Reduce your water and energy bills AND save time and effort with these handy dishwasher hacks
With the recent hike in energy prices, “fun ways to reduce our bills” has been a common conversation topic between Darren and I.
“You use the dishwasher way too much” he said. “You should hand-wash more stuff to save water and energy.”
“Well ACTUALLY…” I said smugly, “dishwashers use LESS water and energy than hand washing.”
According to this study by Which? dishwashers are, on average, four times more water efficient than washing by hand and the most water-efficient machines use almost 10 TIMES less water!
In terms of energy-use, if you have a modern dishwasher it will heat the water itself rather than using your home's hot water supply making it more energy efficient than a tap, which will take hot water from the boiler.
If you have an eco setting on your machine, that will help you save even more money on your bills as it can reduce water use by 20-40% for each clean and it heats the water more slowly, using less energy.
And if you’re really savvy, you can put your dishwasher on at night or early morning (between 11pm and 7am) when electricity is cheapest*
Like most mums, I spend large amounts of my day standing at the sink, elbows deep in bubbles, so this got me thinking - what else am I currently washing by hand that can actually go in the dishwasher?
Sure enough, there are tonnes of things you can stick in the dishwasher to make light work of many cleaning jobs.
Here are my favourite ones…
Most plastic and rubber toys can go in the dishwasher. Put them on the top rack and run through a light/gentle wash cycle, but make sure the heated-dry option is OFF, to avoid potentially melting anything.
Think garden toys, plastic cars and trucks, animal figurines, baby rattles, stacking pots, rubber blocks etc. Smaller pieces such as Lego or Duplo bricks can be placed in the cutlery rack or in a mesh bag to prevent them falling through the bars.
Toys that CAN’T go in the dishwasher are: anything fabric, wooden, electric, battery-operated or pull-string, anything with loose parts and anything soft or squishy. Squeaky toys aren’t great either as they’ll fill with dirty water through the hole.
Kids love muddy puddles! And muddy puddles mean muddy shoes. Instead of spending ages scrubbing their mucky footwear at the sink, just scrape off the bigger chunks of mud then chuck them on the top rack of the dishwasher to clean.
Think rubber welly boots, Crocs, jelly shoes and rubber flip flops. Nothing fabric, leather or anything lined with fabric.
Bath Mats (and other bathroom stuff)
If your toddler’s anything like mine and cannot sit still in the bath, you’ll no doubt have invested in a stick-on rubber bath mat to help prevent any slips. A genius invention, but they do have a tendency to build up lots of nasty bacteria and mould around the suckers.
Instead of trying to scrape this off by hand or soaking it in a bath of toxic bleach (which can be dangerous with little ones around), stick the whole mat on the top rack of the dishwasher and run on a full cycle with your regular dishwasher tabs.
You can put a lot of other bathroom stuff in the dishwasher too, including drain plugs, soap dishes, shower caddies and even shower heads!
Sippee Cups and Baby Bottles
Whilst the dishwasher won’t sterilise your baby cups and milk bottles, it will give them a good cleaning before you have to sterilise them, saving you precious time with that bottle brush at the sink.
Fridge Shelves & Drawers
This one was an absolute game changer for me! When it’s time for that laborious weekly fridge clean-down before you restock your groceries, simply stick all the glass shelves and plastic drawers into the dishwasher and run on a full wash.
Shelves can go on the bottom, stacked like plates and plastic drawers on the top rack. If your shelves or drawers are particularly large, you may need to remove a rack to ensure there’s enough room.
Get that welded-on baked bean juice off in a flash by popping your glass microwave turntable on the bottom rack, along with your usual plates and dishes. Most glass turntables will be absolutely fine, although it’s always worth checking your microwave's manual first to make sure.
Potatoes (rinse only!)
I know, I know… potatoes?! This is definitely worth a try if you buy your potatoes dirty (e.g. from a farm shop). Get them clean all in one go by putting them on the top rack of the dishwasher in a single layer and set it to the rinse-only cycle. Don’t use any tabs, detergent, soap or rinse agent for this job - water only.
Sponges, Scrubbers, Loofahs and Shower Poufs
Bacteria love nothing more than a mucky sponge, so it’s really important to disinfect them regularly, otherwise you’re just spreading germs all over your dishes, worktops and skin! Soaking them in a tub of diluted bleach works well, but to make life easier and avoid using toxic chemicals, you can just pop them onto the top rack of your dishwasher and run it on the hottest cycle.
I’m a huge fan of silicone kitchen equipment as it’s just so durable, non-stick and pretty as well! Another great quality of silicone is it’s highly heat-resistant so it can go in your dishwasher to sanitise. Pop your silicone oven mitts, cupcake cases, brownie tins, cooking utensils, food lids, baby plates etc. on the top rack and put them through a regular wash cycle.
Cleaning my cleaning equipment always makes me feel very “Monica from Friends” but after a while it can get so mucky you often wonder if you’re just adding more dirt to your house by using it! The good news is, it’s not a hassle to clean as you can stick anything like vacuum attachments, dustpans, brushes and washing up brushes (not wood-handled) on the top rack of the dishwasher too.
Washing-Machine Detergent Drawers
This is quite possibly my least favourite cleaning job in the house, apart from cleaning the oven! That little washing machine drawer can get so skanky and full of black mould, it can’t be doing any good for your clothes or your washing machine.
Pull it out and wash it on the top rack of your dishwasher, but as with all plastics, make sure the heated-dry option is OFF, to avoid potentially melting it. It’s a good idea to check your washing machine manual first to make sure it’s dishwasher safe.
As one of the most germy items in your household, bins are a great one to wash in the dishwasher. Many are too large of course but their lids may be able to fit and smaller bins made from hard plastic or metal can easily fit on the bottom rack too.
Probably one of the top “stick in mouth” temptations for babies, keys can get so filthy and germ-ridden it’s not a good idea to let them be used as a substitute chew-toy. For peace of mind, you can run your metal keys through the dishwasher easily, by looping the keyring around one of the pegs on the top rack.
Obviously this only applies to metal keys. Do NOT run your electronic car keys through the dishwasher! It will be a costly mistake.
I hope these hacks help to reduce your bills as well as the number of cleaning tasks in your household! For more great mum hacks, follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my mailing list to get tips sent straight to your inbox.
*Just a word of warning on this… if you’re going to run your dishwasher at night, please make sure it is in good working order and that you have functional smoke alarms near the machine. Old or faulty dishwashers can catch fire so if you’re in bed asleep this can present a hazard. It happened to a friend of mine, so I felt I should share the advice!