How To Clean Your Dishwasher, the Right Way

How To Clean Your Dishwasher, the Right Way

Ashley Poskin
Sep 1, 2016
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Clean the dishwasher? Clean the thing that is responsible for cleaning other things? You might think your dishwasher is clean considering the number of times each week it runs hot water and soap through its system —but it's got a messy job, and sometimes parts of that job get left behind.

What You Need


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Cloths or soft rags
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpicks


1. Run your dishwasher, or wait until just after you've run a cycle. Empty the dishwasher completely by removing the racks and utensil trays and basket.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

2. Check the spinning arms to make sure all the holes are open so water can run through them freely. Clear out any debris that has built up in the holes of the spinning arm using a toothpick or other small instrument (be sure not to scratch the finish!).

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

3. Clean under the bottom of the door. In some dishwashers, this is a spot where water doesn't go, so it can easily accumulate debris. Inspect the floor of your dishwasher, around the drain where the wastewater exits. There will be a grate or grill around it, under the arm. Look for debris clogging up this area and remove any solid matter that has built up. If you have a filter, remove and disassemble the parts in your sink. Use a toothbrush to wash with a baking soda paste, or warm soapy water. Rinse well.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

4. Next, use your toothbrush and baking soda paste to wash around the drain. Be sure to dislodge any food parts that can hang around and cause an unpleasant smell. This area can also become clogged with tags, or stickers that come off jars and dishes.

5. Wipe around the seal with a damp cloth soaked in white vinegar and a few squirts of lemon juice. For tighter areas, you can use a toothbrush. Scrub well, making sure to get the sides and edges of the machine.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

6. Check utensil holders and racks for any stuck-on food pieces and then wipe down. If they are really dirty you might want to give them a bath of warm, soapy water and let them soak overnight in your sink. Rinse well.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

7. You can remove hard water deposits/scale by running one cycle of your dishwasher (empty) with distilled white vinegar. Add 2 cups of vinegar to the bottom and turn the machine on to an energy saving or low wash. Stop the machine mid-wash, so the vinegar can set on the bottom and work. Let it stand for about 20 minutes, then turn on to finish cycle.

If you have rust stains, you can tackle them with a dishwasher-safe rust remover. If the finish is chipping or flaking off the wire baskets in your dishwasher, try a sealant made just for dishwasher racks.

If you have problems with mold and mildew, bleach will work effectively by adding ½-1 cup in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a full cycle.

NOTE: Do not use bleach in your dishwasher if you have a stainless steel interior. Also, never mix bleach and vinegar!

8. Clean the buttons and panel thoroughly. Spray the handle and front of your dishwasher with a vinegar/citrus/water solution or stainless steel cleaner, depending on the type of dishwasher you have. I find microfiber cloths work best for stainless steel and always wipe with the grain.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Additional Notes:

  • It's good practice to do this (or a briefer version), about once a month.
  • Be wary of dishwashing gels. They typically contain bleach and over time will cause the rubber seal to break down and leak.
  • Never mix bleach and vinegar.

Related Video: How to Load a Dishwasher

More great tips and tutorials: Cleaning Basics

Edited from an original post by Kimber Watson published on 1/6/2011

Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
moving--truck moving--dates moving--dolly moving--house moving--cal Created with Sketch. moving--apt