How to Clean Dishwasher With Vinegar And Use Alternatives?

Dishwashers, an essential part of modern kitchens, require regular maintenance to function efficiently. Over time, food particles, grease, and soap scum build-up, leading to unpleasant odors and reduced efficiency. Vinegar, a natural acid, is an excellent solution for cleaning dishwashers.

Why Use Vinegar?

Vinegar is a versatile cleaning agent due to its acidic nature, which helps dissolve mineral deposits, grease, and grime. It’s non-toxic, inexpensive, and eco-friendly, making it a popular choice for household cleaning.

How to Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar

Cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar is a straightforward and effective process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you:

Supplies Needed

White vinegar (about 2 cups)

A dishwasher-safe bowl or cup

A soft cloth or sponge

Steps to Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar

Empty the Dishwasher: 

Emptying the dishwasher is the first and most fundamental step in its cleaning process. Before you start with any cleaning routine, ensure that all dishes, utensils, and racks are removed from the dishwasher. This provides unobstructed access to the entire interior, including the spray arms, filter, and drain. An empty dishwasher allows for a thorough and effective cleaning, ensuring that every nook and cranny can be reached by the cleaning agent, whether it’s vinegar, baking soda, or a commercial cleaner. This step is essential for maintaining the efficiency and hygiene of your dishwasher.

Check and Clean the Filter: 

Checking and cleaning the dishwasher filter is a vital step in maintaining your appliance’s efficiency. Begin by removing the filter, typically located at the bottom of the dishwasher. Rinse it thoroughly under running water, using a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub away any trapped food particles or debris. This prevents clogs and ensures that water flows freely, which is essential for the dishwasher to operate effectively. A clean filter not only improves cleaning performance but also helps extend the lifespan of your dishwasher by preventing damage to the pump and motor. Regular cleaning of the filter, ideally after every few cycles, is recommended for optimal results.

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Vinegar Wash: 

For the vinegar wash, fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with about two cups of white vinegar and place it on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. Run a complete washing cycle at the hottest temperature setting. The vinegar will disperse throughout the cycle, effectively breaking down and removing any lingering grease, soap scum, and mineral deposits. This natural and eco-friendly cleaning method not only deep cleans and sanitizes the interior of your dishwasher but also helps eliminate odors, leaving your appliance fresh and hygienically clean.

Run a Hot Water Cycle: 

Running a hot water cycle in your dishwasher before using vinegar for cleaning is a crucial step. This initial cycle, set at the hottest temperature, serves to loosen up any grime, food particles, and grease buildup inside the dishwasher. It prepares the interior for a more effective cleaning action by the vinegar. Simply run your dishwasher empty, without any detergent, on its highest heat setting. This pre-cleaning phase ensures that when you do add vinegar, it can work more efficiently in breaking down and removing residues, leading to a cleaner and more hygienic dishwasher.

Wipe Down the Interior: 

Once the vinegar cycle in your dishwasher is complete, it’s important to thoroughly wipe down the interior to remove any remaining grime, vinegar residue, or loosened deposits. Using a soft cloth or sponge dampened with warm water, gently scrub the walls, the door, and especially around the gasket and any crevices or seals. Pay attention to the bottom of the dishwasher and around the drain, where residue often accumulates. This step not only ensures a sparkling clean interior but also helps in maintaining.

Also Read : Essential Steps to Clean Broken Glass in Dishwasher

Additional Rinse (Optional):

An additional rinse cycle in your dishwasher, though optional, can be beneficial after cleaning it with vinegar or other substances. This extra rinse helps to remove any residual vinegar smell and ensures that any loosened debris or cleaning agents are completely flushed out. Simply run your dishwasher on a short, hot-water cycle without any dishes or detergent. This step helps to maintain a fresh, clean environment inside your dishwasher, ensuring it’s perfectly prepared for its next use.

Reassemble the Dishwasher: 

After cleaning your dishwasher, reassembling it is a simple but crucial step to ensure it functions properly. Begin by securely placing the filter back in its designated spot, ensuring it’s correctly aligned and locked into place. Next, slide the bottom rack into the dishwasher, making sure it fits into its tracks for smooth operation. If you removed the top rack, gently reinsert it, adjusting its height if necessary, and ensure it slides in and out smoothly. If your dishwasher has a separate utensil holder or special racks for items like stemware or knives, place them back in their respective positions.

Also Read: Can You Leave Dirty Dishes In The Dishwasher Overnight?

Alternative Methods

When it comes to cleaning your dishwasher, there are alternative methods to consider besides the traditional vinegar approach. These alternatives can be just as effective and are useful for those seeking variety or facing specific cleaning challenges:

Baking Soda Rinse: 

A baking soda rinse is a simple, yet effective method for enhancing the cleanliness and freshness of your dishwasher. After completing a vinegar wash or as a standalone cleaning method, sprinkle about a cup of baking soda evenly across the bottom of your empty dishwasher. Run a short cycle using the hottest water setting. This process helps in further removing any lingering odors, loosening residual grime, and even brightening the interior of the dishwasher. Baking soda’s mild abrasive quality and natural deodorizing properties make it an excellent choice for a non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning solution, leaving your dishwasher clean, fresh, and ready for use.

Also Read: Cleaning Glass Stove Top With Razor Blade

Citric Acid Wash: 

Dishwasher. Citric acid, a natural and potent cleaner, excels at dissolving hard water build-up, limescale, and soap scum. To perform a citric acid wash, sprinkle a small amount (about a quarter cup) of citric acid powder directly on the bottom of the empty dishwasher. Run a regular cycle at the hottest setting. This treatment not only cleans and deodorizes the interior of the dishwasher but also leaves it sparkling, helping to maintain its efficiency and extend its lifespan

Lemon Kool-Aid: 

Lemon Kool-Aid, surprisingly, can be an effective and unconventional cleaner for your dishwasher. The citric acid in the unsweetened lemon-flavored Kool-Aid powder works well for removing limescale and rust stains. Simply pour a packet of the powder into the detergent dispenser of an empty dishwasher and run a regular cycle, preferably on the hottest setting. The citric acid targets stains and buildup without the harshness of chemical cleaners, leaving your dishwasher clean and fresh. This method is particularly useful for those seeking a low-cost.

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Bleach Wash (Caution):

Using a bleach wash in your dishwasher can be an effective method for tackling tough mold and mildew problems, but it requires caution. If you choose to use bleach, ensure that your dishwasher does not have a stainless-steel interior, as bleach can corrode and discolor stainless steel. Add a cup of bleach to the bottom of the empty dishwasher and run a complete cycle on the hottest setting. This will help in eliminating mold, mildew, and any associated odors. However, it’s important to use bleach sparingly and only when necessary, as frequent use can be harsh on your dishwasher’s components and might lead to premature wear.

Rinse Aid and Detergent: 

Utilizing a combination of rinse aid and detergent in your dishwasher can significantly enhance its cleaning and drying performance. Detergents are formulated to effectively break down and remove food, grease, and stains, while rinse aids are designed to ensure that dishes dry without water spots or streaks. The rinse aid works by reducing the surface tension of water, allowing it to spread out and drain from the dishes more efficiently during the rinse cycle. This combination not only results in cleaner, spot-free dishes but also helps in maintaining the optimal functioning of your dishwasher, preventing issues like cloudy glassware and residue buildup.

Also Read: How to Clean Delta Kitchen Faucet Spray Head?

Commercial Eco-Friendly Cleaners: 

Commercial eco-friendly cleaners offer a sustainable and effective solution for maintaining your dishwasher. These cleaners are specifically formulated with environmentally safe ingredients, ensuring they don’t leave harmful residues or contribute to water pollution. They often come in various forms, such as tablets, powders, or liquids, and are designed to tackle grease, limescale, and food debris while being gentle on the dishwasher’s interior. Using these eco-friendly products not only keeps your dishwasher in top condition but also aligns with a greener lifestyle, reducing the ecological impact of household cleaning. 

Steam Cleaning: 

Steam cleaning is an innovative and effective method for deep cleaning your dishwasher. Many modern dishwashers come with a steam setting, which can be used to loosen and remove stubborn grime, grease, and food particles. During a steam clean cycle, hot steam permeates every corner of the dishwasher, providing a thorough cleanse without the need for detergents or chemicals. This process not only ensures a high level of cleanliness but also helps in sanitizing the interior, as the high temperature of the steam can kill bacteria and germs. Steam cleaning is particularly beneficial for maintaining the hygiene of your dishwasher.

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Regular Maintenance:

Rinse Dishes Before Loading: Although modern dishwashers are quite powerful, pre-rinsing dishes can prevent food particles from accumulating and clogging the filter or spray arms.

Clean the Filter Regularly: Most dishwashers have a removable filter that should be cleaned regularly. Rinse it under running water and gently scrub to remove any trapped food particles.

Run Monthly Cleaning Cycles: Use vinegar, baking soda, or a commercial dishwasher cleaner to run a cleaning cycle at least once a month. This helps to dissolve any mineral buildup and keep the interior fresh.

Also Read : How to Keep Dishwasher from Smelling Between Washes?


Regular cleaning of your dishwasher with vinegar or alternative methods is vital for efficiency and longevity. It’s a simple, cost-effective way to keep your dishwasher running smoothly and your dishes sparkling clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mix vinegar with baking soda inside the dishwasher?

No, mixing them creates a reaction that diminishes the cleaning effectiveness.

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

A thorough cleaning every 1-2 months is recommended, with regular filter checks.

Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar?

White vinegar is preferred due to its higher acidity and lack of color, which might stain.