You're better off leaving your cooking to the stove.
It all started when my mother suggested I wash my underwear in the dishwasher.
I had recently moved into yet another apartment with no indoor laundry facilities, and was dreading dragging my laundry basket outside in the dead of winter when my mom, resourceful lady that she is, wondered if I could simply replace my plates with panties for a sudsy spin.
She was joking, sort of, but it makes some sense. The dishwasher is known as a remarkably versatile appliance, capable of cleaning baseball caps and computer keyboards and even cooking fish.
Or so it says on the Internet. We felt a test was in order to determine just what amazing feats the dishwasher can accomplish.
Most Read Life Stories
- Head to Edmonds for the classic dim sum cart experience and some tasty BBQ
- Embattled Willows Inn closes; building donated to Bellingham nonprofit
- Restaurant review: Seabird got named a top national spot for 2022 — but here's what our critic thinks
- A man fell from a cruise ship. And survived.
- The Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass will open Friday
One recent evening, I ran a variety of non-kitchen items through a dishwasher cycle, including flip-flops, baseball caps, hairbrushes, makeup brushes, dish sponges and, the test of honor, underwear. The computer keyboard was a risk I wasn’t willing to take.
I also, separately, made dinner in the dishwasher, the goal being a simple meal of poached salmon, steamed asparagus and baked potato. I avoided the dishwasher lasagna Florentine, for which there is a recipe online, and which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
The results, though not tragic, were unremarkable.
The baseball caps, two of which I placed on the bottom rack and two on the top, emerged after a normal wash cycle smelling far better than they had going in (thanks to the lemon-scented Cascade dish detergent), with no damage to fabric or shape. Some stains appeared to have faded, but were they immaculate? No. And they were soaking wet.
The plastic flip-flops, long smudged with dirt, looked filthy as ever when the cycle was over, but were undamaged. The plastic hairbrush (with hair removed previously) and an eye shadow brush caked in Halloween makeup, both of which I had placed in the utensil rack, definitely looked cleaner, but not thoroughly. Perhaps the best outcome was for the dish sponges, which went in disgusting and came out looking and smelling almost new.
The two pairs of cotton underwear I draped over the prongs on the top rack had seen better days, poor things. My sopping wet skivvies, which had drooped down through the rack’s cracks like Dali’s melting clocks, were cleaner, but not perfectly, and the fabric looked as if it had been stretched out.
Perhaps the meal would be more triumphant.
Following a recipe for dishwasher salmon from Bob Blumer, author of “The Surreal Gourmet: Real Food for Pretend Chefs,” I greased the shiny side of a 12-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil with olive oil and placed two salmon fillets on top. I drizzled the salmon with freshly squeezed lime juice, added salt and pepper, then wrapped the aluminum foil tightly around the fillets, and wrapped another layer of foil around that. I prepared the asparagus the exact same way.
I had already run the potatoes through the dishwasher to clean them (a good timesaving trick if you are hosting a big dinner party and have dozens of potatoes to scrub). I wrapped them in aluminum foil as well, hoping another cycle would soften them more. With everything on the top rack, I ran a normal cycle, high heat, no soap.
The good news is that the dishwasher didn’t smell like fish afterward. But dinner was meh. The salmon, while cooked, was a little rubbery and not flavorful. The potatoes weren’t cooked nearly enough. The asparagus, however, were steamed perfectly, to a crisp al dente, far better than the mushy spears I often end up with when I throw them in a pot.
My conclusion: The meal was a colossal waste of water. Unless every other appliance in your kitchen has failed, you’re better off leaving your cooking to the stove.
Dish sponges, baseball caps, gardening tools and hard plastic toys are probably the best candidates for a dishwasher cleaning — the high heat sanitizes the items (not the same as sterilizing, which requires higher temperatures).
As for underwear, when times are desperate or it’s just too cold outside, I’d rather just hand wash in Woolite — as my mom used to do.