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 clean sponges, along with other items in your home—but one thing they can’t do is clean 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 the best way to clean a dishwasher so that you can enjoy sparkling clean dishes day after day.

How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar and Baking Soda

Cleaning a dishwasher with vinegar, baking soda, and dish soap is a proven way to get rid of dirt and odors using safe ingredients. 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 before you put it back in your dishwasher, check the drain for buildup and wipe out what you can reach with a sponge.

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 when you want to deep clean your dishwasher. 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.

How To Clean A Smelly Dishwasher

“Why does my dishwasher smell, even after I clean it?” That’s a question many of us have asked. The answer? It’s certainly not that you don’t know how to clean a dishwasher because we just showed you! Even when you clean a dishwasher with vinegar, a natural odor killer, you may need more firepower to get rid of lingering dishwasher smells.

Even a thorough cleaning can’t get rid of all the little bits of food and residue that can accumulate in out-of-the-way areas. If your dishwasher smells bad, use these additional; maintenance tips:

Check the Door Seals

When you wipe down the door seals on your dishwasher, the crevices in the seals can harbor odor-causing residue. Beneath the door seal where it lays against the interior of the door is a prime breeding ground for mildew that can cause dishwasher smells. Mix water with baking soda to make a thick paste. Since baking soda is a mild abrasive, it will help remove residue and deodorize in the process. Using a toothbrush and your paste, scrub the crevices and underneath the door seals—remember to clean the bottom, too.
To keep mildew from reappearing, get in the habit of leaving your dishwasher door ajar when it’s not running.

Use More Vinegar

You know firsthand how well white vinegar cuts grease and breaks down buildup in a dishwasher. Lean on more vinegar power to clean a smelly dishwasher. Pour a cup of white vinegar into a glass container and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run a cycle on the hottest setting, then leave the door open for about an hour. To keep your dishwasher fresh and smelling good longer between deep cleanings, use the vinegar cleanse every two months.

More Baking Soda

Still catching a whiff of offensive dishwasher smells? After you perform a vinegar cleanse and your dishwasher is mostly dry, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom. Let the baking soda sit for 30 minutes to work on the lingering odors and enjoy the added stain-fighting power bonus that brightens your dishwasher. Next, run a cycle on the hottest setting. Remember to leave the door open for ventilation after running the dishwasher.

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 the rest of your home, 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. Find out just how affordable a healthy cleaning service can be when you get your free customized estimate.

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