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updated: 3/29/2011 3:57 PM

Dishwashers can do more than dishes

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Dishwashers make clean up a snap. This timesaving appliance can clean more than dishes, too. Some items shouldn't be cleaned in a dishwasher, such as cast iron, wooden or brass items, crystal, quality knives and many types of pots and pans. But there are plenty of household items that are dishwasher-safe. What have you cleaned in your dishwasher?

I'm not suggesting you wash some of these items with your food dishes or run an entire cycle for one item. Do make sure you're using high temperature water (above 155 degrees) to kill bacteria.

These tips are definitely not going to appeal to everyone, but here are a few ideas.

Baseball caps: Place caps on the top rack and wash them without losing their shape. You can take it one step further and buy a plastic cap shaper that can help make sure your caps don't get wrinkled. They can be used in the dishwasher or top loading washing machine. Don't use your dishwasher's heat drying option. Allow the caps to air-dry.

Brushes and combs: Freshen your plastic hair tools by washing them in the dishwasher. Be sure to remove any hair in them beforehand because it's pretty gross otherwise. They can be placed in the utensil holder, or put them in a mesh laundry bag and place them on the top rack.

Lunchboxes and bags: Plastic lunch boxes and insulated bags can be cleaned on the top rack of your dishwasher. One reader, Maggie from Indiana, shares: "I washed my daughter's school lunch bag in the dishwasher. It gets really dirty and nasty looking on the outside from stuff leaking in it. The dishwasher makes it look brand new. I've done this several times, and the lunch bag is still good."

Gargen veggie wash: Wash garden-picked vegetables such as potatoes and carrots in the dishwasher's rinse cycle (without cleaning product added).

Toys: Add plastic pet or children's toys in your dishwasher to clean them regularly. These can be washed with your regular dish cycle.

Miscellaneous household items: Wash glass light-fixture covers, showerheads or appliance parts, such as stove grates, burner covers or your microwave tray. Another reader, Grayce from Canada, adds: "I clean the metal screen that covers the fan in the vent over the stove. Gets off all the grease and dust that accumulates on it."

Multitasking: While this isn't a cleaning idea, it's good to know. You can let your bread dough rise in your dishwasher. This is helpful if you do a lot of bread making in the winter, when your kitchen is colder. Use your dishwasher's plate-warming feature or heat dry cycle for a few minutes, then turn it off and place your dough inside to rise. Some people cook corn on the cob (place on top rack, run on normal cycle and then heat dry), poached salmon ( and even lasagna ( in their dishwasher, too. Clearly, you'll want to use a freshly cleaned dishwasher.

• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village,, a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or