The Easiest Way to Clean a Dishwasher

Learn how to safely clean a dishwasher. This simple trick involving vinegar will help you sanitize and sterilize your most-used appliance.

Use vinegar to clean a dishwasher.

How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar

Use vinegar to clean a dishwasher.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Cleaning your dishwasher is one of those chores that lingers on the top of your to-do list. We understand why it takes so long to prioritize this task: It seems counterintuitive to spend any time cleaning the inside of your dishwasher when it gets soapy, hot and disinfected during a wash cycle.

The reasons for cleaning your dishwasher are a lot like those for cleaning your washing machine in that soapy residue and deposits on the inside walls and components can make them both dirty and less effective over time.

However, unlike a washing machine, a dishwasher also faces build-up from grease and food particles while still being expected to meticulously cleanse every dish and glass to spotless perfection. You must admit — given the level at which dishwashers have to perform, they’re pretty impressive. But, that doesn’t mean they’re maintenance-free.

There’s a trick to cleaning your dishwasher that makes this task nearly effortless and takes only 15 seconds of your time. We think that once you learn how to clean your dishwasher with vinegar, you’ll agree the dishwasher is the easiest appliance to clean in your entire house.

How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar

Here's how to keep your dishwasher clean using a cup of white vinegar.

  1. Pour one cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe mug. The mug should be about 2/3 full of vinegar.

  2. Place the mug upright on the top rack of your dishwasher and then close the door of the appliance.

  3. Run the dishwasher on the normal cycle with hot water for extra sterilization. The vinegar loosens soap scum, food particles and grease from the dishwasher's walls and racks and washes it down the drain.

  4. Once the cycle is complete, open the door and remove the mug. Check the drain below the bottom rack for any large particles that may have settled in the filter there. You may need to remove those by hand or use a soapy cloth.

  5. Repeat this white vinegar cycle every few weeks to keep the dishwasher clean.
Use vinegar to clean a dishwasher

How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar

Run about a cup of white vinegar through a wash cycle very few weeks to keep the dishwasher clean.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Run about a cup of white vinegar through a wash cycle very few weeks to keep the dishwasher clean.

When to Use White Vinegar

Vinegar is highly acidic. That’s why it’s great at breaking down grease and other tough deposits inside your dishwasher. But there’s a reason that the vinegar is placed in an upright cup in this tutorial and not poured all over the surfaces:

  • Rubber seals and gaskets can break down over time when in contact with highly acidic cleaners. It’s always best to target your rubber seals with a soapy cloth to loosen any build-up. Do not apply undiluted white vinegar to any rubber gaskets and seals.

  • Only run white vinegar through your dishwasher if the dishwasher is empty. Dirty silverware or other metal containers that previously contained salt can be affected by a chemical reaction when in contact with vinegar.

Looking for an alternative to white vinegar? You can also sprinkle baking soda on the inside of your dishwasher and run it on a hot cycle. Baking soda can also help loosen and clean the build-up within the dishwasher.

Other Tasks Between Dishwasher Deep Cleanings

The disposal drainage is usually linked to the dishwasher, so always run your disposal before starting your dishwasher to help keep your dishwasher clean.

Pre-rinsing your dishes can help reduce build up in the filter beneath the lower rack. You should also check for visible pieces of food left in the bottom of the dishwasher after every wash. Remove any you find so they don’t rot and contribute to bad odors or clogged drainage.

Don't forget to clean the rubber gaskets routinely with soapy water.

More Advice

How to Clean Stainless-Steel Appliances

Say goodbye to streaks and smudges with our top DIY and store-bought cleaning methods.

You’ll also need to clean the exterior of the dishwasher to keep it looking its best. Follow these tips if it's made of stainless steel.

Three cheers for easy chores! While the dishwasher runs itself, make sure you clean these other spots in the kitchen you might have forgotten about.

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