Simple and Effective Way to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar Infographic Cleanzen


Cleaning your dishwasher is one of those chores that lingers on the top of your to-do list. We understand why it takes so long to prioritize this task: It seems counterintuitive to spend any time cleaning the inside of your dishwasher when it gets soapy, hot and disinfected during a wash cycle.


The reasons for cleaning your dishwasher are a lot like those for cleaning your washing machine in that soapy residue and deposits on the inside walls and components can make them both dirty and less effective over time.


However, unlike a washing machine, a dishwasher also faces build-up from grease and food particles while still being expected to meticulously cleanse every dish and glass to spotless perfection. You must admit — given the level at which dishwashers have to perform, they’re pretty impressive. But, that doesn’t mean they’re maintenance-free.


There’s a trick to cleaning your dishwasher that makes this task nearly effortless and takes only 15 seconds of your time. We think that once you learn how to clean your dishwasher with vinegar, you’ll agree the dishwasher is the easiest appliance to clean in your entire house.


How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar


The cleaning process is actually pretty simple and hands-off, so once you do this once you’ll be able to handle it yourself in the future. Wondering how such a simple process could be effective enough to clean? Keep reading and give it a try for yourself!

  • Start by pouring one cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe mug or a small bowl. If you are using a mug, it should be about 2/3 full of vinegar so you can eyeball it in the future.
  • Place the mug or bowl upright on the top rack of your dishwasher and then carefully close the door of the appliance so there are no spills. You should also make sure that there are no other dishes or silverware in your dishwasher while you are cleaning it.
  • Run your dishwasher on a normal cycle with the hottest water setting for extra sterilization. The vinegar will work to loosen and remove soap scum, food particles, and grease from your dishwasher’s walls and racks and washes it down the drain.
  • Once the cycle has finished, open the door and carefully remove the mug (it’ll still probably be hot!). Check the drain and filter at the bottom of the machine for any large particles that may have settled in the filter there. You may need to remove those by hand or use a soapy cloth, gross but necessary.
  • You can repeat this white vinegar cycle every few weeks to keep the dishwasher clean, at least once a month for machines that are prone to hard water and stinky odors.


Tasks Between Dishwasher Deep Cleanings


Simple and Effective Way to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar Cleanzen Image of Young Woman Putting Dishes in Dishwashing Machine


While you wait for your dishwasher’s cleaning cycle to end, why not get a few things done around the kitchen? Here are a few tasks you can take care of to help with odors, drainage, and general cleaning:

  • Your sink’s disposal drainage is usually linked to your dishwasher, so make sure you always run your disposal before starting your dishwasher to help keep your dishwasher clean and free of odor-causing food particles.
  • We know it will seem counterintuitive, but pre-rinsing your dishes can actually help reduce build-up in the filter beneath the lower rack of the dishwasher. You should also check for visible pieces of food left in the bottom of the dishwasher after every wash and do your best to clear them away. Food debris can rot and contribute to bad odors or clogged drainage.
  • Don’t forget to clean the rubber gaskets routinely with some soapy water and even restore the seal by wiping the rubber with a little bit of petroleum jelly.


Can White Vinegar Destroy Your Dishwasher?

Vinegar is highly acidic. That’s why it’s great at breaking down grease and other tough deposits inside your dishwasher. But there’s a reason that the vinegar is placed in an upright cup in this tutorial and not poured all over the surfaces. The pH of white vinegar is around 2 to 3.


For reference sulfuric acid, which destroys many substances it comes in contact with, has a pH of around 1. That being said, vinegar can cause more harm than good when not used carefully or in moderation.


When using vinegar to clean your dishwasher, the rubber seals and gaskets can break down over time when in contact with highly acidic products like vinegar. Do not apply undiluted white vinegar to any rubber gaskets and seals. Instead, you can target your rubber seals with a soapy cloth to loosen and clean any build-up.


Remember to only run white vinegar through your dishwasher if the dishwasher is empty. Silverware or other metal containers, especially those that may have previously contained salt, can be affected by a chemical reaction when in contact with vinegar and could destroy the container and possibly even your dishwasher.




What is the difference between mold and mildew?

The EPA says that mold is a “species of microscopic fungi”, while mildew is a specific type of mold or fungus. So basically, not all mold is mildew but all mildew is mold.


How do you know if there is mold in your dishwasher?

Many dishwashers regularly have some degree of mold since it is a moist and hot enclosed environment, prime real estate for growth, unfortunately. A musty odor and any visible evidence can signify the presence of mold, but microscopic mold can exist before these signs are evident. Remember to also clean the exterior of the dishwasher to keep it looking its best. While the dishwasher runs itself, make sure you check around the kitchen for spaces you might have forgotten about with regular cleaning.


For more tips and tricks like how to create a DIY cleaner, check out our blog full of guides and topics for around the house.


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