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How To Clean A Dishwasher


Every time you run your dishwasher, it fills with hot water and detergent, but that does not mean that it is a self-cleaning appliance. Grease, food particles and soap scum can accumulate in the machine, providing a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause problems like sour smells, reduced efficiency and compromised cleaning capabilities.

Fortunately, a little basic maintenance can eliminate bacteria and grime and keep your dishwasher functioning smoothly. For the best results, your appliance should be cleaned once a month, but the chore is an easy one. To get the job done, you need to empty your dishwasher and gather:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Hot water
  • Spray bottle
  • Tools for scrubbing like paper towels, dishcloths, sponges and a toothbrush


The drain located at the bottom of your dishwasher is a magnet for gunk, so it is an excellent spot to start. Simply open the dishwasher, pull out the bottom rack and use a paper towel to wipe up any debris.


To clean the inside of the dishwasher, remove the racks, utensil basket and any other accessories and set them aside. Pour white vinegar in the bottom of the empty machine, close the door and run your dishwasher using the hottest water possible. If you prefer, you can substitute a packet of unsweetened lemonade mix for the vinegar. Simply sprinkle the mix in the bottom of the machine. Either option will freshen your dishwasher's interior.


While your dishwasher is completing its cycle, turn your attention to the racks and utensil holders that normally hold your dishes while they are being washed. Fill your sink with a 50-50 mix of hot water and white vinegar and grab your preferred scrubbing tool. Wipe the accessories down carefully, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies where residue is likely to be lurking. If you find yourself battling stubborn deposits in tight places, then try using the toothbrush. Both gentle and effective, it can banish grime without damaging the accessories.


Once the dishwasher has finished its cycle, you can turn your attention to the seal around the dishwasher's door. Dampen a paper towel or soft cloth with the vinegar water cleaning solution, open the dishwasher door, and gently wipe the seal and the surrounding area. Make sure you get into the grooves. If you notice tough stains, use the toothbrush and a paste made from baking soda and water to scrub them away. While you're cleaning the seal, do not forget to clean the area around the dishwasher door's hinges as well.


Examine the inside of your dishwasher for signs of buildup or stains. Look at the paces under the spray arms and other areas where residue is likely to build up. The vinegar rinse from step two may have left the tub nice and clean, but if you spot any trouble areas, you can take a hands-on approach. Simply fill the spray bottle with some of the vinegar water cleaning solution, spray the problem spots, and wipe them down with a paper towel or cloth. If you encounter any particularly stubborn areas, consider using the toothbrush and a paste made from baking soda and water.

Once you are happy with the way the inside of your dishwasher tub looks, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the tub. Return the racks and utensil bins, close the door, and run another cycle with hot water. When it is done, the inside of your dishwasher will be bright, shiny and clean.


With the interior of your dishwasher sparkling and fresh, there is no reason to neglect the appliance's exterior. Remove fingerprints and dirt from the dishwasher's exterior by wiping it down with a cloth dampened with the vinegar and water cleaning solution.


While the steps listed above are all that is required under normal circumstances, they may not be enough to combat mold or rust. Troubleshooting these common issues requires a little extra effort.

For mold or mildew, add one cup of bleach to the bottom of the dishwasher and run it for a full cycle. It is important to note that this only works if your dishwasher is not stainless steel. Bleach and stainless steel do not play nicely together, so you should never use bleach to clean a stainless steel appliance. If rust stains are preventing your dishwasher from looking its best, visit a home center and browse the shelves of the appliance department for a product that removes rust from appliances. Sprinkle the product in the bottom of the dishwasher or pour it in the soap cup. Then, run the machine for a full cycle. While this will help for a while, rust stains are generally indicative of a systematic problem, so to address the issue properly, you may want to speak with a plumber about options for fixing the issue at its source.

Do you want to keep your dishwasher neat and tidy between its regular cleanings? There are several things you can do to prevent residue from accumulating. For starters, make sure that your water heater is set to 120 degrees so that your dishwasher has access to plenty of hot water. Since overcrowding can result in poor performance, resist the temptation to stick just one more dish in a full dishwasher. Finally, choose the right cycle for each load. Using a lighter cycle to wash heavily soiled dishes is more likely to result in dishes that aren't quite clean and extra residue in the dishwasher.