Homedit is supported by our readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Homemade Dishwasher Cleaner: A Fast and Effective Monthly Practice

Some of us may not think too much about the importance of cleaning a dishwasher (after all, shouldn’t it be clean because it cleans all our dishes every day?). The fact is, dishwashers can get grime and gunk built up in them just like anything else. They’ll perform much better, in terms of cleaning our dishes, and also be safer to use if we conduct this simple cleaning practice each month. It costs next to nothing, but it will go far in keeping your appliance working effectively and efficiently for a long time. Not only that, but this cleaning method is 100% natural. (You can also try this dishwasher cleaning method, which adds baking soda to the mix.)

View in gallery

View in gallery

Homemade Dishwasher Cleaner

Here’s a shot of the grimy dishwasher. It was hard to capture in a photo, but there’s a lot of build-up, particularly on the inside of the door where the silverware holder goes.

View in gallery

This is a close-up of the back of the silverware holder. Yuck.

View in gallery

To start, remove all removable parts of your dishwasher. If it has a removable filter, pull that out and rinse it under hot, soapy water, then replace it. My dishwasher has no removable filter, but it does have some odds and ends (that I don’t know what they do). I pull these out.

View in gallery

You can see that there’s plenty of grime.

View in gallery

Soak these parts in some hot, soapy water, then scrub with a toothbrush to get them clean. This takes about 20 seconds. No big deal.

View in gallery

Also, wipe down the areas that these removable pieces might block during a wash cycle. I simply used some hot soapy water and a paper towel.

View in gallery

Replace any of the parts you removed, which are now clean.

View in gallery

Grab your distilled white vinegar.

View in gallery

Pour a cup or two into a bowl or two that will fit into the top of your dishwasher rack.

View in gallery

Place these two vinegar-holding bowls onto the top rack of your dishwasher. Vinegar is a wonderful natural deodorizer and cleanser.

View in gallery

Move the silverware holder to a place on the lower rack of your dishwasher that it normally doesn’t go, if possible. This will help everything to get a fresh, cleansing rinse – both the silverware holder itself and the place where the silverware holder lives.

View in gallery

With nothing in your dishwasher except the two bowls of vinegar, run a heavy cycle. Walk away. Take a nap, if you want. Best 60 minutes of “cleaning” you’ll ever do, right here.

View in gallery

When the cycle is finished, open up your dishwasher. Depending on the state of your dishwasher at the beginning, you might feel a little disappointed opening up your dishwasher and not noticing a huge difference. My dishwasher looked much cleaner after the cycle, although I could still (and did) touch up some spots with a toothbrush. But what your vinegar rinse did, whether you see it or not, is it removed soap scum and helps the dishwasher to work more efficiently to clean your dishes. That’s why we recommend doing this monthly, even if you don’t see the dirtiness.

View in gallery

If you still have spots and want to get heavy duty on diminishing them, you could mix up a baking soda paste, lather it on the spots, wait a few minutes, then spray vinegar onto the paste and wipe it off.

If you ever believed that you never have to clean a dishwasher, think again. It’s like saying that a body towel never requires washing because you’re always clean when you use it to wipe your body, right? Sadly, a dishwasher doesn’t clean itself, which means that not only will it have an unpleasant odor in time, but it will also leave stains on the dishes. If you want to learn about the best dishwasher cleaning products, here is a comprehensive guide that will surely help you.

Dishwasher Cleaning 101

Thankfully, cleaning a dishwasher isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but there are a few things that you need to know about the kitchen appliance that does require cleaning at least once a month. As a general rule, the dishwasher will require cleaning of both the interior and the exterior. Whether or not you’re using dishwasher cleaning products, you must be prepared for the off-chance that yours will end up smelling moldy. Here are a few things that we want you to know about the in-depth cleaning process of a dishwasher:

  • Apple cider vinegar will always be one of the most popular cleaning products used around the house, and it is also one that you can use to clean your dishwasher. However, you might want to go with white vinegar this time. All you have to do is put some white vinegar inside a dishwasher-safe cup or bowl and put in the machine’s top rack. Set your dishwasher to the hottest setting and run it empty. The temperature will activate the vinegar and allow it to absorb odors and moisten grease and residue build-ups inside the machine, making it super easy for you to clean it afterwards. Due its high astringency, vinegar is efficient in breaking down nasty particles in your dishwasher so that you can clean it with ease.
  • Baking soda is another very popular ingredients used to clean all sorts of home appliances because it’s really efficient in removing residue left by food waste. All you have to do is sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom side of the dishwasher and run a hot-water cycle. Normally, just one cycle should be enough to get rid of mild stains, but stubborn ones might require multiple cycles to be efficient in removing both stains and smells. You can also make your own baking soda bombs with a mixture of 3 tbsp of hydrogen peroxide and 2 cups of baking soda until you form a paste. Grab a clean spoon and put spoonful on clean parchment paper. Leave the bomb to dry for a few hours, after which you can use them inside the dishwasher during a hot-water cycle. Make sure the machine is empty when you do so. If you want your baking soda bombs to smell nice, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to the mixture.
  • In certain situations, you can also use bleach to clean your dishwasher but you will have to be very careful if you choose to do so. This is not a method recommended for those of you with dishwaters that have stainless steel components (for these, the aforementioned methods are way more useful). Bleach is, however, useful for those of you with washers that have plastic parts and plastic lining, as it is a solution that can efficiently remove mold and mildew, but it also acts like a powerful disinfectant against germs. To clean your dishwasher using bleach, apply the same recipe as the one we talked about when discussing vinegar as a cleaning solution, just replace the vinegar with bleach.
  • The drain trap is a specific part of the dishwasher that you’re going to have to clean. That’s because modern dishwasher models don’t require rinsing the dishes before putting them inside the machine, which means that the machine will be less efficient in the cleaning process. That’s because the interior sensor will identify the dishes as being cleaned even if they’re not, which results in the dishwasher running a shorter cycle. It is always best if you try to scrape large pieces of food off your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, but you surely won’t be able to avoid cleaning the drain trap forever. This is a part of your machine that will accumulate the most food residue and it eventually start to smell really foul. Using your dishwasher’s manual, you should be easily able to disassemble it and remove it. The cleaning process is easily done using a toothbrush or a sponge. You might want to use some dish soap as well, especially if you have to get rid of mold stains.

Dishwasher Cleaning Tasks

Dishwashers aren’t really high-maintenance home appliances, but there are few things that you’re going to have to remember to do if you want to prolong the lifespan of your washer, but also to make sure that you pull out clean dishes all the time. In terms of maintenance timeline, here are the things that you’re going to have to do if you want to have your dishwater in top shape for many years to come:

  • Every time you use the dishwasher, you need to make sure that you scrape the plates clean of all the food that’s on them. Removing bits of food will make sure the washer is more efficient in cleaning them, but also that the drain trap doesn’t end up having too much food residue that will require you to clean it more often.
  • Every week, make sure that you wipe the exterior of the dishwasher using a clean cloth. Pay close attention to the door grime, but also make sure that you clean the interior of the doors, the control, and the handle. If the exterior of your dishwasher is made from stainless steel, you might want to use a special cleaning solution designed for this specific purpose. Not only are these products efficient in cleaning the surface, but it will also give them a nice polish.
  • Another weekly task will be to make sure that you rinse the filter of the washing machine. You can simply remove it and run it under hot water. You can also use a toothbrush to remove any pesky residue that won’t come off under the hot water stream.
  • Deep cleaning your dishwasher every month is another important part of taking care of this rather expensive home appliance. You can turn to anyone of the solutions we mentioned above for cleaning inside the dishwasher, but we’ve also given you a lot more stress-free options below. These are cleaning solutions with special formulas dedicated to cleaning your dishwasher and making sure it’s free of mold, mineral build-up, limescale, and others.

Best Dishwasher Cleaner Products

Finish In-Wash Dishwasher Cleaner

View in gallery

Finish is definitely one of the best brands when it comes to dishwasher cleaning products. Here you can see a set of four packs, each one with three cleaning tablets. It is a product designed to be placed at the bottom of the dishwasher and it will efficiently remove grime and grease. However, it is highly effective in helping get rid of things like hard-water strains, mildew, and mold as well. Unlike other products, there will be no need for you to run an empty cycle. One tablet should last you about a week, which means that this set will have you covered for about three months.

Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner

View in gallery

Here is one more package of dishwasher tablets that are perfect for dissolving and removing residue that typically causes odors. The tablets are designed to be used once every month and they are effective against mineral build-up and lime. In case your dishwasher hasn’t been cleaned in a while or has significant build-up, then you can use two tablets at once. Just place one of them in the detergent tray and the other in the bottom of the dishwasher. One pack contains 6 detergent tablets, which should last you about half a year.

Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner & Disinfectant

View in gallery

Glisten is a really powerful cleaning a solution that can help you get rid of complicate residue build-up of different natures, such as food residue, grease, or hard water. But what really makes this solution special is the fact that it doesn’t just remove residue, but it also disinfects your dishwasher from potentially harmful bacteria, such as salmonella or E-coli. To use this solution, you will have to remove the cap while leaving the wax plug on. The bottle has to be placed upside down afterwards in the silverware basket or into a secure position in the bottom rack. After that, proceed to closing the dishwasher and run the machine on the hottest cycle, making sure it’s not a quick one so that the solution can be rinsed properly.

Lemi Shine Multi-Purpose Appliance Cleaner

View in gallery

This is yet another amazing product for cleaning your dishwasher. It is a product designed for dishwashers, sinks, and even washing machines. It is aimed at removing pesky smells and bacteria that can be harmful. The product was created with citric extract so that it can leave behind a nice lemon smell. It works with more than just dishwashers, and you can use it for stainless steel appliances or other kitchen and home appliances. The formula is designed for monthly use and it’s non-toxic and biodegradable.

Frigidaire Ready Clean Probiotic

View in gallery

Coming up next, we have this Frigidaire cleaner that features a triple-action formula: it removes the odors inside your dishwasher, it contains surfactants and probiotics to clean build-up and leave the dishwasher smelling fresh. Due to its liquid formula, the solution has a very easy time reaching the filter and the pump of your dishware, making the over cleaning process more thorough and more effect. To make use of the formula, pour it in the bottom of the dishwasher and leave it to sit for a while, and then run a rinse-only cycle.

Dish Washer Cleaner

View in gallery

If you’re looking for yet another efficient product to help remove limescale, mineral build-up or those nasty hard water stains, then you should consider these triple-layer tablets that are divided into the following: the blue layer has active oxygen components that can remove liquid stains, the white layer with a soft water formula that makes tableware clean, and the yellow layer which contain biological enzymes designed to remove heavy oil and protein fat.

Cascade Platinum Plus Dishwasher Pods

View in gallery

These dishwasher pods are a viable product that can help you get rid of residue stuck inside the dishwasher. Every pod is balanced with the proper cleaning agents to make sure that you can have a clean home appliance without wasting too much water (since you can skin the pre-wash mode, you can save up to 15 gallons of water each time). One box contains 70 cleaning pods that you have to place inside the detergent slot, making sure they are not punctured when doing so.

OxiClean Washing Machine Cleaner with Odor Blasters

View in gallery

This OxiClean product was designed to serve as a washing machine cleaner, but it can successfully help you out if you have a dishwasher. These odor blasters are designed to help eliminate the odors that are left in our water-based home appliances, making sure that every times you’re ready to clean a new load of dishes, they will come out smelling fresh instead of moldy and stale. To use them, you simply have to tear the touch of the cleaner and pour it into the detergent container.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from if you feel like your current dishwasher cleaner isn’t doing a great job or if you just bought a dishwasher and aren’t sure how to keep it in check from a cleaning point of view. When you’re on the market scouting for a good dishwasher cleaners, keep an open mind and know even some products that are designed for washing machines can turn out to be effective in cleaning a dishwasher as well.