How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar (without Causing Damage)

Vinegar can deodorize and break down mineral deposits and grime, making it an ideal DIY dishwasher cleaner. But, as great as it is, it contains high levels of acetic acid, known to damage metal and rubber gaskets.

To get your dishwasher clean and smelling fresh without causing damage, avoid putting vinegar directly in the detergent cup or rinse-aid dispenser. 

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar: Step-by-Step

Vinegar will deodorize and descale your dishwasher. But there are a few steps you need to take before getting started.

Step 1: Unload Your Dishwasher

Unload any dishes so you can start with an empty dishwasher.

Step 2: Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

The most common cause of bad dishwasher smells is a clogged filter. Cleaning the filter will make your dishes cleaner and prevent bad odors from traveling up your sink’s drain when running the dishwasher.

Locate your filter underneath the bottom rack of your dishwasher. Then, turn it counterclockwise to remove it. Soak your filter for 30 minutes in hot soapy water and rinse. Dislodge stuck-on gunk with a cleaning brush or old toothbrush. Rinse well. 

Put the filter back in the dishwasher and twist it clockwise to ensure it’s locked in place.

Step 3: Fill a Coffee Mug of Bowl with 1 Cup of Vinegar

Fill a Coffee Mug of Bowl with 1 Cup of Vinegar

With your filter back in place, it’s time to clean and deodorize. Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with one cup of white distilled vinegar and place it on the top rack.

Run your dishwasher on the quick cycle. (There’s no need to run the dry cycle.)

Tip: Never put vinegar in the detergent cup. Vinegar is acidic and can break down the rubber gaskets on your dishwasher and corrode the metal. Using a small amount of vinegar on the top rack is the safest way to disperse it through your machine.

Step 4: Wipe Down the Inside

After the dishwasher finishes running, wipe down the inside of the machine with a microfiber cloth. Remove your silverware basket and clean it in the sink if needed.

Check the sprayer. If gunk clogs the spray holes, use a toothpick to unclog them. 

Wipe down the racks, inside panels, and the top and bottom of the dishwasher. Also, wipe the rubber gaskets around the door with a damp microfiber cloth to remove buildup.

Step 5: Clean with Baking Soda (Optional)

If you want to clean your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda, this last step is for you. Baking soda provides an additional way to deodorize.

Here’s what to do:

  • Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the floor of your dishwasher
  • Run a hot and quick cycle (no need to run the dry cycle)

DIY Dishwasher Drain Cleaner (Eliminate Rotting Smells and Clogs)

Dishwasher filters and drains become clogged with mineral deposits from hard water and grime from food-covered dishes. This slimy build-up can cause the dishwasher to smell like rotting eggs or drain slowly. Use a DIY dishwasher drain cleaner to help dislodge the gunk.

  • Start with an empty dishwasher.
  • Remove your dishwasher filter, soak it in hot, soapy water, and scrub the grime from it using a toothbrush or cleaning scrub brush.
  • Replace the filter.
  • Dump one cup of baking soda, followed by one cup of white distilled vinegar, at the bottom of the dishwasher near the drain.
  • Allow the mixture to bubble for 15 minutes.
  • Run the dishwasher on the rinse cycle on the hottest setting.

How Can I Clean My Dishwasher if I Don’t Like Vinegar?

If you’re not a fan of vinegar, there are other (just as effective) ways to clean your dishwasher. Consider a cleaner like Finish Dishwasher Hygienic Cleaner. To use it, empty your dishwasher, put the open bottle upside down on the top rack, and run the dishwasher.

Finish Hygienic Cleaner removes limescale, grease, and built-up debris. It also deodorizes and leaves the dishwasher smelling better.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can I clean my dishwasher with Apple Cider Vinegar?

You can clean a dishwasher with Apple Cider Vinegar if you don’t have white distilled vinegar. If you’re using ACV with “the mother,” filter out any chunks first. Then fill a coffee mug with 1 cup of vinegar, add it to the top rack of your dishwasher, and run it on the hot cycle.

Can you clean a dishwasher with bleach?

You can clean a dishwasher with bleach if it has no stainless steel parts. Empty your dishwasher and put one cup of bleach in a coffee mug on the top rack. Run on the full cycle, but skip drying. Never mix bleach and vinegar – they produce toxic gas.

Why does my dishwasher stink?

The number one cause of a stinky dishwasher is a dirty filter. If you haven’t cleaned your filter in over a month, remove it and give it a good scrub. 

Can I put vinegar in my dishwasher with detergent?

Do not mix vinegar with your dishwasher detergent, and never put vinegar in your detergent cups – its high acid levels can cause irreparable damage.

Can I use vinegar as a rinse aid in my dishwasher?

Vinegar is too acidic to use as a rinse aid in your dishwasher. It can eat through the rubber gaskets in the rinse aid compartment.

Keep Your Dishwasher Clean

While vinegar is an excellent cleaner, it’s too harsh to use every day – use it every month or two as a deep cleaning measure. To keep bad smells at bay, wash your dishwasher filter every two weeks or as needed.

You can also run the sanitize cycle on your dishwasher or use a dishwasher cleaning tablet once per month to prevent germs and hard water buildup.

Discover more ways to clean with vinegar: 18 Household Items You Can Clean with Vinegar