Print Friendly

How to clean your dishwasher

This post was written by Andrea from Homemade for Elle. If you love other healthy whole food recipes, or eco-frienly living tips you will love her blog.

Every so often, my dishwasher stops washing dishes well. My utensils are left with grime, and the inside of my cups are left with a layer of gross debris.

Dirty cup

This usually triggers the thought that I need to clean my dishwasher. It sounds counter-intuitive to clean something that is designed to clean, but the dishwasher has a tough job. Most of the dirt and food residue that is on the dishes when put into the dishwasher goes down the drain, but there are cracks and crannies in there that build up residue that can be cycled back into the dishwasher as it runs. Those bits of residue can end up in your cups (yuck), or coating your dishes.

Additionally, the natural minerals in the water can leave behind build-ups that are unsightly. As with bathtubs and sinks, a good scrub should be done occasionally to stop these build-ups from getting out of hand.

Here is the easiest method to clean your dishwasher naturally, without the use of toxic and expensive cleaners.

First, it’s a good idea to consult your dishwasher’s user manual before attempting to partially disassemble it. Make sure you are familiar with how all of the parts are put together. Since there are thousands of different models of dishwashers, I won’t go into how to disassemble them, so take care to understand the parts so there isn’t any damage or confusion as to how to put it back together.

Removing the racks and utensil trays (if possible):

If there are any dishes in the dishwasher, remove them and set aside. Take out the top and bottom racks, and utensil holder so you have access to all of the walls of the dishwasher.

Scrub Walls of Dishwasher

Fill a large bowl with equal parts of hot water and white vinegar. You can also make this solution in your sink, but I found it easier to have the bowl next to me. Using a scrub sponge, dampen and lightly scrub away any grime or residue from all the sides, bottom and top of the dishwasher.

Remove the Arm, Grate and Filter

If you’re able to remove the rotating arm and filter on the bottom of your dishwasher, do so carefully. I had to use a torx bit to remove the filter, but every dishwasher is different. If you’re unable to safely remove the filter and arm, skip this step and proceed to next.

Grate arm and filter

If you get to see what’s under that arm and filter, you’ll understand why the bits of debris end up in cups. It’s a horrifying site of goop. Yuck.

Using your vinegar and hot water solution, clean this trap as much as you can, using a toothbrush to get into small gaps.


Run Dishwasher

Once clean, replace arm, grate and filter, and pour 2 cups of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher. Turn on dishwasher (using Smart Wash cycle if you have one). Half way through the wash cycle, you can pause the wash (without draining the water) and allow vinegar mixture to hang out for about half an hour. Resume wash cycle until finished.

While the dishwasher is running with the vinegar, clean the racks, utensil tray and any other parts with a vinegar/water solution.

Reassemble Dishwasher

Once everything is clean, replace racks and utensil holder and wipe down the inside rim of the dishwasher with a sponge. Wipe outside of the dishwasher and you’re done!

Start to finish, this process takes a couple of hours. I recommend running your dishwasher with 2 cups of vinegar (and no dishes) once a month to cut down on the calcium and mineral build-up that can occur. Deep cleaning your dishwasher every 6 months is recommended. Rinsing dishes well before loading them in the dishwasher can also cut down on the amount of debris and gunk that builds up.

I have found that liquid dishwasher detergent is much easier on the dishwasher than solid, grains of cleaner. The tiny grains can get lodged into the jet stream holes and clog them, which will make your dishwasher more ineffective.

Have you ever cleaned your dishwasher? Do you pre-wash dishes before loading them?

About Amanda

Amanda is a mother of two amazing toddlers. She is an herbalist, natural living guru, and real food, gluten free eating pro. She loves to help educate others on how to take control of their own health through natural living, real food, herbs, essential oils, and most of all - a positive mind set. Her other business Natural Herbal Living Magazine is all about helping people learn about how to use one herb a month on a deep and profound level.
Share →

20 Responses to How to Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally

  1. We pre-wash all our dishes and that helps a ton but even so I still have to clean our dishwasher once in a while.

  2. […] jQuery('.icons a').hover(function(){ jQuery(this).fadeTo('fast', 1); },function(){ jQuery(this).fadeTo('fast', 0.5);}); How to Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally […]

  3. I miss having a dishwasher! I’ll have to keep this post handy for when we get one again.

  4. I think i’m going to try pouring some vinegar and running an extra hot load with no dishes. Ours is in pretty good shape compared to the pictures.

  5. Gabrielle says:

    After I did this, some of the plastic/rubber gaskets in my dishwasher were melted and no longer working correctly. Maybe just a good scrub with some non-foaming baking soda next time. The replacement part was $70.

  6. Gail says:

    I use vinegar in every load of dishes that I run. I let it run for a few minutes and then add one cup of white vinegar. It helps keep the dishwasher and the dishes clean.

  7. Bonnie says:

    Nice refreshing article. Never thought of doing this. You stated to periodically run 2 cups of vinegar through it. Do I just put the vinegar in the bottom of the washer? Thanks so much

    • Amanda says:

      You can put it in a shallow cup or bowl on the bottom rack of the washer and it will just be rinsed around as the was goes, or you could just put it in the bottom of the washer.

  8. Mike says:

    After disassembling and removing debris, reassemble and run with 1 scoop of OxyClean. I do this once a month. The machine sparkles.

  9. Im in an apt where i rent. So i have yet to take anything apart, but with every load i add white vinegar to the cup, and put lemon juice in the area where “jet dry” is supposed to go. And i try to clean out the filter thing. My top rack is falling apart litterally amd so i save the broken pieces that get caught in the filter and have showed the maintance man, but properity management has yet to give me / install a new rack.
    Thanks for the post. 🙂

  10. Kristi says:

    I don’t pre-rinse before washing. Seems like a waste of water and time. And that’s why they’re going into the dishwasher. To be washed.
    If there are some major foods on the dishes, I wipe it off with a recycled paper towel and toss that in my food compost.
    I am going to clean it though; everything at some time or another, can use a good scrub. 🙂

  11. Donna Soto says:

    We live in the Caribbean. I don’t always run the dishwasher as it’s just my husband and I. I do get a moldy buildup because of that. I run the dishwashe empty, with Bleach. The water from the dishwasher running delutes the strength. Keeps my dishwasher clean…

  12. Brenda S says:

    My dishes go into the dishwasher food-free. I have some hard water stains but I’m fairly certain I have no food build up in hidden places.

  13. Keriane says:

    I use vinegar as a rinse aid every wash anyway so my dish washer gets a good clean every wash. My dishes & machine are always sparkling clean.

  14. […] Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally from Natural Living Mamma […]

  15. […] How to Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally – Natural Living Mama     I sooo need to do this one! […]

  16. Thank you for writing this and thanks for sharing it with me for my round up post. I just took my dishwasher apart and WOW – kinda ashamed I didn’t know you could/should take it apart!!

  17. […] How to Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally – Natural Living Mamma […]

  18. […] Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally from Natural Living Mamma […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *