How to Clean Your Dishwasher: Easy and Fast Methods

Using Baking Soda and Vinegar to Clean Dishwasher Parts

preparing to clean a dishwasher

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs, 15 mins - 4 hrs, 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

Because an automatic dishwasher is constantly moving hot soapy water through its insides as it cleans dishes, it's easy to overlook the fact that it, too, needs a dedicated cleaning once in a while. Knowing how to clean a dishwasher keeps the appliance in good shape and eliminates food waste and other grime and debris that eventually builds up in it. Left uncleaned, this can impact how well your dishwasher performs and leave you with dirty dishes even after a cleaning cycle. It also might reduce the life expectancy of your appliance.

Cleaning your dishwasher is easier than you think. Just fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup of white vinegar and put it in the top rack of an empty dishwasher. Then, set the dishwasher to run on the hot water cycle. The acidity in the vinegar helps break down soap scum, residue, and grime.

How Often to Clean a Dishwasher

Routine monthly cleaning can be done with a soft-bristle brush and ordinary materials you have around the house: distilled white vinegar and baking soda. Once or twice a year, give the appliance a more detailed cleaning, which requires a few more items. And don't forget about the outside of your dishwasher. Wipe this down at least weekly or as needed to remove dirt.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Flexible wire
  • Old toothbrush
  • Sponge
  • Microfiber cloths


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Stainless steel cleaning product (for stainless steel)
  • Olive oil or baby oil (for stainless steel)
  • Dishwasher cleaner (optional)


materials for cleaning a dishwasher
​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

How to Clean a Dishwasher

  1. Clean Strainer Weekly

    • Pull out the bottom rack, and inspect the strainer on the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher's interior. (You might be shocked at the gunk that is trapped underneath.)
    • Remove any food, paper labels, or small items that might be clogging the holes.
    • Use a soft-bristle brush or old toothbrush dipped in vinegar to scrub away anything that is really stuck and give every nook and cranny a good scrub.
    • Replace the bottom rack.
    scrubbing the dishwasher drain
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  2. Wipe Door and Control Buttons Weekly

    • If the exterior of the dishwasher door is made of plastic or painted metal, use mild dish soap and a microfiber cloth or sponge to remove any splatters on the face and handle.
    • Finish by rinsing with a cloth dipped in plain water, and buff dry with a dry cloth.
    • If the dishwasher has buttons or dials on the front or top of the door, take time to clean around them. Use an old toothbrush dipped in water and a bit of dish soap to remove any buildup.
    cleaning the control buttons

    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

  3. Run Cycle With Vinegar

    • Fill a glass or plastic container with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar.
    • Place the open container of vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher.
    • Run a regular wash cycle.
    • You can skip the drying cycle to save energy costs. 


    When doing a vinegar rinse, there is no need to add dishwashing detergent during the cycle. The vinegar will mix with the water for a powerful cleaning.

    running a dishwashing cycle with vinegar
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  4. Rinse With Baking Soda

    A vinegar rinse will strip away any grease buildup, and the baking soda rinse will remove lingering odors.

    • When the first cycle is finished, sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on the inside floor of the dishwasher.
    • Run a short hot water rinse cycle (skip the drying cycle).
    • After the cycle completes, open the dishwasher door to allow the interior to air dry.


    Never mix the vinegar and baking soda in the same cleaning cycle. They'll start to foam, and you'll have quite a mess to clean up.

    cleaning with baking soda
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  5. Clean Filter Monthly

    • Remove the bottom rack and access the filter from the interior floor of the dishwasher for removal.
    • Look for arrows that tell you how to twist the cylindrical filter to unlock and remove it.
    • Soak the filter in a sink of water and dishwashing liquid.
    • Scrub the filter clean with an old toothbrush.
    • Rinse well and replace the filter.
    Clean dishwasher filter replaced in filter housing with orange gloves

    The Spruce / Cristina Tudor

  6. Clean Spray Arms Monthly

    Each spray arm has small holes that distribute water throughout the dishwasher, and these holes can become clogged with minerals from hard water or even bits of food. If the holes are clogged, the water might not be reaching the surfaces of your dishes and leaving them soiled.

    • To clean the spray arms, start with an empty dishwasher.
    • If possible, remove both the upper and lower racks to have better access to the water spray arms.
    • Take your flexible wire, and insert its tip into each hole to remove any debris.
    cleaning the dishwasher arms

    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

  7. Clean Rubber Seals Monthly

    Dip a clean sponge in white vinegar, and wipe down the rubber seals around the interior opening and the edges of the door.

    cleaning the rubber seals

    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

  8. Scrub Additional Parts Monthly

    • Use your old toothbrush to remove any debris that might be caught in the grid of the utensil holder.
    • Scrub any buildup in the detergent dispenser.
    scrubbing the detergent dispenser

    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  9. Deep Clean With Dishwasher Cleaner (Optional)

    Just like you clean a washing machine, an appliance like a dishwasher may also need a deep clean with a cleaner formulated for the job to get rid of smells and extra gunk. Choose a dishwasher cleaner that contains safe, pollutant-free, and antibacterial ingredients and follow the package's directions.

    using homemade dishwasher pods

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  10. Variations for Stainless Steel

    You have two options to clean a stainless steel dishwasher door:

    • Use a stainless steel cleaning product and a microfiber cloth. Follow the product instructions, and always wipe in one direction—in the same direction as the grain of the metal.
    • Or, wipe the front of the dishwasher with a solution of mild dish soap mixed with water, followed by a drop of olive oil or baby oil on a microfiber cloth to remove any streaks.
    cleaning a stainless dishwasher door

    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 

    Can Dishwashers Be Cleaned With Bleach?

    Bleach should not be used for cleaning dishwashers, as it can ruin the appliance. This is especially true with dishwashers that have stainless steel interiors or stainless steel parts. To be on the safe side, avoid using bleach in any dishwasher to clean it.

    Tips to Keep a Dishwasher Clean Longer

    • Stick to a regular dishwasher cleaning schedule. Or at the very least, do a cleaning as soon as you notice debris in the dishwasher and/or that your dishes aren't getting clean.
    • Rinse food waste off dishes prior to loading them in the dishwasher.
    • Make sure no food stickers or other materials that won't easily dissolve go into the dishwasher.
    • Avoid overloading a dishwasher, so the water can easily circulate.