But what you may not be aware of are the many things that aren’t dishes that you can wash in your dishwasher. Having kids means dealing with sticky messes and germy fingers—it’s great to be able to throw these things into the dishwasher and forget about them while they are sterilizing. Here’s a list of non-traditional things you can clean in your washer to get the most out of your appliance:
- Legos or other hard plastic toys: we have a zillion Lego pieces and they are constantly getting dropped on the floor, sneezed on, or worse. Put Legos or other hard plastic toys on the top rack of the dishwasher in a delicates laundry bag.
- Nail clippers/tweezers: I don’t even want to know what that black stuff is under our kids’ fingernails, but I’m certain it contaminates our nail clippers every time we use them. Tweezers come in handy to pull out splinters or the odd small toy lodged in a child’s nose (I wish I was kidding!). This means both of these tools are pretty gross, so I try to remember to throw them into the utensil basket whenever there’s room.
- Hair brushes/combs: Placing brushes/combs on the top rack keeps them clean and also potentially prevents the spread of lice. My kids aren’t always the greatest at washing the soap out of their hair and this also ensures that buildup doesn’t coat the bristles.
- Hair ties: Same idea as #3. I also run barrettes and sweat bands through the dishwasher.
- Toothbrushes: pediatricians recommend replacing tooth brushes every two months, but if the bristles are still in good shape, you can simply throw toothbrushes in with the silverware.
- Light switch covers: I hope I’m not the only one with grimy black handprints on my light switch covers. This one doesn’t need to be done that often, but every three months or so I do a deep clean and take off all covers and even some particularly dirty door pulls/hardware get a bath too.
- Mouth guards: If your kids play sports that require mouth guards, you definitely want to be sterilizing those after every use to prevent the spread of illness. Instead of scouring them by hand, toss them onto the top shelf.
- Keys: This one doesn’t seem to be kid related, but anybody with a teething baby has probably had to fish their car or house keys out of their child’s mouth. Metal keys, key ring and all, can be thrown into the utensil basket and thoroughly sterilized. This is particularly appealing when you think about all of the germs that we pick up carrying our key around with us every day.
- Cell phone cover/case: Again, this might not seem to pertain to kids, but we use our cell phones to entertain our boys in restaurants, while we wait in line, or even to Face Time with their grandparents. A recent study showed that one in six cell phones is contaminated with fecal matter and, let’s face it, in homes with small children that number may be much higher! If your case is rubber or hard plastic, simply place it on the top shelf of the dishwasher.
The possibilities are endless—just make sure you’re using the top rack if you’re concerned about something melting and never wash bronze or other heat-sensitive, rust-prone metals in the dishwasher. If you wash something really disgusting—say a pair of plastic shoes or a potty seat—you can always run an empty load if you’re worried about putting dishes into the washer immediately afterward.