Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are an essential part of a kitchen as it saves hours of hunching over a sink full of soapy, gunky water scrubbing plates, cups and the piles of silverware.  They also sanitize the dishes, which is especially useful.  But dishwashers, like most appliances, need to be cleaned so they can run efficiently and won’t start to smell like rotten food or mildew.  Since the holidays are coming, this is a good time to clean your dishwasher.  All that is needed are two items that are most likely already in the pantry:  white vinegar and baking soda.


First, remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher.   Removing it isn’t a hard job, but the person who removes it must be on the dishwasher’s level. Inspect the drain spout.  Remove any extra food debris that could be sticking to it or any small items that might have fallen to the bottom of the washer.  

Silverware, toddler sippy cup lids, and other skinny items are notorious for falling through the cracks of the racks.  There are simple baskets designed especially made to hold those smaller items safe.  Removing this debris from the bottom will make the dishwasher run more efficiently and prevent damage to the dishwasher.  It will also avoid standing water in the bottom of the dishwasher.  If there are any other significant debris items in the dishwasher, remove those as well.

Second, put the bottom rack back and reach for the household cleaner that everyone should stock in their house:  white vinegar.  Place a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container and run the dishwasher through a hot water cycle.  Reminder to skip the drying cycle here and save some energy as it is not necessary for the third step.

Third, take regular baking soda and sprinkle a cup down on the bottom of the dishwasher.  It does not need to be exact here, and if some winds up on the rack it’s not a big deal, and it will not ruin the dishwasher.  Run through a short cycle this time in the dishwasher, yet again without the drying feature.  The dishwasher will be crisp and fresh-smelling after these simple steps.


To finish it up, use hot water and a sponge or microfiber towel to wipe down the outside of the dishwasher and any other spots that may be there.  Microfiber towels and a gentle dish soap (the same one used to wash large items that do not fit in the dishwasher or are not dishwasher safe) is the safest to use on the exterior to avoid scratches.  And help prevent the food buildup by rinsing dishes before placing them on the rack.  These four steps done on a monthly basis will keep a dishwasher fresh. Each month when you do this, check underneath your kitchen sink and make sure no leaks have started where the dishwasher connects to the water line and the garbage disposal or drain line. Plumbers get a lot of calls for these mishaps, and, if caught early, will hopefully only do minimal damage.