How to Clean a Dishwasher

by: Dale Cox

This page contains instructions for cleaning a dishwasher using white vinegar and the light cycle on the machine. This process work quite well to remove grease and grim from the interior of the machine. If your dishwasher has developed a musty odor, this cleaning process will eliminate that problem as well. Check the bottom of this page for a video demonstrating how to clean a dishwasher.

Start the Dishwasher on a Light Cycle

photo of a maytag dishwasher with the door opened

Leave all baskets and trays in the dishwasher during the cleaning process. Select the light or short cycle on the machine control panel and hit start. Let the basin fill with water and open the door to stop the cycle.

Pour about 2 cups of white vinegar into the basin and let it sit for a few minutes before restarting the machine.

Scrub in Crevices

photo of a brush cleaning crevices inside a dishwasher

About half way through the cycle, stop the machine again and pull the door all the way open. Remove the bottom basket and use a small cleaning brush or old toothbrush to scrub in the hinge area of the door to remove any scum and debris lodged there. Also, look around the interior of the dishwasher for other nooks and grannies where scum tends to collect and scrub where needed.

Examine the dishwasher door for grimy buildup and scrub it with the brush. Close the door and restart the cycle. Let the machine finish before opening the door again.

Dealing with Dishwasher Stains

photo of stains on the inside of a dishwasher

After the wash cycle has run, open the door and examine the interior. There may be stains left behind that the vinegar didn't get. If your dishwasher has a plastic interior, use a spray bottle with water and about 10% chlorine bleach to spray the stains liberally.

Let the bleach stand for 10 minutes or more and then rinse with clean water. Check for remaining stains. If you still have stains on the plastic, use a stronger bleach treatment and let it stand another 10 minutes. If stains remain after the second treatment, they are embedded in the plastic and likely will never come off completely.

Note: if your dishwasher has a stainless steel interior or any of the parts are stainless steel, don't use bleach to remove stains. Bleach will leave corrosion marks on the stainless steel that can be impossible to remove.

Keep Your Dishwasher in TipTop Condition

photo of a maytag under counter dishwasher

Don't overfill the dishwasher with dishes, this will make it harder to get everything clean. Don't prewash your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. The detergent need some food debris to cling to as the machine works.

Periodically remove the bottom basket and check the drain for debris that could block water flow. Keeping the drain clear will keep the machine working at its best.