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How To Clean A Dishwasher (And Fix Most Dishwasher Problems)

Hard water stains, greasy deposits, or drainage issues plaguing your dishwasher? This easy 3-step process can help you avoid an expensive repair bill!

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

While the idea of cleaning your dishwasher may seem redundant, it’s actually a useful procedure that can keep your dishwasher working effectively! One of the main issues with dishwashers is that over time, food residue, grease, and soap scum can form stubborn deposits. This grimy buildup can make your dishwasher look dirty, smell bad, and even prevent it from cleaning your dishes properly.

Grimy dishwasher buildup can also prevent your dishwasher from draining correctly. This particular issue was the inspiration that lead me to find a method for cleaning my dishwasher in the first place! I had opened my dishwasher to unload the clean dishes, only to discover a bunch of standing water at the bottom.

But after a bit of research and experimentation, I discovered a highly effective method for cleaning a dishwasher, and that’s what I’ll be sharing with you in today’s post! I’ll start by quickly explaining how this method works, and then I’ll explain the simple 3-step process in detail. Then I’ll round things out by offering a few bonus tips for keeping your dishwasher working in tip-top shape! 🙂

Related: 7 Of The Best Home Cleaning Hacks You’ll Ever Try

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

Why It Works

The cleaning process I came up with relies on a few of my favorite cleaning ingredients: white vinegar and baking soda. White vinegar helps to remove grime, dissolve mineral deposits, and sanitize your dishwasher. And using baking soda helps to remove lingering odors and scrub away stuck-on food bits, residues, and stains.

Every time I use this method, it leaves my dishwasher squeaky clean, smelling fresh, and it solves any drainage issues. Here’s how it’s done!

Related:  This One Simple Thing Makes Cleaning Easier And More Effective

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

To deep clean your dishwasher, remove any foreign material you can  find from the drain. Place a bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack and run a complete wash cycle on the hottest setting. Then sprinkle a handful of baking soda across the bottom of your dishwasher and run for a short hot water cycle.

Keep reading for the full breakdown of how to clean your dishwasher top to bottom! 

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

1. Inspect The Drain

Before you start cleaning you dishwasher, it’s a good idea to quickly check the area around the drain. Remove the bottom rack for easier access, then feel the area around the drain.

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

Remove any foreign material you find to prevent it from blocking the drain. (You’d be surprised at what repairmen often find down there—bones, crab shells, glass shards, bits of plastic, etc.)

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

This is also a good opportunity to inspect the holes in the spray arm. If they look grimy, dip an old toothbrush into some vinegar and use it to scrub any food particles out the the spray holes. Replace the bottom rack when you’re done.

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

2. Vinegar Wash

Set a small dishwasher-safe bowl on the top rack of your empty dishwasher, then fill it with white vinegar. Close your dishwasher and run a complete wash cycle on the hottest setting.

Related: 50 Amazing Uses For Vinegar That You’ll Want To Know

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

3. Baking Soda Wash

Once the first wash cycle is finished, sprinkle a handful of baking soda into the bottom of your dishwasher. Run it through another quick wash cycle using the hottest water setting.

Related: Surprising Uses for Baking Soda That Have Nothing To Do With Baking

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

Optional Step – Bleach Wash

If you’ve been struggling with mold and/or mildew in your dishwasher, adding a final bleach wash to the cleaning process should take care of it. To do a bleach wash, add 1 cup of bleach to the bottom of the dishwasher and run a full wash cycle.

(Note: Do NOT do this step if your dishwasher has a stainless steel interior. Bleach can permanently damage and discolor stainless steel.)

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

Repeat the steps outlined above every 3 months or so to keep your dishwasher clean and working effectively!

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

5 Bonus Dishwasher Tips

  • Run your garbage disposal to clear it out before starting a load of dishes. Dishwashers usually drain into the same pipe as your sink, so that drain must be clear.
  • Before starting a load of dishes, run hot water through your sink faucet until it feels hot to the touch. Your dishwasher will perform better if the wash cycle starts with hot water.
  • Set your water heater high enough to ensure that the water can clean your dishes effectively. Your water heater should be set to around 120°F (50°C.) Cooler water won’t clean effectively, and hotter water could scald someone accidentally!
  • Running only full loads of dishes helps to conserve water and energy, but don’t overfill your dishwasher. Dishwashers work by spraying water over the dishes, so the water needs to be able to get to the dishes in order to clean them.
  • You can rinse dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, but don’t over-rinse your dishes. Dishwasher detergent requires a certain amount of gunk and grime to work right. Otherwise, the detergent can foam up during the cycle, which isn’t good for your dishwasher.

Have you ever had problems with a dirty dishwasher?

Cleaning Your Dishwasher (Step by Step)

Jill Nystul
Each time I use this tried and true cleaning method it leaves my dishwasher squeaky clean, smelling great, and it eliminates any standing water issues. Give it a try and see for yourself!
Active Time 10 mins
Running Time 1 hr 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Cost $5
Yield 1 clean dishwasher

Equipment

  • Bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Bleach optional

Instructions
 

Examine the Drain

  • Pull the bottom rack out and examine the drain area and make sure there are no hard chunks that can plug the drain, cause damage to the pump or scratch dishes. You’d be surprised at what dishwasher repairmen find – bones, crab shells, glass shards, and even small pieces of gravel!
  • Inspect the holes in the spray arm. If they look grimy, dip an old toothbrush into some vinegar and use it to scrub any food particles out the the spray holes. Replace the bottom rack when you’re done.

Wash Cycle with Vinegar

  • Place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher. The vinegar will help to wash away the loose, greasy grime, sanitize, and help remove the musty odor. Using the hottest water setting, run the dishwasher through a cycle. The dishwasher should be empty except for the cup of vinegar.

Wash Cycle with Baking Soda

  • After the vinegar cycle finishes, sprinkle a handful of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a short cycle using the hottest water. The baking soda will help further deodorize your dishwasher and help in removing any stains.

Optional Bleach Cycle

  • If you have problems with mold and mildew, add ½-1 cup bleach in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a full cycle. Do not use bleach in your dishwasher if it has a stainless steel interior. Bleach can corrode and stain stainless steel!
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    Hi, I’m Jillee!

    I believe we should all love the place we call home and the life we live there. Since 2011, I’ve been dedicated to making One Good Thing by Jillee a reliable and trustworthy resource for modern homemakers navigating the everyday challenges of running a household. Join me as I share homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make life easier so you can enjoy it more!

    Every day I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

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