The dishwasher has to be one of the best time-saving appliances in your kitchen. It helps you keep your kitchen tidy and—most importantly—makes washing dishes a snap.

Here’s a fun fact: Dishwashers don’t just clean dishes. They can also sanitize toys and cleaning sponges, as well as other items in your home—but one thing they can’t clean is themselves.

As your dishwasher cleans and sanitizes, bits of food and residue buildup can decrease its cleaning ability and lead to the growth of bacteria. Here’s how to clean your dishwasher so you can keep enjoying sparkling clean dishes day after day.

How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar and Baking Soda

The best way to clean a dishwasher might also be the easiest and safest. White vinegar and baking soda are household staples that clean, disinfect, and more using only natural ingredients. These safe, all-purpose cleaners are perfect for getting your dishwasher fresh and clean. Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Cleaning cloths and paper towels
  • Scrub brush

Step 1

For dishwashers with plastic exteriors, soak a cleaning cloth in hot, soapy water and wipe the surface down. Use a clean, dry cloth or a paper towel to wipe it dry. If your dishwasher is stainless steel, fill a spray bottle with a homemade solution of one part vinegar to three parts water. Spray it on the dishwasher’s exterior and use a cleaning cloth to wipe it dry. Read on to learn how to clean the inside of a dishwasher.

Step 2

Your dishwasher has a screen that catches food and other debris. Over time, the screen gets clogged, leading to poorly cleaned dishes and extra wear and tear on your dishwasher. Unscrew or lift out the filter on the bottom of the dishwasher and spray it with hot water at the kitchen sink. Soak the filter in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes and then rinse with hot water. If there are remaining food particles or residue, use a scrub brush to remove them. Rinse your filter and put it back in your dishwasher.

Step 3

The spray arms in your dishwasher can also become clogged and residue can build up on the utensil holder and racks. Remove these parts and spray away food particles at your sink. Use a scrub brush to remove remaining debris and residue. If you still have clogged spray holes on your spray arms, use a paper clip to dislodge the buildup. Rinse the dishwasher parts and reinstall them.

Step 4

White vinegar is a pantry and cleaning supply staple in most kitchens because it’s safe, effective, and inexpensive. It also does a superb job cleaning the inside of dishwashers. Cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar helps remove discoloration, odors, and bacteria, leaving your dishwasher looking and working at its best. Pour two cups of white vinegar into the bottom of your empty dishwasher and run a regular cycle without detergent.

Step 5

Even when you clean a dishwasher with vinegar, there may be some lingering stains or slight odors, especially if you haven’t cleaned it in a while. Baking soda is a slightly abrasive, natural cleaner and deodorizer that picks up where vinegar leaves off. Pour a cup of baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher. You can dab the baking soda with a damp cloth and lightly scrub stains. Run a regular cycle without detergent and let the baking soda work its magic. When the cycle ends, you’ll have a fresh clean dishwasher ready to tackle the next load of dirty dishes.

Everyday Dishwasher Tips

Since you’ve taken the time to learn how to clean your dishwasher, keep reading to learn how to keep it that way. From using the proper dishwasher settings to regularly performing light cleaning, helping your dishwasher churn out clean dishes with every load is simple and easy.

Here are some everyday dishwasher tips you can add to your regular house cleaning checklist:

  • Check your dishwasher manual for any special loading instructions and an understanding of your dishwasher’s settings.
  • Make sure your water heater is set to a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal cleaning.
  • For sanitizing, you’ll need a dishwasher with a sanitizing cycle to get to the required 145 degrees Fahrenheit needed to get rid of germs and bacteria.
  • Try using pods instead of powder or liquid dishwashing detergent.
  • Use the top rack for bowls, mugs, glassware, and large utensils.
  • Load the bottom rack with plates, pots, platters, and cutting boards.
  • Keep your utensil holder on the bottom rack and load forks and spoons with the handles down. (Extra tip: Load knives with the handles up!)
  • Use an old toothbrush to prevent buildup in hard-to-reach places inside your dishwasher.
  • Prevent spots on glassware by refilling the rinse-aid dispenser once a month.
  • You don’t have to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher to get them clean!

Now that you know how to clean a dishwasher and keep it working as well as it should, check out these other kitchen appliance cleaning how-tos. And when you need help cleaning and disinfecting, we’re probably just around the corner. Because we are the only residential cleaning service to clean for health exclusively, you can count on The Maids to create a better environment for you and your family.

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