12 Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

Do you know what to do if you run out of dish detergent? How to stop funky dishwasher smell in its tracks? How about how to clean things like dog toys, baseball caps, and refrigerator magnets in the dishwasher? We’ve got you covered with these you-have-to-read-them-to-believe-them dishwasher hacks.

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin
4-minute read

What to Do if You’re Out of Dishwasher Detergent

You just noticed that you’re out of dishwashing detergent, but you don’t want to get in the car and run to the supermarket. You know you can’t use regular dishwashing liquid because of the suds, so what can you use? The secret: baking soda. Add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid that you'd normally use to hand-wash dishes (or you can even use baking soda), then add an equal amount of baking soda. The baking soda will keep it from oversudsing your dishwasher.

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Skip the Rinse Cycle for Super-Dirty Dishes

Keep a spray bottle filled with water and a bit of dishwasher detergent near your dishwasher. If a dish is heavily soiled, spray it down before you put it inside. The detergent gets working on the food immediately, so you won’t have to rinse your dishes before putting them inside, or run a separate “rinse” cycle before you do your dishes.

Hand Wash Separately

Having an Energy Star dishwasher is energy-efficient, but not when you are running it twice a day. Cut back on the amount of space you take up in your dishwasher by washing large pots and pans the old-fashioned way—in the sink. By using a little extra water to wash these items separately, you’ll save a lot of water in fewer loads washed.

How to Deep-Clean Your Dishwasher

If you’re anything like us, your dishwasher gets a lot of action. So don’t forget that it needs a bit of maintenance too. Give this super-powered cleaning machine its own well-deserved day at the spa: Pour 1 cup white vinegar into an open dishwasher-safe container (any cup will do). Place it in the top rack of the machine and start the hot cycle. For round two, pour baking soda along the bottom of the dishwasher and start a short wash cycle. The double-duty wash will leave it fresh, shiny, and ready for action! You can also use lemon juice or even powdered lemonade.

How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher

If your dishwasher still smells a little funky even after a cleaning, just squeeze the juice of a lemon or orange into the liquid detergent compartment and run the dishwasher while it’s empty, setting it to “steam dry.” The citric acid will neutralize the odors caused by food-particle buildup. Now you can invite your guests into the kitchen without embarrassment!

Keep Small Utensils Safe

If your plastic lids, baby spoons, and other small items in the dishwasher keep falling through the rack, place them inside a zippered mesh bag used for cleaning delicates in the washing machine.

Add Hydrogen Peroxide

Step up your dishwasher’s game with a little bacteria-fighting hydrogen peroxide. Combine 2 ounces peroxide with your usual detergent—not only will it kill germs, your dishes and glasses will sparkle like never before!

Unexpected Items You Can Clean in the Dishwasher

Did you know you can wash a baseball cap on the top rack of your dishwasher? Remove it while it’s still wet, then place the cap over a bowl to regain its shape, and dry it away from direct sunlight. You can also clean flip-flops, Crocs, and even rubber boots in the dishwasher (we recommend doing it without any dishes inside). Be sure to remove lining inserts and laces beforehand, then squeeze some lemon juice into where you’d normally put the detergent, and run a normal wash cycle. You can also toss in sportswear like kneepads, shin guards, and hockey pads into the top rack—laces can go into the regular washing machine and then hang to air-dry.

Clean Dog Toys in the Dishwasher

Another item we clean in the dishwasher? Pet toys. Unsurprisingly (since they’ve been in your dog’s mouth), dog toys are covered in bacteria. Get rubber and plastic toys clean again by throwing them into your dishwasher on the top shelf while you’re running a load. Make sure to take them out before the dry cycle.

Genius Bottle Top Trick

When you’ve used all the ketchup in a plastic squeeze bottle, throw the cap in the dishwasher to remove the caked-on ketchup. Keep it, along with other condiment bottle tops, handy in the kitchen. When your current bottle top gets all mucked-up, simply switch it out with a clean top and throw the dirty one in the dishwasher.

Clean Your Refrigerator Magnets

Clean refrigerator magnets in your dishwasher with help from some old pantyhose. Cut the foot off an old pair and place the magnets inside, then tie the pantyhose shut. Place in the utensil compartment of your dishwasher and the nylon will protect your magnets while still allowing the warm suds through.

Easy Sponge Disinfection

To make your kitchen sponges and dish brushes last longer, wash them once a week in the utensil compartment of your dishwasher with a load of dishes (squeeze out any dishwashing liquid first). This will ward off any bacteria and mildew that may be forming in the sponge.

Save Energy While Running the Dishwasher

As Bruce recently told MoneyGirl, much of the energy your dishwasher uses is during the dry cycle, when it heats up water to the point of steam. To save energy, turn off the dry cycle (or simply open your dishwasher after the rinse cycle is done). Leave the door open a crack and let your dishes drip-dry. You’ll save a lot by avoiding the heat-drying cycle on your machine, and your glasses will streak less.

For more cleaning tricks from all over the internet, check out our Cleaning Tips board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our Tip of the Day!

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About the Author

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin

Bruce Lubin and Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin are the proud parents of three boys and more than a dozen books. After saving thousands per year using everyday tips and simple lifehacks, they started their own business in the hopes of sharing their knowledge with others. They have been known to go into their friends' refrigerators to turn their eggs upside down so that they last longer.