Give Your Dishwasher a Deep Clean With These 6 Steps

Believe it or not, your trusty dishwasher does need to be cleaned every now and then

Lydia Schapiro
Written by Lydia Schapiro
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated June 29, 2022
Woman unloads dishwasher
Photo: Gabi Moisa / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Simple

Flex your DIY muscles.

Time to complete

50 minutes

Cost

$10–$15

Save big by DIYing.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.

What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Pliers or a toothpick
  • Washcloth
  • Dishwasher-safe bowl or cup
  • Sponge (optional)
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Toothbrush (optional)

SUPPLIES

  • White vinegar or baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Cleaning solution

While it might seem odd to consider cleaning the dishwasher (the ultimate cleaner itself), this ritual is essential to its functionality. If you don’t, the appliance will become clogged with bits of food and minerals, leaving it looking grimy, smelling bad, and performing slowly. 

By deep cleaning your dishwasher every few weeks, you can avoid common problems, such as a dishwasher that won't drain. Plus, allowing your dishwasher to sit in its filth will only result in dishwasher repair costs that will be more expensive than the cost of cleaning it yourself. 

“A common issue that may be found is that of the rubber seal deteriorating and/or pulling away from the dishwasher,” says Asya Biddle, manager of The Dustbusters janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “Frequent cleaning will eliminate this issue and help to keep the dishwasher running efficiently.”  

So, when it comes time to deep clean the house, don’t forget to show some love to your dishwasher and extend the life of your appliance.

  1. Empty the Dishwasher

    Start by emptying your dishwasher of all items, including its removable parts. These parts are typically the spray arms, top rack, bottom rack, utensils holder, rubber gasket or seal, and filter. 

    Pro tip: Not all filters are removable—do some research on your dishwasher to see whether it is removable or has a self-cleaner system. 

    In order to be most efficient in your cleaning, make sure to really empty the dishwasher by removing all forms of debris (food, oil, etc.). In addition, remove all water from the bottom of the dishwasher with a cup or small towel. 

    Note: If the dishwasher has small crannies filled with food or other debris, use pliers or a toothpick to make emptying easier.

  2. Check the Drain for Clogging

    Check the drain for any chunks of food or materials that can cause clogging. 

    Microwave one cup of white vinegar for 10 to 20 seconds and add two to three tablespoons of baking powder. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

  3. Clean Any Removable Parts

    Place all dishwasher parts you removed in step 1 in the sink and scrub them using a sponge and warm water and dish soap. Use rubber gloves if necessary. 

    Pro tip: Use an old toothbrush to scrub the parts squeaky-clean and let them soak for 15 to 30 minutes. After, rinse and place them back into the dishwasher.

  4. Run With Vinegar (or Baking Soda)

    Fill up a cup or bowl (make sure it’s microwave-safe) with three-fourths to one cup of white vinegar and place it in the dishwasher. Using a hot-wash cycle, run the dishwasher with the vinegar inside. If you’re opting for baking soda, sprinkle three-fourths to one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and let it run. 

    If you want to show some extra TLC to your appliance, run one cycle with baking soda and then one with vinegar (or vice versa). But do not use both at the same time, as they will not combine well and just result in a mess.

  5. Clean the Interior Walls

    Kitchen with open dishwasher
    Photo: starush / stock.adobe.com

    When all parts of the dishwasher are clean, take your washcloth or sponge and clean all interior walls of the appliance using vinegar and warm water. For top results, make sure to use hot water and really scrub—don’t neglect any crevices or tight corners. 

    Pro tip: For any lingering stains, try applying baking powder and scrubbing with a toothbrush.

  6. Clean the Exterior

    Once the inside is sparkling, clean the exterior using a cleaning solution and either a small washcloth or paper towel.

    Research what type of cleaning solution is best suited for your dishwasher. Typically, for plastic exteriors, hot water with soap works well. For steel, a solution of one-part vinegar and three-parts water usually works best.

DIY Dishwasher Cleaning vs. Hiring a Pro 

By following the steps above, you’ll have a squeaky clean dishwasher in no time. However, you can also hire a professional cleaning service to tackle this task for you. Most house cleaning pros charge $30 to $50 per hour, and you can add other cleaning services to their to-do list in addition to dishwasher cleaning.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.