How to deep clean dishwasher?

How to Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

Be honest. When was the last time you cleaned your dishwasher? And I’m not talking about running a washing cycle with an empty chamber, I’m talking about a deep cleaning of filters, cartridges and crates. I’m guessing that quite a bit of time has passed since your last cleaning. Well, tiny bits of food, grease and dishwasher soap scum can cling together and form deposits in all the nooks and crannies of your dishwasher. After a time, they can not only make your dishwasher look and smell bad, but decrease its efficiency as well.

Here at Cleancult, we’re big fans of When Was the Last Time You Cleaned Your Dishwasher our different home appliances and keeping them working in top shape! So, for the benefit of everyone and their machines, today we bring you an easy, effective and swift way of cleaning your dishwasher using only vinegar, baking soda, and a toothbrush. So gather your cleaning supplies, because it’s time to give new life to your dishwasher.

According to cleaning experts, you should clean your dishwasher at least once a month to keep it working properly and in top condition. Follow these few easy steps and give your dishwasher the cleaning it deserves.

What you need:

1 cup of vinegar (both white or apple cider vinegar will do the trick) 1 cup of baking soda A toothbrush Dish soap

The steps:

  1. Examine the drain – The first thing you want to do is to pull out the bottom rack of your machine and examine the drain are to make sure there are no hard chunks of material that may clog the drain, cause damage to the pump or scratch your dishes. You’ll be surprised at what you find lying there! Dishwasher repairmen commonly find bones, crab shells, bits of glass, and even small pieces of gravel!
  2. Wash the filter – Remove the filter and wash away any excess or gunky remains you may find. Place in warm soapy water for about 10 minutes and then rinse.
  3. Run a wash cycle with vinegar – Fill a dishwasher-safe cup with plain white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher. The vinegar is very effective in terms of washing away the loose, greasy grime, sanitizing, and helping to remove the musty odors from your dishwasher. Then using the hottest water setting possible, run the dishwasher through a cycle. The machine should be empty, apart from the vinegar-filled cup.
  4. Run a wash cycle with Baking Soda – After the vinegar cycle finishes, sprinkle the cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a short cycle, again in the hottest water setting possible. The baking soda helps in further deodorizing your dishwasher and in removing any stains.
  5. Done! – Get rid of any hard-to-remove stains with the toothbrush, replace the filter, and you should have a squeaky-clean dishwasher.

A word of caution, though! Even though some sites recommend running an additional cycle with a cup of bleach in your dishwasher, we advice against this. Even though bleach may leave your dishwasher looking whiter than ever (if it is indeed white), it may also harm the stainless steel parts of it and eventually shorten its lifespan, therefore making it a counterproductive measure.

It doesn’t matter which kind of detergent you usually to wash your dishes, either dishwasher gel or How to use Dishwasher Pods, regularly cleaning your dishwasher not only helps to achieve a better and more effective cleaning, but may even extend the life of your machine. If you do so, you will also find that fewer repairs are needed and will actually help you save money!

In theory, your dishwasher should be constantly cleaning itself — but sadly, it isn’t. Over time, bits of food, grease, undissolved detergent, and water minerals build up on the dishwasher’s filter and interior walls. Along with an unpleasant odor and look, this gunk can actually leave spots and film on your glassware, dinnerware, and flatware. In short, that means if you don’t clean your dishwasher correctly, your appliance can’t fully do its job. Plus, if you let the food and grime build up, it can seriously damage the dishwasher’s filter and pump, ultimately resulting in costly repairs.

At the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, we’ve done the research to find the most effective way to clean your dishwasher, along with testing different dishwasher detergents and cleaners. Along the way, we’ve discovered the best tricks to keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free. If musty odor is your biggest problem, run the Rinse Only cycle and leave the door ajar to circulate air flow. When it comes to odor, however, start by tackling the root of the problem: leftover food that has turned your dishwasher into a second garbage disposal. To prevent unwanted smells, wipe excess food before loading plates, silverware, bowls, and other items into the dishwasher. While you’re at it, remove paper labels or tags attached to new, unused items, too.

Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to clean a dishwasher the right way:

Yes, your dishwasher is made for washing dishes, but what happens to all the bits of food and other grime that get washed away? Sadly, they don’t magically disappear. Just like the sink, giving your dishwasher a good cleaning keeps it from being a deceptively dirty spot. This cleaning solution uses natural ingredients and is complete after a single dishwasher cycle with absolutely no scrubbing. Easy!

How to Clean Your Dishwasher:

  1. Empty your dishwasher, and remove or pull out the lower dish rack as far as possible. Locate the drain, and clean around it, removing the filter and thoroughly washing. Check all the spinning arms, and clear holes of debris or buildup with a paper towel.

  1. Place one cup of plain white distilled vinegar in a container on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Now pour a half-cup of baking soda into a small dish and place on the top rack, or swap for two dishwasher-cleaning bombs.

  1. Run the dishwasher, and let the vinegar and baking soda work their magic. Vinegar is naturally antibacterial, breaking up buildup while cleaning. Baking soda helps bust up hard water collections and works together with the vinegar to superclean the inside of your dishwasher.
  2. Once the dishwasher has run through the cycle, let it sit closed for 20 minutes and continue to steam clean. Now open the dishwasher, and wipe the inside with a paper towel or soft sponge. Along with being shiny clean, your dishwasher will work wonders on your dishes!

Add cleaning your dishwasher to your monthly cleaning list, and your dishes with thank you.

Image Sources: POPSUGAR Photography / Sarah Lipoff and Getty / Matt Dutcher

Your dishwasher is filthy—here’s how to clean it the right way

What You Need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Measuring cup
  • Dish soap
  • Toothbrush (optional)

Prep Time Needed:

20 minutes

Total Time Needed:

12 hours




  1. Remove and clean the filter. Soak in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, then replace.

  2. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into bottom of empty dishwasher. Run a heavy clean cycle.

  3. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher and leave overnight. In the morning, run an empty cycle.

  4. Gently scrub any remaining dirty areas with a toothbrush.

Throughout the course of a day, you might use your home appliances half a dozen times without a thought. That’s the way it should be—most of the time. Take, for example, your dishwasher. Did you know that it requires periodic maintains to keep working? The food particles and grease that it blasts off your dishes end up in a filter; otherwise, it would clog the sink.

Food that’s left in the filter too long will start to smell and can even develop mold. Leave it too long, and the debris will prevent water from draining out of the unit which can to dirty plates and leakage. Some older dishwashers have built-in disposals but they fell out of fashion when people wanted quieter appliances.

If you can’t remember the last time you’ve cleaned out the filter, don’t worry. We’ve got a few simple tips to get your dishwasher smelling fresh and looking fresher.


1. Clean your filter

Your filter is bound to accumulate gunk—after all, that’s it’s main function. So a good first step when cleaning your dishwasher is to clean that filter. We have a whole separate article and video about how to clean your dishwasher filter if you want full details.

Short version: Unscrew it from the dishwasher—it’s usually located at the bottom—and soak it in warm, soapy water for about 10 minutes. If there are any tough food particles still hanging on, you can scrub gently with a toothbrush, but try not to scrub too hard—your filter is fragile!

When you’re satisfied, put the filter back into the dishwasher where it belongs.

2. Deodorize with vinegar

Vinegar is one of the most versatile liquids in existence—aside from water, that is. This acidic concoction can be used for cooking, killing weeds, and, yes, cleaning. Put its cleaning and deodorizing powers to good use by pouring a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of your empty dishwasher.


Run a heavy clean cycle. By the end of the cycle, your dishwasher should be fresh and sparkly-clean!

3. Deodorize with baking soda

Just to make sure your dishwasher is extra clean and devoid of any foul odors, sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of your dishwasher. Let it sit overnight. In the morning, run an empty cycle, and then rejoice in the cleanliness of your beloved appliance!

4. Scrub away any remaining grime

Credit: Getty

Use an old toothbrush to get into the hard-to-clean spots

If your dishwasher is as clean as can be, then there’s no need for extra scrubbing. But if you still see grime caught in the door seal, under the arms, or in any other nooks and crannies, you may want to go the extra mile.

A toothbrush is the perfect size to reach any tucked-away debris. Scrub gently with a little soapy water or a paste of baking soda and water until the grime is gone.


Other Methods

Of course, the vinegar/baking soda technique is just one of many ways to get your dishwasher sparkling. eHow recommends utilizing the cleaning powers of Borax, while WiseGeek suggests throwing some bleach into the mix if your machine has fallen prey to really persistent mold.

If you’re looking to have a little more fun with cleaning (and hey, why not?), OneCreativeMommy uses Tang or Kool-Aid to clean her dishwasher. Alternatively, at POPSUGAR, baking soda bombs are the name of the game.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published on December 12, 2013. The latest updates include new photos, new links, new product recommendations, and some typo fixes.
Feb 15, 2017

A good dishwasher can be a godsend, especially after big family dinners, when the kitchen is piled with messy cookware, plates, glasses and utensils. Unfortunately, if you don’t regularly clean, disinfect and deodorize your unit, it will become inefficient, while polluting your kitchen with foul smells. Here is our step-by-step guide to cleaning this all-important kitchen appliance.

Step 1: Start with the filter. This step is crucial if you have a manual-clean filter, commonly found in newer units. Intended to replace the grinding mechanism on self-cleaning dishwashers, self-cleaning filters make modern dishwashers quieter. Unfortunately, they also trap food particles that become smelly as they spoil.

To clean your filter, start by pulling out the bottom rack. Depending on the brand and model, you will usually see a center cylinder that will unscrew, allowing you to remove the system and disassemble it. Once you’ve separated the parts, clean each one in the sink, using a sponge or your faucet sprayer. You may need to use a very small brush to dislodge grainy particles or coffee grounds, which can clog the mesh within the filter.

While the parts are removed, take a moment to check the spray arm to see if foods scraps are trapped within. It will usually come right out with a gentle tug. Wash the arm under running water, while looking for clogged holes, which you can clean using a wooden skewer or toothpick.

Depending on the brand or model, your spray arm may have an additional hole on its underside, designed to force water into the filter. If so, check to see if it is clogged, and then carefully reinstall both the spray arm and filter system.

Step 2: Deodorize and sanitize. After repeated use, residues, odors and discolorations can all accumulate within the interior of a dishwasher. You can eliminate all three using white vinegar. Start by adding two cups of vinegar to a clean bowl. Place the bowl near the center of the lower dish rack. Run the unit on the normal wash cycle without adding any detergent. As the vinegar is dispersed throughout the cycle, it will deodorize and sanitize your dishwasher.

If discoloration persists, it is likely because of mineral deposits from hard water. In this case, you will need to use a more aggressive store-bought dishwasher cleaner. You may also want to consider investing in a hard-water softener, since hard water does have the potential to shorten the lifespan of dishwasher units.

Step 3: Clean the exterior. If the front of your unit is plastic, scrub it down with hot, soapy water, using a sponge. If the front of your dishwasher is stainless steel, you can use glass cleaner to eliminate smudges, fingerprints and built-up grime. Be careful not to spray cleaner onto the surface, since this can create mist, which could damage the unit’s electronic controls. Instead, spray the cleaner into a cloth or paper towel, and then wipe the surface down.

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Do you clean your dishwasher every month? Here’s why you should and 3 steps to make it sparkle

Cleaning the appliance that cleans your dishes may seem unnecessary, but regular maintenance is actually very important to keep your dishwasher running at its max efficiency.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to get rid of all that nasty built up food debris, grease and soap scum.

Just gather some white vinegar, baking soda and a dishwasher-safe container — and follow these three steps to make your dishwasher sparkle again!

How to clean your dishwasher in 3 easy steps

Step 1: Remove the bottom rack for easy access to the dishwasher drain. Get rid of any gunk or food that may be caught inside.

Step 2: Fill a dishwasher-safe container with a cup of vinegar and place it on the upper rack. Run the dishwasher through a hot water cycle.

Other than the container with vinegar, keep the dishwasher empty!

Step 3: Sprinkle about a cup of baking soda across the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a short cycle using hot water.

End result? A bright, clean dishwasher that smells a lot better than it did before! Repeat this process every month to keep your appliance in tip-top condition.


Spring cleaning season is in serious effect: By now you’ve more than likely spring cleaned like a pro, Kondo-ed your drawers and closets, and ditched all your unwanted stuff. But when was the last time you cleaned out your fridge? Yeah, we haven’t gotten to that yet, either.

“People blow off cleaning appliances because they don’t have the time, or it takes too long to clean the grime that’s built up because they didn’t have the time,” says Becky Rapinchuk, a cleaning expert who goes by Clean Mama, and author of the books Simply Clean and The Organically Clean Home.

To help get us back on track, we’ve rounded up a few experts (including a microbiologist!) to remind us which germs and bacteria can build up on or in common everyday appliances (if we don’t get cracking), explain how often we should be cleaning them, and tell us what to use when we do.


Philip Tierno Jr., Ph.D, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU School of Medicine, says germs, most often mold fungi and some harmless “environmental bugs” tend to accumulate along the seal of a dishwasher. To stave them off, wipe the seal down weekly with a mild bleach solution (1-part bleach, 9-parts water). Melissa Maker, host of the YouTube channel “Clean My Space,” says the outside of your dishwasher should be wiped down on the outside each time you wipe down the cabinets — once a week. As far as the inside goes: “Replace the filter and put a cup of baking soda on the top rack of the dishwasher and leave it overnight, this will absorb any odors. The next morning put about a cup of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher and run it on the hottest cycle,” she says.

Washing Machines

Studies have shown that fecal germs, like E. coli and other intestinal bacteria, and some viruses (including the rotavirus, noroviruses and hepatitis A) can survive in washing machines especially if a bleach or germicide is not used with the wash, says Tierno. To keep such unsavory bacteria at bay, he recommends running an empty cycle with just water and a cup of bleach weekly, or bi-weekly, depending on how often you use the machine. Newer washing machines have a germicidal cycle, which is also effective, says Tierno.


Generally, dryers provide high heat but may not get hot enough to kill germs that cling to your clothes, warns Tierno. The cleaner the washer, the less bacteria you’ll transmit to your dryer. Some newer dryers have a germicidal cycle, which is well worth running weekly to keep them clean.

A Better Way to Clean: Use Vodka

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“These devices can harbor water-borne Legionella bacteria (as in Legionnaire’s Disease), which can be present in potable water. Unlike most bacteria, they can survive in plain tap water for as long as 140 days to a year and can even survive in hot water at temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Tierno. To keep your humidifier clean, use a brush and soapy bleach solution to gently scrub it out once a week.

Air Conditioners

Tierno says AC’s are great at controlling particulates in air — like dust mites and fungal spores — as well as a variety of other allergens and particles. “Besides cooling, the removal or reduction of allergens is the main task of an AC system. Therefore, it is imperative to change filters when they become clogged, as well as use the appropriate type filter,” he recommends. Otherwise, wipe down the surface of it with an antibacterial wipe once in a while. Also, Tierno says it’s super important to clean up any water that collects in or around your air conditioner before fungal mold builds up, which can really be a problem for those who are immunosuppressed or have allergies.


“Stoves tend to be somewhat neglected. Splatters or spills of food that aren’t promptly cleaned up can become a good medium for the growth of microbes,” says Tierno. Yuck! To prevent microbes, Maker says stovetops should be cleaned after each use by wiping them down with an all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Wipe the front of the unit down once a week. “The inside of the oven should be cleaned every 3 months, or when you notice burnt on food or smoke when you are baking,” says Maker. “Most ovens are self-cleaning, just make sure you remove the racks and clean those separately and follow the manufacturer’s directions for best cleaning practices.”

Microwave ovens

Tierno says, in terms of germs, the biggest problem with your microwave is the door handle. Grab an antibacterial wipe and sanitize the outside every time you put food in it — the kitchen is a hotbed of cross-contamination any time you make a meal. “One must clean the oven chamber with soap and water periodically (dependent upon usage), especially if there are splashes, and also because there are many ‘cold’ spots that don’t reach high temps that can kill germs,” says Tierno.

Another way to clean the inside: In her blog, Rapinchuk recommends cutting up one lemon and placing it in four cups of water in a small glass microwavable bowl. Run it until the water boils, 3-5 minutes, allowing the steam to loosen the grease, drips and grime. Use a sponge or microfiber cloth to wipe the inside clean.


Like it or not, your fridge should be wiped down and sanitized at least once a week, for it is a hotbed of germs. Tierno says raw meats, veggies, eggs and cheeses, and cold cuts, soft cheeses, pate, coleslaw and hot dogs can harbor listeria, which actually thrives at refrigeration temps and is dangerous for elderly, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. Plus, it is a humid space where fungal mold grows. Wipe up spills on the spot (and the handle, if appropriate) with antibacterial wipes, and give the outside a good wipe-down with whatever the manufacturer says is safe to use on the exterior.

Before you know it, you’ll have a kitchen clean enough to eat off of — as well as eat in.


  • How often you should clean your home, according to science
  • The best spring cleaning products, according to the pros
  • Why the 20/10 method can change the way you clean
  • How often to replace everything in your bathroom, bedroom and kitchen

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When the dishwasher was invented way back in 1886 (**Jonathan Van Ness voice** Can you believe?), it was a game-changer, time-saver, and germ-destroyer all in one. Not to mention, it was a total godsend for anyone and everyone who didn’t want to spend hours with their elbows up to food-flecked soap and water. Tbh, it still is—especially for city-dwellers who have spent years living in teeny-tiny apartments without one.

But as clutch as the modern dishwasher is after that five-course dinner party, it can’t clean itself. If this is (bad) news to you, you’re not alone. “That’s a misconception a lot of people have about both the dishwasher and the washing machine,” says Melissa Maker, cleaning expert at Clean My Space, a housekeeping service in Canada. “They’re appliances that clean other things, shouldn’t they clean themselves as well?” Sorry, but nope.

Lucky for you—and all your future dinner guests—here’s how to clean your dishwasher like a total expert.

But wait, how do I know if my dishwasher is dirty in the first place?

If your beloved appliance starts to straight-up reek, that’s a solid sign it’s cleanin’ time. (What? I’m just trying to make it sound fun.) Some other telltale signs? “You might see a moldy or mildewy kind of buildup on the sides of the dishwasher door or in the corners,” says Maker. “Also, your dishes aren’t coming out clean—they kind of have caked-on little flecks or little pieces of food stuck on them.” Guess that honey yogurt parfait wasn’t just extra sticky, after all…

“That all happens because you’ve got food trapped in the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher,” explains Maker. That doesn’t just give bacteria the opportunity to grow, but also prohibits the water from filtering out properly. That means “the dishwasher can’t do its job, so food gets redeposited back onto your glasses and dishes,” she adds.

Kind of a lazy cleaner? It’s okay—peep this fool-proof guide for some pro tips:

Okay, so my dishwasher is gross. How do I clean it?

Look no further than your filter. That’s where all the gunk ends up, a.k.a. the source of all evil. Combine that with soap residue and a little bit of water—all conveniently located in one small, contained space—and you’ve got the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, says Maker.

Many newer dishwashers feature a removable filter, but some older ones don’t (your appliance manual will tell you either way). Lost your manual? Maker says the filter is typically located at the bottom of the dishwasher right under where the “water arm”—literally the arm that spins around and shoots out water—is. Once you see it, you should also see clear information on how to remove the filter right there, she adds.

Advanced Soap Control Dishwand Brush Scotch-Brite $6.49

After removing the almost certainly funky-smelling filter (I’m just trying to prepare you!), the actual cleaning process is pretty simple. Just grab a dish brush with a bristle head on it—Maker recommends Scotch-Brite’s Advanced Soap Control Dishwand Brush—and some regular ole dish soap and water. (Dish gloves are optional, but definitely not the worst idea.) “Give it a good scrub, let it dry, and put it back,” she says. Easy-peasy-lemon-scented-dish-soap-squeezy.

No removable filter? No problem. You can still clean your dishwasher—you just need to use dishwasher cleaning tablets. They’re “quite effective,” according to Maker, whose own dishwasher doesn’t have a removable filter. She suggests running your machine on the “self-clean” cycle, if yours has that option (again, older models likely don’t). If it doesn’t, she recommends setting it to “hottest possible cycle.” Oh, and make sure your dishwasher is totally empty when you run it, because duh.

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While these tablets can work wonders, they shouldn’t automatically become your go-to, though. “If you can clean the filter, you should clean the filter…even if you had a tablet to clean the dishwasher in the dishwasher cycle,” says Maker. “Otherwise, you’re only solving half the problem.”

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

Depending on your lifestyle—and how good you are rinsing the dishes before popping them into the washer—you can deep-clean your machine every one to three months. If you’re a cleaning queen, once a month should fit nicely into your already spic-and-span sched.

But if you don’t use your dishwasher on the reg or just don’t have time every month, Maker suggests reminding yourself to do it at the change of each season. You can even set an alarm on your phone for every three months. “It should take 10 minutes or less each time,” adds Maker. “It’s one of those things that’s small but makes a difference.”

Any other ways to decrease my dishwasher’s overall grossness?

First and foremost, rinse 👏 your👏 dishes👏. It’s another small thing that makes a big difference, Maker says. She recommends doing it even if your dishwasher detergent boasts its food-blasting abilities. Sure, it can take the food off your plate, but “the problem is what’s left behind afterward,” says Maker. “It’s all of that bacteria and food and whatever that gets caught in the filter and leads to odors.”

You’ll save yourself so much time and energy if you just rinse the d*mn dishes. Of course, you don’t have to get ’em perfectly clean (that’s what the dishwasher is for!), but they should at least be free of big chunks or smears of food.

Another pro tip: Leave the dishwasher door open whenever it’s not in use. Not wide open—because that’s an accident waiting to happen—but at least cracked a little bit so that it hasn’t been clicked shut, advises Maker. This allows the dishwasher to air out and helps any moisture that’s left behind dry. “Even when I travel, I always leave the dishwasher door slightly open just, so that no grossness can fester in there,” she says.

After all, a dirty dishwasher is just about the last thing you want to come home to.

Lindsay Geller Lindsay Geller is the Associate Love & Lifestyle Editor at Women’s Health.