How to Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda?

Your home’s dishwasher is probably the most overworked and ignored appliance in your kitchen. It deals with oily dishes, greased pan and dirty glasses all the time. Most homeowners often overlook the fact that dishwashers need a periodic cleaning too. They have a simple notion; a dishwasher has soap and water inside it all the time. How can it get dirty?

I hate to break it to them that your dishwasher needs regular cleaning. An ignored and unclean dishwasher often starts to create problems after a couple of months. Therefore it is very important to clean your dishwasher at least once a month. The best way to clean your dishwasher is using vinegar and baking soda.

Why do you need to clean your Dishwasher?

As dishwashers clean and sanitize your dishes, food residue, oil, and grease build up in your dishwasher over time. This residue reduces cleaning capabilities, impacts performance, and can lead to odors in your dishwasher. It can also lead to bacterial growth and mold infestation. Some people also use their dishwashers to sanitize baby toys. Hence, it becomes more relevant to keep your dishwasher in mint condition.

Secondly, not cleaning your dishwasher reduces its lifespan. Dishwashers don’t come cheap, especially the built-in ones. You must make sure that you keep your appliances neat and clean to get the most out of them.

How to Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Using vinegar, baking soda, dish soap (liquid), or a commercial cleaning product is the most reliable, cheapest, and effective way to clean your dishwasher. It will result in clearing off dirt and eliminating odors from your dishwashers.

You will need the following supplies.

Things Needed

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap/commercial cleaning liquid
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Scrub brush

It is best to thoroughly clean your dishwasher; you will need the following supplies for it.

  • A piece of flexible wire
  • Sponge

Time Required: 3-4 hours

Difficulty: Beginner


Please note that the basic procedure for cleaning a dishwasher is the same for all the models. However, the location of the filter, number of filters, and drain location may vary from one brand to another. Therefore, we recommend you follow the user manual during the cleaning procedure. The following steps are generic, and we suggest you go through the entire article before you begin the cleaning process.

Also See: How to Clean Dishwasher Without Vinegar?

Step 1: Prep your Dishwasher

Make sure you have no dishes in your dishwasher. Take out the bottom rack and pick all the food particles at the bottom of the dishwasher. It is best to wear gloves during this process as you may find broken glass pieces sometimes.

Step 2: Remove the Filter

Step 2 Remove the Filter

Check the manual for your dishwasher. It is possible that your dishwasher has two filters and you are not aware of it. You will need to clean them both to get your dishwasher back to its prime. Be ready for some disgusting sights and smells if you don’t clean your filter regularly. You are going to find food particles, slime, mold, and a lot of bacteria there.

Step 3: Cleaning the Filter

Step 3 Cleaning the Filter

Now you need to clean the removed filters. You can rinse the filter in hot water or soak them in a 50% water-vinegar solution. We recommend doing the latter because it is more effective and yields better results. Once the filters are all cleaned up, insert them back from where you removed them.

Step 4: Cleaning with Vinegar

Step 4 Cleaning with Vinegar

The next step is to clean your dishwasher with vinegar. DON’T add vinegar and baking soda together in your dishwasher. It will result in soap formation, and you will have a lot of suds to deal with.

Pour 1-2 cups of white distilled vinegar in a cup and place it on the top rack. Run your dishwasher on a full hot cycle. If your dishwasher doesn’t have a hot cycle option, which is usually not present in countertop models, you can run a normal wash cycle as well.

The vinegar will evaporate in the dishwasher, sanitize it, remove oil and dirt, and eliminate germs.

Step 5: Sprinkle Baking Soda

Step 5 Sprinkle Baking Soda

Once the cycle is finished, sprinkle one cup of baking soda at the bottom of your dishwasher. Run a short cycle on the hot setting. The baking soda will get rid of the stains in your dishwasher and deodorize it.

By now, your dishwasher will be shining and squeaky clean on the inside, but you still have to clean the dishwasher seal and exterior.

Step 6: Cleaning the Seals

Step 6 Cleaning the Seals

The next step is to clean the dishwasher’s seal. It wasn’t washed by the dishwasher and is a hotbed for bacterial growth. You will need an old toothbrush with soft bristles for this task. Vinegar is best for scrubbing the slime and bacteria on the seal. You can also use your dishwasher soap mixed in water to remove the stubborn white marks on your dishwasher’s seal.

Step 7: Cleaning the Exterior

Step 7 Cleaning the Exterior

The last step is cleaning the exterior. You can use a light mixture of dishwashing soap or a commercial cleaning product for the stainless steel. Spray the dishwasher with the liquid or pour some on a clean, dry microfiber cloth and wipe the dishwasher in the same direction as the stainless steel grain in a gentle circular motion.

Vinegar and baking soda cleaning is also effective against mold attack in dishwashers. Read more.

Additional Cleaning Steps

You also need to perform some additional cleaning steps to keep your dishwasher working in a mint condition. It is not necessary to perform these steps every month. You can adopt a semi-annual routine for the below mentioned tasks.

Clean Spray Arms

Your dishwasher has spray arms with tiny holes that spray water on the dishes in the dishwasher. These holes are just like the ones found in your shower. You need to clean them because minerals from hard water and food debris can clog the openings. Use a flexible wire to clean the spray arm openings. It is best to remove the racks in your dishwasher for better access to the spray arms.

Clean the Strainer

Check out the strainer on the bottom of your dishwasher. Remove it by following the directions given in the user manual. The strainer has a lot of trapped particles underneath it. A clogged strainer can lead to drainage problems. Once you have the strainer in your hand, remove the trapped particles and give it a good thorough scrubbing with an old toothbrush after dipping it in a bowl of white vinegar.

Clean the Utensil Holder and Detergent Dispenser

Bacteria and slime can also grow in components like detergent dispensers and utensil holders. Dip your toothbrush in vinegar and scrub these parts.

Vinegar Cycle

It is better to run a cycle with vinegar after performing these additional cleaning steps.

Cleaning the Control Buttons

Ideally, you must wipe the control buttons with a clean cloth after every use, but homeowners are way too busy to do this. You can use a soft-bristle toothbrush dipped in a soap and water mixture to remove any dirt gathered around the buttons. However, you need to be very careful as you don’t want water to get into the button sensors. The best way to avoid this is to wipe the buttons with a soft and dry cloth immediately after cleaning them.

Final Words

An average dishwasher can last for 10-15 years without creating any fuss. You need to keep your machine neat and clean to make it last for such a long time, and vinegar and baking soda are the most reliable, effective, and cheap ingredients for doing this.


  • Stephen Powers

    Appliance repair guy from Washington. I am majorly experienced in dishwashers, water filters and refrigerators, AMA on my twitter account.

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