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.
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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.

8 Surprising Uses for Potatoes

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istock

Potatoes are one of the world’s most common, and most beloved, vegetables—and they can be used for much more than just sustenance. In honor of National Potato Day, here are a few other ways to use a potato.

1. WEAR THEM

Potatoes come from a nightshade plant called Solanum tuberosum, which blooms with white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. In the late 1700s, in an effort to inspire their starving subjects to plant the newly introduced vegetable—which the Spanish had brought to Europe from the New World—Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair, and her husband King Louis XVI wore them in his buttonholes. This inspired potato flowers to be a favorite of the French nobility for a time, but the ploy didn't work: The lower classes spurned the upper class's efforts to get them to farm the crop. 

2. MAKE ELECTRICITY

If you’re in a lurch, or perhaps a doomsday prepper, start stocking up on potatoes now. With just a few household items—wires, some copper, and a zinc-coated nail—and one of the tubers, you can power a clock, a light bulb, and many other small electronics.

3. GARDEN IN SPACE

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown on the space shuttle. Raymond Bula of the University of Wisconsin spearheaded a project in which five Norland variety potato leaves were propagated in space. Bula’s research group monitored this project from Wisconsin, staying in constant contact with NASA, who stayed in contact with the crew on the space shuttle. When the shuttle arrived home, everyone was pleased to find that the potato plants not only survived the ordeal, but actually grew potatoes.

4. GROW ROSES

Gardeners can insert rose cuttings into a potato, and then plant the entire potato as if it were a seed or bulb. The nutrient-rich potato helps provide moisture and sustenance to the growing plant, giving the cutting a better chance to survive.

5. MAKE PLASTIC

Bio-plastics, as they’re called, can be made from corn, wheat, and—you guessed it—potatoes. The concentration of starches and cellulose in a potato can be used to make plastic, and the plastic made out of potatoes can be burned and composted with much less impact on the environment.

6. MEASURE TIME

Peru’s Incas used the potato for all sorts of things at the height of their civilization. Known for creative, forward-thinking agricultural practices, the Incas also studied time—and started using the time it takes to cook a potato to measure time.

7. REMOVE RUST

Have a knife with some rust spots? If you insert the knife into the potato and let it sit for awhile, you'll go a long way in removing the rust. Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, which is used in many household cleaning products (in much greater quantities, of course). Oxalic acid also dissolves rust. To attack larger rusted surfaces with a potato, cut it in half, sprinkle baking powder on it or dip it in dish soap, and get to scrubbing.

8. MAIL THEM

Thanks to Mail A Spud, for only $9.99 everyone’s dream of mailing a potato to their closest friends and family can be a reality. The site advertises that it can send potatoes anywhere in the U.S., and that your choice of mailed gift will be sure to delight recipients. And, if not delight, at least confuse ... in a good way.

Additional Sources: Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent

This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Uplifting Facts About the Wright Brothers

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Before they built the world’s first powered, heavier-than-air, and controllable aircraft, Wilbur and Orville Wright were two ordinary brothers from the Midwest who possessed nothing more than natural talent, ambition, and imagination. In honor of National Aviation Day, here are 15 uplifting facts about the siblings who made human flight possible.

1. A TOY PIQUED THEIR PASSION.

From an early age, Wilbur and Orville Wright were fascinated by flight. They attribute their interest in aviation to a small helicopter toy their father brought back from his travels in France. Fashioned from a stick, two propellers, and rubber bands, the toy was crudely made. Nevertheless, it galvanized their quest to someday make their very own flying machine.

2. THEIR GENIUS WAS GENETIC.

While they were inspired by their father’s toy, the Wright brothers inherited their mechanical savvy from their mother, Susan Koerner Wright. She could reportedly make anything, be it a sled or another toy, by hand.

3. THEY WERE PROUD MIDWESTERNERS.

The Wright brothers spent their formative years in Dayton, Ohio. Later in life, Wilbur said his advice for those seeking success would be to “pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.”

4. THEY NEVER GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL.

While the Wright brothers were undoubtedly bright, neither of them ever earned his high school diploma. Wilbur became reclusive after suffering a bad hockey injury, and Orville dropped out of school.

5. THEY ONCE PUBLISHED A NEWSPAPER.

Before they were inventors, the Wright brothers were newspaper publishers. When he was 15 years old, Orville launched his own print shop from behind his house and he and Wilber began publishing The West Side News, a small-town neighborhood paper. It eventually became profitable, and Orville moved the fledgling publication to a rented space downtown. In due time, Orville and Wilbur ceased producing The West Side News—which they’d renamed The Evening Item—to focus on other projects.

6. THEY MADE A FORAY INTO THE BICYCLE BUSINESS.

One of these projects was a bike store called the Wright Cycle Company, where Wilbur and Orville fixed clients’ bicycles and sold their own designs. The fledgling business grew into a profitable enterprise, which eventually helped the Wright brothers fund their flight designs.

7. THEY WERE AUTODIDACTS.

The Wright brothers’ lifelong interest in flight peaked after they witnessed a successive series of aeronautical milestones: the gliding flights of German aviator Otto Lilienthal, the flying of an unmanned steam-powered fixed-wing model aircraft by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley, and the glider test flights of Chicago engineer Octave Chanute. By 1899, Wilbur sat down and wrote to the Smithsonian, asking them to send him literature on aeronatics. He was convinced, he wrote, “that human flight is possible and practical.” Once he received the books, he and Orville began studying the science of flight.

8. THEY CHOSE TO FLY IN KITTY HAWK BECAUSE IT PROVIDED WIND, SOFT SAND, AND PRIVACY.

The Wright brothers began building prototypes and eventually traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1902 to test a full-size, two-winged glider with a moveable rudder. They chose this location thanks in part to their correspondence with Octave Chanute, who advised them in a letter to select a windy place with soft grounds. It was also private, which allowed them to launch their aircrafts with little public interference.

9. THEY ACHIEVED FOUR SUCCESSFUL FLIGHTS WITH THEIR FIRST AIRPLANE DESIGN.

The Wright brothers started testing various wing designs and spent the next few years perfecting their evolving vision for a heavier-than-air flying machine. In the winter of 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk with their final model, the 1903 Wright Flyer. On December 17, they finally achieved a milestone: four brief flights, one of which lasted for 59 seconds and reached 852 feet.

10. THE 1903 WRIGHT FLYER NEVER TOOK TO THE SKIES AGAIN…

Before the brothers could embark on their final flight, a heavy wind caused the plane to flip several times. Because of the resulting damage, it never flew again. It eventually found a permanent home in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum—even though Orville originally refused to donate it to the institution because it claimed that Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley’s own aircraft experiment was the first machine capable of sustained free flight.

11. …BUT A PIECE OF IT DID GO TO THE MOON.

An astronaut paid homage to the Wright brothers by carrying both a swatch of fabric from the 1903 Flyer’s left wing and a piece of its wooden propeller inside his spacesuit.

12. THE PRESS INITIALLY IGNORED THE KITTY HAWK FLIGHTS.

Despite their monumental achievement, the Dayton Journal didn’t think the Wright brothers’ short flights were important enough to cover. The Virginia Pilot ended up catching wind of the story, however, and they printed an error-ridden account that was picked up by several other papers. Eventually, the Dayton Journal wrote up an official—and accurate—story.

13. THE BROTHERS SHARED A CLOSE BOND...

Although the Wright brothers weren’t twins, they certainly lived like they were. They worked side by side six days a week, and shared the same residence, meals, and bank account. They also enjoyed mutual interests, like music and cooking. Neither brother ever married, either. Orville said it was Wilbur’s job, as the older sibling, to get hitched first. Meanwhile, Wilbur said he “had no time for a wife.” In any case, the two became successful businessmen, scoring aviation contracts both domestically and abroad.

14. …BUT WERE OPPOSITES IN MANY WAYS.

Although they were much alike, each Wright brother was his own person. As the older brother, Wilbur was more serious and taciturn. He possessed a phenomenal memory, and was generally consumed by his thoughts. Meanwhile, Orville was positive, upbeat, and talkative, although very bashful in public. While Wilbur spearheaded the brothers’ business endeavors, they wouldn’t have been possible without Orville’s mechanical—and entrepreneurial—savvy.

15. OHIO AND NORTH CAROLINA FIGHT OVER THEIR LEGACY.

Since the Wright brothers split their experiments between Ohio and North Carolina, both states claim their accomplishments as their own. Ohio calls itself the "Birthplace of Aviation,” although the nickname also stems from the fact that two famed astronauts hail from there as well. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s license plates are emblazoned with the words “First In Flight.”

This article originally ran in 2015.

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