clean dishwasher with vinegar

Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar: 3 Effective Methods

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Cleaning your dishwashing machine regularly is essential to ensure its optimal performance and to prevent odors and buildup. One effective and natural way to clean your dishwasher is by using vinegar.

Vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent, removing mineral deposits, soap scum, and unpleasant odors. You can easily clean your dishwasher and maintain its efficiency by following simple steps. In this guide, we will walk you through how to clean the dishwasher with vinegar, providing you with a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution.

What You Need to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar

1. Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is a versatile cleaning agent crucial in the vinegar rinse and vinegar soak methods. It helps remove mineral deposits, odors, and stains from the dishwasher's interior surfaces and racks. Its acidic properties make it effective in breaking down buildup and grime.

2. Dishwasher-Safe Bowl or Microwave-Safe Bowl

A dishwasher-safe or microwave-safe bowl holds the white vinegar during the cleaning process. It is placed on the top rack of the dishwasher in the vinegar rinse method and on the bottom rack in the vinegar soak method. A dishwasher-safe container ensures that the vinegar is distributed effectively throughout the dishwasher.

3. Clean Cloth Sponge

A clean cloth or sponge is essential for wiping down the interior surfaces of the dishwasher. It is used after the vinegar cycle to remove any remaining residue, stains, or buildup. The cloth or sponge should be dampened using warm water, mild soap, and a mild detergent to ensure thorough cleaning.

4. A Soft Brush or Toothbrush

A soft brush or toothbrush is useful for cleaning the door gasket, the rubber seal that runs along the edges of the dishwasher door. This brush helps scrub away debris and residue from the folds and crevices of the gasket. It ensures the gasket remains clean and free from mold or mildew buildup.

5. Additional Supplies

Methods Used to Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar

1. Vinegar Rinse Method

This method involves using vinegar during a hot water cycle to clean the dishwasher's interior.

Step 1: Empty the Dishwasher

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Before cleaning, ensure the dishwasher is empty of any dishes or utensils.

Step 2: Place a Dishwasher-Safe Container Filled with 2 Cups of White Vinegar on the Top Rack

Fill a dishwasher-safe container, such as a bowl or cup, with 2 cups of white vinegar. Place the container securely on the top rack of the dishwasher.

Step 3: Run a Hot Water Cycle

Set the dishwasher to the hottest water setting available. This will ensure the vinegar mixes with hot water during cleaning. Start a complete dishwasher cycle and let it run its course. The hot water, combined with the vinegar, will clean the dishwasher's interior, effectively removing mineral deposits and odors.

Step 4: Wipe Down the Interior

After the cycle is complete, open the dishwasher and carefully remove the container with the vinegar. Use warm water, mild detergent, or dish soap to dampen a clean sponge or towel. Thoroughly wipe down the interior surfaces of the dishwasher, paying special attention to corners, edges, and areas with visible buildup or stains. This step helps to remove any remaining residue or grime.

2. Vinegar Soak Method

This method focuses on cleaning the dishwasher racks along with the interior.

Step 1: Empty the Dishwasher

Similar to the previous method, ensure that the dishwasher is empty of any dishes or utensils.

Step 2: Remove the Racks

Take out the bottom and top racks from the dishwasher. This step allows easier access to the dishwasher's interior and ensures a more thorough cleaning process.

Step 3: Fill a Dishwasher-Safe Bowl or Container with 2 Cups of White Vinegar

Fill a dishwasher-safe container, such as a bowl or cup, with 2 cups of white vinegar. Place the container on the dishwasher's bottom rack, ensuring it is secure and won't tip over during the cleaning process.

Step 4: Soak the Racks

Submerge the racks in a sink filled with hot water and two cups of vinegar. Allow the racks to soak for approximately 15-30 minutes. This soaking process helps to loosen and remove any stubborn debris or buildup on the racks.

Step 5: Run a Hot Water Cycle

While the racks are soaking, start a hot water cycle in the dishwasher. This will allow the vinegar in the container to mix with the hot water and effectively clean the interior surfaces of the dishwasher.

Step 6: Clean the Racks

After soaking, take a sponge or brush and scrub the racks to remove any remaining debris or buildup. Pay attention to areas that may have accumulated more residue, such as the prongs or corners.

Step 7: Reassemble and Wipe Down

Once the dishwasher cycle is finished, carefully remove the racks from the sink or bathtub and place them back in their original positions in the dishwasher. Use warm water, mild detergent, or dish soap to dampen a clean sponge or towel. Wipe down the dishwasher's interior surfaces, including the areas where the racks were placed, to remove any remaining residue.

3. Vinegar and Baking Soda Method

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This method combines vinegar and baking soda to create a foaming reaction that helps remove stains and odors from the dishwasher.

Step 1: Empty the Dishwasher

Begin by removing all dishes and utensils from the dishwasher. It's important to have a clear workspace for effective cleaning.

Step 2: Sprinkle Baking Soda on the Bottom of the Dishwasher Drain

Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda evenly across the bottom of the empty dishwasher drain. Baking soda is a all-natural cleaning solution that helps to remove stains and odors.

Step 3: Pour Vinegar

Pour a cup of white distilled vinegar over the baking soda. When vinegar combines with baking soda, it creates a foaming reaction that helps to loosen grime and residue inside the dishwasher.

Step 4: Let it Sit

Close the dishwasher and let the vinegar and baking soda mixture sit for about 30 minutes to an hour. This allows the foaming reaction to work on stubborn stains and odors.

Step 5: Run a Hot Water Cycle

Start a hot water cycle in the dishwasher. Set the water temperature to the highest setting available. Combining hot water, vinegar, and baking soda will clean and freshen the dishwasher's interior.

Step 6: Wipe Down

After the cycle, open the dishwasher and take a clean cloth or sponge. Wipe down dishwasher's internal surfaces, paying attention to corners, edges, and areas with visible buildup or stains. This step helps to remove any remaining residue or debris.

You'll like the feeling of a tidy, fragrant, and functional dishwasher when you're done, regardless of whether you have a cheap dishwasher or an expensive one.

Cleaning the Dishwasher Door and Gasket

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Regularly cleaning the dishwasher door and gasket, ideally once a month or as necessary, will help maintain a clean and hygienic dishwasher. Following these steps will ensure that your dishwasher door and gasket are free from dirt, grime, and unpleasant odors, contributing to a new dishwasher and clean dishes.

  • Gather your supplies: You'll need a soft cloth or sponge, mild detergent or dish soap, warm water, and a toothbrush or small brush.
  • Open the dishwasher door: Ensure the dishwasher is empty and fully open the door for easy access.
  • Wipe down the door: Gently wipe the surface with a damp cloth or sponge dipped in warm water and a mild detergent to remove stains, fingerprints, and grime from the exterior and interior surfaces of the dishwasher door,
  • Clean the door gasket: Scrub the rubber door gasket using a toothbrush or small brush dipped in warm soapy water. Pay attention to folds and crevices where food particles can accumulate.
  • Rinse the gasket: Use a damp cloth or sponge to rinse the gasket and remove any soapy residue thoroughly.
  • Dry the door and gasket: Wipe down the door and gasket with a dry cloth or towel to drain extra moisture and stop mold and mildew growth.
  • Check for residue: Inspect the door and gasket for any remaining residue or stains. Repeat the cleaning process, or use a mild vinegar solution if needed.

Tips to Keep your Dishwasher Clean Longer

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To keep your dishwasher clean and functioning efficiently for longer periods, here are some tips to follow:

  • Scrape off excess food: Before loading your dishes into the dishwasher, scrape off any large food particles. This prevents clogs and ensures the dishwasher can clean effectively.
  • Rinse dishes lightly: If you have sticky or greasy residue, rinse them quickly before placing them in the dishwasher. This helps prevent residue buildup in the dishwasher.
  • Run hot water before starting a cycle: To ensure the dishwasher begins with hot water, turn on the kitchen sink faucet until the water is hot. This helps optimize the cleaning process.
  • Use dishwasher detergent correctly: Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the correct amount of dishwasher detergent. Too much detergent can cause buildup, while using too little may lead to inadequate cleaning.
  • Clean the filter regularly: Check the dishwasher filter per the manufacturer's guidelines. A clean filter improves the dishwasher's performance by preventing clogs and ensuring proper drainage.
  • Maintain spray arms: Regularly inspect the spray arms for any debris or clogs. Remove and rinse them under running water, and if necessary, clean the spray openings with a gentle brush or toothbrush. Properly reattach the spray arms afterward.
  • Wipe down the door and gasket: Periodically clean the dishwasher door, interior sides, and gasket using a damp sponge to take clean any buildup or residue. Pay attention to the bottom of the door where grime can accumulate.
  • Run a vinegar rinse: To clean the dishwasher's interior, run a vinegar rinse every few months. Run a hot water cycle after adding a cup of white vinegar on the top rack.. This aids in eliminating smells and mineral deposits.
  • Leave the dishwasher open after use: Once it completes its cycle, open the door slightly to allow moisture to evaporate. This helps prevent the growth of mold or mildew inside the dishwasher.
  • Plan professional maintenance: Every few years, plan professional maintenance for your dishwasher. This ensures thorough cleaning, checks for any underlying issues, and extends the lifespan of your appliance.

Final Thoughts on Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar

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Cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar is convenient and affordable to maintain a clean and odor-free appliance. Regular maintenance and cleaning not only enhance the dishwasher's performance but also prolong its lifespan.

By following the detailed directions provided in this guide, you can easily remove mineral deposits, food debris, soap scum, and odors from your dishwasher.

Remember to consult your countertop dishwasher's or typical dishwasher's user manual for specific instructions and to incorporate monthly cleaning into your maintenance routine. With vinegar as your ally, you can keep your dishwasher sparkling clean and enjoy spotless dishes with every cycle.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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