The Dish On Dishwashers

Don’t Let Your Dishwasher Get Down And Dirty

It’s a cleaning machine so why does it need to be cleaned? Seems somewhat nonsensical but you should know that regularly cleaning your dishwasher is one simple way you can extend the life of the appliance while making sure your dishes really are getting clean.

Let’s face it, dishwashers are regularly used and abused, almost as much as that overloaded washing machine in the next room. In the short term,this often means less-than-clean loads, and in the long-term  it compromises the dishwasher’s ability to sanitize as bacteria, yeast, mildew and mold build up over time. Cleaning the dishwasher is surprisingly simple and you can even use all natural and affordable products to do so. So grab a bottle of vinegar, and a box of baking soda as you breeze through the step-by-step monthly dishwasher cleaning procedure I’ve posted below! 

First things First! Set a schedule: dishwashers should be cleaned about every 1-2 months.


  • Rubber gloves
  • White vinegar
  • Unsweetened lemonade mix (alternative for vinegar)
  • Baking soda
  • Bleach (if needed)

Step 1

Clean the exterior. If your dishwasher front is made of plastic, use a sponge and hot, soapy water to wipe it down. If you don’t have stainless steel cleaner in the house, glass cleaner is effective at removing greasy grime, smudges and fingerprints. It’s best not to spray the cleaner directly onto the dishwasher front as moisture can damage the electronic controls. Instead, spray the cleaner onto a paper towel or soft cloth and then apply the cloth to the dishwasher.        

Step 2

Remove inside build-up, gunk and grime. Take out the bottom dish rack and clean the dishwasher drain removing any build-up or food caught there. Doing so provides an instant improvement in drainage, cleaning efficiency and will prevent damage to the dishwasher.You can use a toothbrush to clean out any stuck on grime along the filter, basin, door or silverware basket. A piece of hanging wire works well to unclog holes in the dishwasher spray arm. 

Step 3

The vinegar bath. Home maintenance guru, Bob Vila suggests running the dishwasher through a  hot water cycle with one cup of white vinegar only. If you don’t have vinegar, he says, unsweetened lemonade mix may be substituted as the citric acid in it will have a similar effect. Another method cited by Goodhousekeeping calls for two cups of vinegar, run through on the normal cycle, no heat dry. Vinegar is a natural degreaser/cleaner that will clear away detergent build-up, mineral deposits and help eliminate unpleasant smells. 

Step 4

Run a short cycle with baking soda. This will knock out any residual odors or staining the vinegar didn’t cut through.

Step 5

Bleach if necessary. This step is optional if you find mold in your dishwasher, in which case you can then fill a bowl with the bleach and run it through a cycle with the bleach bowl situated in the bottom basin. If mildew persists, you may have to repeat the vinegar cycle one more time.