Not many people realize that the dishwasher actually sanitizes better than our washing machines do. Temperatures are higher, detergent is stronger, and drying cycle is hotter in the dishwasher. That makes it an ideal appliance for fast clean-up of certain non-fabric items that may get dirty; but when appropriate, consider turning off the heating option at the end of the cycle to save energy as well as eliminate potential damage to things more heat sensitive.

Uncommon items that you can wash in the dishwasher


*Toys that don’t have water-collection areas: plastic action figures, bath toys, blocks and balls. No Barbie or Skipper dolls though (talk about a bad hair day!). Put small items in a top rack nipple basket, or a simple lingerie bag.

*Personal Hairbrushes and combs; Crocks and flip flops; toothbrushes if they are silicone

*Sports: Small protective equipment like shin guards, knee pads and mouth guards made of plastic can clean up nicely on the top rack. Always scrape or squirt off chunks of grass or mud as a pre-treatment

*Pet grooming brushes and non-fabric toys

*Misc: Figurines; empty spray bottles; plastic hangers, scrub brushes and cleaning pads if they are hard porous plastic

Other facts:


-A study by the University of Louisville School of Medicine pointed out that the average bacteria count for all machine-washed dishes in their study was less than 1 per plate, while the bacteria count on dishes washed by hand during the same test averaged 390 per plate. Some of them went up to 16,000. It stands to reason that items we want to be sanitized should be considered for dishwasher treatment!

– Contrary to what some people think, the dishwasher does not fill completely as does a clothes washer. The total volume of water used in a complete cycle can be from just 6 to 10 gallons. Water should be a minimum of 130 degrees to dissolve detergent, cut grease and debris.

– No other type of cleaning product such as baking soda, borax, vinegar or hand dishwashing liquid should be substituted for an automatic dishwasher detergent. (I can go over the powdered, packets or gel options currently available).

Common items that you should not wash in the dishwasher

*Kitchen: Good quality knives: discouraged because the sharpness is compromised. Dishwasher detergents are made to be abrasive and will eat away at the very fine steel edge over time.
*Pyrex with bright colors or patterns tend to dull because of abrasive detergents that wear off the applied colors.
*Silver-trimmed ornamental crystal, milk glass and glazed glassware can be permanently etched and dulled by heat and detergents.

*Anything aluminum or Teflon-coated should be washed by hand. The aluminum will darken and pit, and Teflon erodes away when the strong detergents scrub away on it.

*Toys and kitchen doodads that are glued: Hot water and high heat drying settings weaken certain glues and may rust or erode the screws that hold handles in place. Just wipe these items off after swishing through sudsy dish water and rinsing.

General rules

-Always follow the manufacturer’s suggestions. They know their product best. Use common sense!

-The washing machine is still the best option for any fabric items that are woven or knitted and can be water cleaned (like purses, hats and gloves).

-The tub is still the best place to scrub down articles that are bulky and awkward like blinds, lamp shades, most athletic gear and the family dog!

-Make sure objects are heavy enough that they won’t get tipped over during the wash and rinse cycles.

-Objects should be small enough to fit on or within racks and baskets so water from the spray bar is able to rotate freely; position items securely such that water does not collect in concave areas.


Information Compiled by Sandra Phillips Studio 5 home and family efficiency specialist www.live-right.com

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