Your Dishwasher is Filthy—Here's How to Clean It

Think your dishwasher cleans itself? Think again.

We take our appliances for granted—none more so than the dishwasher. Its primary function is to clean, so it makes sense that it'll always be clean, right?


If you use your dishwasher a lot, it can easily get gunked up with leftover food, grease, and soap scum. This leads to an appliance that smells more like a sewer than a cleaning device. On top of that, the dishes that come out of it might not be as sanitary as they should.

To help you make sure you're staying on top of your kitchen game, we've collected five conventional (and unconventional) methods for making sure your dishwasher isn't nastier than the dishes you put in it.

RELATED: Why Your Washing Machine Smells, and How to Clean It

1. The Vinegar & Baking Soda Method

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. When you combine vinegar with the equally-versatile substance known as baking soda, you've got cleaning gold.

Melissa at Clean My Space knows the power of these two ingredients. According to her, making your dishwasher smell fresher than ever is a simple task. Just take out your dishwasher's filter and soak it in soapy water for about 10 minutes. Once you replace it, toss one cup of white vinegar on the bottom of the dishwasher and use the heavy cleaning cycle.

When you're done with the cycle, Melissa suggests sprinkling baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Leave it overnight, and then set up another heavy cleaning cycle. When it's done, your dishwasher will smell like new again.

2. The Borax Method

Let's get this out of the way: Borax and baking soda are not the same thing. Borax is sodium borate, while baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Does that make sense? Good, let's move on!

Raw borax [Credit: Wikimedia Commons user "Ra'ike"]

Cleaning with this inexpensive (and naturally occurring) substance is extremely easy. At eHow, they recommend scrubbing the bottom floor and inside door with a damp sponge and plenty of borax. Once you've scrubbed your brains out, use a damp rag to rinse away the borax.

To complete your cleaning, line the bottom of your dishwasher with 1/4 cup of borax during your next cycle—yes, you can have your dishes in there for this part. Use your regular detergent and run your dishwasher like you normally would. This extra borax will freshen up your favorite appliance and remove spots from your glasses. What a treat!

3. The Bleach Method

Aside from being Nirvana's most underrated album and a popular anime series, bleach is yet another sodium-based cleaner. This time, the name to remember is sodium hypochlorite, which is what most bottles of liquid bleach are.

Clorox, a popular bleach product [Credit: Wikimedia Commons user "Vox Efx"]

One word of caution before we go any further: Bleach is harmful to stainless steel, so if the inside of your dishwasher is stainless, skip this cleaning method!

The major benefit to cleaning your dishwasher with bleach is that this liquid is a surefire way to kill mold. Over at WiseGeek, they recommend the vinegar and baking soda method for a normal dishwasher cleaning. If you have really persistent mold, though, they suggest filling a cup with bleach and then placing the cup on the top rack. Run your dishwasher at its hottest setting and your mold problem should be no more.

4. The Tang/Kool-Aid Method

Tang [Credit:]

If your dishwasher is leaving crud on your dishes and glassware, then you need to put the Kool-Aid down and use it as a cleaner instead.


The blog OneCreativeMommy has one of the most intriguing tips for removing hard water deposits in your dishwasher. Even better, it makes your most-used kitchen appliance smell delicious.

Start by running your faucet until the water is hot, and then begin your dishwasher cycle. After a few minutes, stop your dishwasher. Add some Tang (or citrus Kool-Aid) to the detergent bin. If you have one of the larger 20 oz. containers of Tang, add the rest of the powder to the bottom of the dishwasher. Now you can run a full cycle and the citrusy goodness from your powdered drink mix will eat away hard water deposits. Yum!

5. The Baking Soda Bomb

For our explosive finale, let's revisit baking soda. While using the miracle cleaning powder with vinegar is a quick and easy way to spruce up your dishwasher, making little baking soda bombs sounds way more fun.

Baking soda bombs [Credit:]
While using baking soda with vinegar is a quick and easy way to spruce up your dishwasher, making little baking soda bombs sounds way more fun.

At POPSUGAR, one blogger shares a fantastic recipe for this cleaning ordnance. In a mixing bowl, combine two cups of baking soda, three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, and about 20 drops of essential oil. Mix these ingredients together until the consistency resembles moist sand, and then use an ice cream scoop to form your sanitation explosives. Let these sit overnight.

Before you run any dishwasher cycles, make sure the filter is cleaned and any leftover food is removed.

Now that your baking soda bombs are hardened, place them on the bottom rack. Combine a mixture of two cups vinegar and one tablespoon detergent in a mixing bowl, and place it on the top rack. Run your dishwasher and get ready to witness true cleaning power.

Have any other creative ideas for cleaning your dishwasher? Let us know in the comments.

[Hero image: Wikimedia Commons user "Ra'ike"]

Related Video

31z4jrrohzl. sl160

Twenty Mule Team Borax, 76 oz. boxes, pack of 6

Buy now for $37.28 at Amazon

Be in the know! Get news and reviews straight to your inbox.

Thanks for signing up!