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.

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

14 Things You Might Not Have Known About James K. Polk

Matthew Brady/Getty Images
Matthew Brady/Getty Images

James K. Polk may have served just one term, but he was one of history’s most consequential U.S. presidents. Polish up on Young Hickory, America's 11th Commander in Chief.

1. James K. Polk had surgery to remove urinary bladder stones when he was 16.

Born on November 2, 1795, James Knox Polk was the oldest of 10 children born to Samuel Polk, a farmer and surveyor, and his wife, Jane. When James was 10, the family moved to Tennessee and settled on a farm in Maury County. As a child, James was too ill to attend formal school; just before he turned 17, he had urinary bladder stones surgically removed by Ephraim McDowell, a prominent Kentucky surgeon. Anesthesia wasn’t available at that time, so the future president reportedly dulled the pain with brandy. The surgery allowed the formerly ill Polk to attend formal schooling for the first time. He entered the University of North Carolina as a sophomore after just 2.5 years of formal schooling. According to Britannica, "as a graduating senior in 1818 he was the Latin salutatorian of his class—a preeminent scholar in both the classics and mathematics." After graduation, he returned to Tennessee to study law and eventually opened up his own practice.

2. James K. Polk won a seat on the Tennessee Legislature at 27, and the U.S. House of Representatives at 29.

During his time in the state legislature, he met—and befriended—future president Andrew Jackson. He also began courting his future wife, Sarah Childress. The daughter of a prominent planter, she had been educated at the prestigious Moravian Female Academy in Salem, North Carolina, and was an eager and active participant in his political campaigns. Polk and Sarah married in 1824. In 1825, Polk was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; he was speaker of the House from 1835 until he left in 1839 to become governor of Tennessee.

3. James K. Polk's nomination for president surprised everyone—including himself.

Months before the democratic national convention of 1844, Polk was at a low point. He had just lost his bid to be re-elected governor of Tennessee (he had been voted out of office in 1841 and tried—and failed—to be elected again in 1843). But when the delegates at the convention couldn’t agree on a nominee—the party was deadlocked between Martin Van Buren and Lewis Cass—they eventually decided to compromise by picking a “dark horse” candidate: Polk.

4. Everyone thought James K. Polk would lose his bid for the presidency.

Despite being a seven-time congressman, a former Speaker of the House, and an ex-governor, Polk was a relative nobody. His opponent Henry Clay lamented that Democrats had failed to choose someone “more worthy of a contest.” Despite the doubts, Polk won the popular vote by nearly 40,000 and the Electoral College 170-105.

5. During James K. Polk's White House "office hours," any American could stop by.

During Polk’s day, anybody was permitted to visit the White House for “office hours.” For two days every week, concerned citizens and lobbyists could drop by to vouch for a cause or ask for political favors. “Job seekers were the worst, in Polk’s view, and he found their incessant interruptions far more annoying than his Whig opponents in Congress,” writes Walter R. Borneman in his book Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America.

6. James K. Polk was remarkably boring.

Polk had as much charisma as a puddle of mud. He was straight-laced, somber, and humorless. As Speaker, an editor in Washington called him the "most unpretending man, for his talents, this, or perhaps any country, has ever seen." Some attributed Polk’s boringness to his refusal to drink socially. The politician Sam Houston supposedly called him “a victim of the use of water as a beverage.” (Sarah banned hard liquor—and dancing—from the White House.)

7. James K. Polk worked 12 hour days and didn't take much time off from the presidency.

Polk regularly spent 12 hours a day at the office. He rarely left Washington, took advice, or delegated. When he wanted to lobby for policy, he’d visit Congress and do it himself. Over the course of his single term, Polk took a total of just 27 days off. “No President who performs his duty faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure,” Polk wrote.

8. James K. Polk acquired America's first patch of Pacific coastline.

In the early 19th century, the Pacific Northwest was jointly occupied by British and American settlers. But as the century progressed, Americans began to outnumber the British, and they increasingly felt like the rightful owners of the “Oregon Country.” Thankfully, neither country was interested in battling over the land. In 1846, Polk and the British drew a border at the 49th parallel (with some adjustment for Vancouver Island)—what is now Washington State’s boundary with Canada. With that, the United States obtained its first uncontested patch of Pacific coastline.

9. James K. Polk waged a controversial—and consequential—war with Mexico.

In the 1840s, Mexico’s border encompassed California, the American southwest, and even parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Polk wanted this land. In 1845, he offered to buy some disputed territory near the Texas-Mexico border, as well as land in California; when Mexico refused, Polk sent troops into the disputed territory. Mexico retaliated. Polk then requested Congress to declare war. His critics (including a young Abraham Lincoln) complained that Polk had deliberately provoked Mexico. Whatever Polk’s motivations, the United States lost 13,000 men and approximately $100 million in the ensuing war—but succeeded in taking one-third of Mexico’s land.

10. James K. Polk is the reason the United States stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

In the course of just one term, Polk oversaw one of the greatest territorial expansions of any president—an increase of 1.2 million square miles. His administration extended the United States boundary to the Pacific Ocean and laid the groundwork for states such as California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana.

11. James K. Polk's ambivalence toward the issue of slavery may have sparked the Civil War.

When Polk’s administration began pushing westward, debate raged over how these new territories could alter the power balance between free and slave states. Polk, who considered slavery a side issue, refused to give the rancor much time or attention. (No doubt because of his own relationship with slavery. He owned more than 20 enslaved people and brought them to the White House.) Polk’s ambivalence helped sow so much discord that historians now consider his rapid expansion westward as the first steps toward the Civil War.

12. James K. Polk signed bills that reshaped Washington, D.C.

Polk accomplished a lot in just four years. During his tenure, he signed the Smithsonian Institution into law. He was instrumental to the construction of the Washington Monument and helped establish the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He also re-established an independent U.S. Treasury, which was partly intended to reduce the role of speculation in the economy.

13. James K. Polk's administration introduced Americans to the postage stamp.

One of Polk’s unofficial campaign managers was a Nosferatu-lookalike named Cave Johnson, who Polk rewarded with a job as Postmaster General. It was a tough gig. The post office’s budget was swimming in red ink. (At the time, mail recipients paid postage: If a mail carrier failed to find a recipient, no money was made. This happened a lot.) Johnson fixed the financial problem by introducing the prepaid postage stamp, which flipped the responsibility of paying to senders. According to historian C. L. Grant, in 1845, Johnson estimated that the department would have a deficit of over a million dollars. By the time he left that was down to $30,000.

14. The location of James K. Polk's grave is causing a stir in Tennessee.

Polk died, likely of cholera, in 1849, just months after leaving office. Because he died of an infectious disease, the president was hastily buried in a city cemetery near the outskirts of Nashville. Months later, he was re-interred near his Nashville mansion, Polk Place. In 1893, his tomb was moved again to the state Capitol grounds. Today, Tennessee legislators are actively debating whether to move Polk’s bones a fourth time, this time to his old family home in Columbia, Tennessee.

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