How to Clean a Dishwasher in 3 Easy Ways

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

Newsflash: Your cleaning savior, aka the dishwasher, needs a little TLC. Fret not, because everything you need to give that time-saving machine a thorough cleaning is most likely in your pantry. Below, find out how to clean a dishwasher in three super easy, super cost-effective and super time-efficient ways.

How often should you clean your dishwasher?

Because dishwashers are cleaning products themselves, it’s easy to forget they need some scouring as well. You should give your dishwasher a good scrub at least once a month to keep it running smoothly (i.e., no more “clean” plates with crusty leftovers), germ-free and smelling fresh.

Which parts of your dishwasher should you clean?

Dishwashers have to be multifaceted in order to handle the types of dirty work they do, so when you’re cleaning, make sure you pay attention to the following:

  • Drain
  • Filter
  • Door
  • Buttons
  • Racks

How to clean your dishwasher naturally

So, it’s been a while since you’ve given your machine a thorough rub down. No worries—here’s an easy method for cleaning your dishwasher naturally and making sure your favorite appliance stays in tip-top shape.

How to clean a dishwasher the vinegar/baking soda method

What you need:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Damp cloth
  • Spray bottle
  • Water

Step 1: Clean the drain

Slide the bottom rack out so that you can inspect the dishwasher drain and remove any gunk or food bits that you find. This will help improve drainage, plus prevent damage to your dishes and machine. Microwave a cup of white vinegar for 15 to 20 seconds and then stir in two tablespoons of baking soda. Pour the mixture into the drain and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Boil some hot water and pour it down the drain to get rid of any debris or clogs.

Step 2: Clean the filter

Start by gently removing the dishwasher filter, then check the base for any remnants of food that may be stuck down there. If all is clear, wipe the area with a damp cloth. Next, wash your filter in warm, soapy water. Use an old, soft toothbrush to get rid of any food bits hanging on. Rinse in warm water before placing them back. (Sidenote: Some dishwashers have self-cleaning filters, so make sure you’ve read your manual.)

Step 3: Run a vinegar wash cycle

Place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with white vinegar on the top rack of the otherwise empty machine, and run the dishwasher through a hot-water cycle. The vinegar works to wash away grease, grime and those icky odors.

Step 4: Run a baking soda rinse cycle

Now sprinkle one cup of baking soda across the bottom of the appliance and run it through a short hot-water cycle. Once it’s done, your dishwasher should be squeaky-clean, fresh-smelling and stain-free. Ah, domestic bliss.

Step 5: Clean the door

Mix three cups of hot water with half a cup of vinegar in a spray bottle. (If your manual instructs you to use warm water, then use only warm water.) Spray the inside of your door (careful around the gasket) and wipe down with a damp cloth. Wipe the exterior as needed.

How to clean your dishwasher with other cleaning products

If you don’t have baking soda or white vinegar handy, you can also use bleach to clean your appliance. Do not use this method if you have a stainless steel interior and never use bleach and vinegar together. If you are all out of options, a packet of unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid also goes a long way.

How to clean a dishwasher with bleach

What you need

  • Bleach

Step 1: Clear the dishwasher

As always, make sure you’ve removed all dishes from the dishwasher.

Step 2: Add bleach

Pour one cup of bleach into a bleach- and dishwasher-friendly bowl and place it on the top rack of your machine.

Step 3: Run a full cycle

Run a full wash cycle, and voila. You’re all done. Forgo a drying cycle and allow your machine to air dry instead.

How to clean a dishwasher with Kool-Aid

What you need

  • One packet unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid

Step 1: Clear the dishwasher

Again, make sure the dishwasher is empty.

Step 2: Add lemonade Kool-Aid

Pour one packet of unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid into the detergent dispenser. Do not try this with other flavors, since the citric acid in the lemonade is what will get your machine clean.

Step 3: Run a full cycle

Run any cycle and once it’s complete, you’ll have a squeaky-clean appliance at your disposal again.

What about dishwasher cleaning products?

You can always turn to products specifically made for cleaning dishwashers. The Cascade Platinum Dishwasher Cleaner and Finish Dishwasher Cleaner are perfect for blasting that grease, limescale and detergent build-up with ease. If you’re looking for environmentally-friendly options, Eco-Gals Eco Scrubz is a great pick, while Affresh and the Glisten Dishwasher Magic also come with a thumbs up from the EPA. Make sure to read directions and use as instructed.

How to Make Your Own Reusable, Eco-Friendly Cleaning Wipes

img 0936
Alexia Dellner

Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...
read full bio

img 7241
Stephanie Sengwe

Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...
read full bio