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

If you want to clean your dishwasher with vinegar, avoid pouring it directly into the detergent cups. 

Vinegar is a versatile cleaner. It deodorizes, has some disinfecting properties, and cleans well. But, as great as it is, vinegar contains high levels of acetic acid. Using too much acidic cleaner can damage the metal and rubber gaskets inside a dishwasher.

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar

So, if you want to clean your dishwasher with vinegar, take these steps to do it safely.

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

Vinegar is not a good substance for cleaning your dishes. So, start by putting all dishes away.

Step 2: Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

If nasty smells come from your dishwasher, a clogged filter is the usual culprit. 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, then clean it with a toothbrush. Rinse well. 

When putting your filter back in the dishwasher, 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 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)

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.

Final Thoughts

While vinegar is an excellent cleaner, it’s too harsh to use every day. So, clean your dishwasher with vinegar once every couple of months to keep it from smelling bad. But before cleaning, remove your filter and scrub it clean – dirty filters are the most significant cause of bad dishwasher smells.

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