How to deep clean your dishwasher

Even the appliances that do the cleaning in your home need a little cleaning themselves every now and then. Routine cleaning of your dishwasher is easy—just a coffee mugful of white vinegar every few weeks can be a big help at breaking down grime, odors, and soap scum.

cleaning the inside of a dishwasher

Table of contents

How to regularly clean your dishwasherWhat you’ll needHow to clean your dishwasher in 5 stepsHow to deep clean your dishwasherWhat you’ll needHow to deep clean your dishwasher in 7 steps

If you notice issues with your dishwasher like food sticking to your dishes, or dishes that just aren’t as shiny and clean as they should be, try a deeper cleaning to get your dishwasher working like new.

Note: Before you use any cleaning method, find more information on how to clean the specific make and model of your dishwasher in the owner’s manual. If you don’t have the original paper copy, you can likely find it online.

How to regularly clean your dishwasher

Like any appliance in your home, your dishwasher will benefit from regular cleaning, and routine maintenance will make deep cleaning much easier. Aim to follow this process every two weeks—it uses common household items like vinegar and baking soda that are likely already in your pantry. 

Note: Do not clean with vinegar and baking soda at the same time or it will foam and make a big mess!

What you’ll need

  • ¾ cup white vinegar or ¾ cup baking soda 

  • Coffee mug or dishwasher safe bowl

  • Cleaning solution

How to clean your dishwasher in 5 steps

  1. Start with an empty dishwasher.

  2. Fill a coffee mug or bowl with 3/4 cup white vinegar and place in the top rack of your dishwasher, rightside up. Alternatively, sprinkle 3/4 cup of baking soda along the bottom of your dishwasher.

  3. Run the dishwasher on the hottest wash cycle.

  4. Stop the dishwasher before the dry cycle and let it air dry with the door slightly open.

  5. Clean the exterior with a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution best suited for your dishwasher’s surface.

Tip: If you notice your dishwasher starting to smell bad, spray the drain with vinegar each time you run it. If the smell continues, follow the deep cleaning steps.

How to deep clean your dishwasher

About twice a year it’s a good idea to give your dishwasher a deep clean. Over time, dishwasher detergents and food particles can leave behind buildup that prevents your dishwasher from producing perfectly clean dishes. Deep cleaning can help get rid of any buildup, eliminate bad odors, and help your dishwasher run more efficiently.

What you’ll need

  • White vinegar

  • Baking soda

  • Old toothbrush

  • 50/50 vinegar and water solution in a spray bottle

  • Dish soap

  • Cleaning cloth

  • Toothpicks

How to deep clean your dishwasher in 7 steps

  1. Follow the steps to regularly cleaning your dishwasher with either a round of vinegar or baking soda cleaning, or one after the other if you choose to do both. (Remember: don’t do them both at the same time, or you’ll get a foamy mess!)

  2. Clean all removable parts including the top rack, bottom rack, and utensil holder if your machine has one, wiping off any bits of food. If needed, soak in your kitchen sink. Fill the sink with water and add two cups of vinegar. Let soak for an hour, then rinse and wipe clean.

  3. Clean the rubber gaskets or seals running along the dishwasher door by scrubbing with a vinegar solution and toothbrush, or warm soapy water.

  4. Clean the spray arm typically found at the top of the dishwasher by wiping with vinegar solution and a clean cloth. Clean any blocked jet holes with a toothpick.

  5. Clean the dishwasher filter. Note: Many newer dishwashers have self-cleaning filters. If yours is removable, remove it, and wipe the area under the filter with a vinegar solution taking care to remove any food bits. Wash the filter in warm soapy water, rinse, and return to its place.

  6. Clean the dishwasher drain. Microwave one cup vinegar for 15 seconds, add 2 tablespoons baking soda, and pour the mixture into the drain. Let sit for 15 minutes, then pour in hot water. 

  7. Clean the interior walls. Wipe the sides and bottom of the dishwasher and the inside of the dishwasher door with vinegar solution.

Tip: For removable parts, make sure you put each piece back correctly, or they can end up blocking moving parts of your machine and prevent it from cleaning effectively. Wheels on any racks should sit in line and pull in and out easily. Double check for any removable items that need to lock back into place to be secure.

Tip: To sanitize your dishwasher, repeat the first step (routine cleaning) and replace with 3/4 cup bleach. However, bleach isn’t safe for stainless steel, so if your dishwasher has a stainless steel interior, do not use bleach to sanitize. 

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