How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar

Rose Morrison

Nov 30, 2021


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In recent years, vinegar has gained popularity as a household cleaner. Instead of using bleach, ammonia and other harsh chemicals, families now rely on distilled white vinegar to remove stains, clean countertops and eliminate odors. Since it contains 5% acetic acid, vinegar makes for a rather effective cleaner that can also kill pathogens like salmonella, E. coli and listeria monocytogenes. 

Yet, most people still don’t consider using vinegar to clean their dishwasher. Besides, the dishwasher cleans things, so why would you ever need to clean it? Well, it turns out that your appliance isn’t as durable as you might think. Food can build up in the filter, clog the drain and cause unwanted odors. Therefore, it’s important to clean your dishwasher regularly. Luckily, vinegar can help you do just that. 

1. Gather Supplies 

Before even beginning to think about how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar, it’s important to get up off the couch and commit to making it happen. Put on your go-to cleaning playlist and crank up the tunes. Then, gather your supplies. Odds are you already have everything for this project at home. You’ll need:

  • Warm water
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Baking soda 
  • A toothpick
  • A toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Rubber gloves

2. Remove Racks

Next, open up the dishwasher and remove the utensil holders and washing racks. You should be able to take these out with relative ease. Place them in a mixture of warm water and vinegar and allow them to soak for 30 minutes to remove buildup. Then, scrape off any stubborn food particles with a brush or sponge. 

3. Clean the Filter

If your dishwasher has a manual filter, unscrew or twist it off the bottom of the machine’s floor and wash it by hand in warm, soapy water. If food particles stick to the filter, scrub it gently with a sponge or toothbrush. Wipe the area that holds the filter before finally screwing it back into the dishwasher. Remember to clean the filter at least once a month to prevent buildup, scratched dishes and strange smells. 

4. Get the Chunks

Check the appliance’s interior for large food particles and debris. Slip into those rubber gloves and pull out the bigger chunks with your hands. Often, you’ll notice these larger particles around the drain. Use a toothbrush or toothpick to scrape out tiny crevices and holes where water sprays out. Then, wipe out the interior with a microfiber cloth, remembering to clean off the spray arms as well. 

5. Run a Hot Cycle 

Now, it’s time to dive into one of the most important steps in how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar – using vinegar! Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with one cup of vinegar and place it on the bottom of the empty dishwasher. If the filter and sprayer arms leave no room for a cup of vinegar, replace the bottom rack and set the bowl in there. Then, run the dishwasher on a hot wash cycle. Doing so will allow the vinegar time to disinfect all surfaces. 

6. Run Another

Once the hot wash cycle finishes running, open the washer and sprinkle a cup of baking soda onto the bottom. Remove the bowl of vinegar, close the washer and run another short wash cycle. Baking soda removes stain from everything from your teeth to your clothes, so it should leave your dishwasher sparkling when it finishes working its magic. Plus, the powder will leave it smelling just as fresh and clean as it looks. 

7. Wipe Everything Down

After the second cycle stops running, you may choose to run another hot water cycle to remove any leftover vinegar. Then, use a dry cotton rag to wipe the interior of your appliance until it’s dry. Take the liberty of wiping down the exterior with vinegar and a cloth, too. You took all this time to clean the inside. Why not leave the outside sparkling as well? When you’ve finally finished, your dishwasher will look, feel and smell like new. 

Maintaining Your Dishwasher

Deep-cleaning your dishwasher isn’t exactly a fun experience but, if you want clean dishes, you must do it. Of course, you can avoid spending an hour or two cleaning your dishwasher by maintaining its cleanliness. Wipe down the exterior, the door seal and the handle frequently to prevent buildup and mold growth. Run a vinegar wash every month and scrub the interior with a halved lemon to break down stains and stubborn foods and keep things fresh.

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