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

Think your dishwasher cleans itself? Think again.

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 the 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.

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.

We’ve combed through a variety of cleaning methods to find the best and easiest way for you to stay on top of your kitchen game. Here’s how to make sure your dishwasher isn't nastier than the dishes you put in it.

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Why Your Washing Machine Smells, and How to Clean It

1. Clean your filter

Dishwasher filter
Credit: / Johnny Yu
First, clean the filter. View Larger

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. 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

Scrub away any remaining debris with a toothbrush. View Larger

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.

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