How to Clean a Dishwasher with White Vinegar

I know our dishwasher washes all the dishes, but did you know you have to clean your dishwasher? White Vinegar is the key to removing food, soap scum and grease build-up in your dishwasher.

white vinegar in top of dishwasher rack

Why Bother Cleaning Your Dishwasher?

Some of you may be wondering if there is any point to washing your dishwasher, after all, it cleans all our dishes and those come out clean every time! Overall, most modern dishwashers are extremely efficient and need minimal maintenance. However over time, the filter of the dishwasher collects food and waste that can prevent your dishes from getting as clean as they once had when your dishwasher was brand new.

Why Vinegar?

Believe it or not, vinegar is a non-toxic miracle cleaner. (We even have a miracle cleaner using vinegar! It’s magic, folks.)

Because white distilled vinegar is 5-6% acetic acid, it helps loosen built up soap scum, food particles and grease from the dishwasher’s walls and racks and washes it down the drain. Regular white distilled vinegar (like the kind you would use for salad dressings and such) is 5% acetic acid while all-purpose vinegar is 6% acetic acid. It is also sometimes called cleaning vinegar. If you can find the All Purpose Vinegar, we would recommend this for all our vinegar-based homemade cleaners.

Washing the Dishwasher Filter

The dishwasher filter is located in the bottom of your dishwasher, underneath the bottom rack. It’s usually round and will unscrew. Always check the manufacturers instructions for further guidance. (I always google the name of my dishwasher with model number and then the words “how to remove filter” and I’m able to find the answer pretty quickly.) After it’s unscrewed, you’ll want to deep clean this. It will be gross! This is normal. See more specifics on cleaning the filter below in our full guided tutorial.

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar

While this process does have a lot of steps, your active time should not exceed 30 minutes. If you know what you’re doing and know what to expect, you should be in and out in no time with a sparkling clean dishwasher to boot. Let’s do it!

Step 1: Remove the Filter and Soak

Fill a nearby sink or large bucket with very hot soapy water. Locate your dishwasher filter and remove. Spray down with extra soap and/or vinegar and soak in hot soapy water. We typically will use Castile Soap because its biodegradable, inexpensive and quite effective. But a little blue Dawn is great, too.

Step 2: Scrub Noticeable Buildup

Using that hot soapy water, scrub the bottom of your dishwasher and/or anywhere you think could use an extra scrubbing. These scrub brushes work wonders and keep your hands mostly clean. Although a basic sponge works perfectly well, too. If you haven’t ever washed your dishwasher before, you might be shocked at how dirty this appliance has gotten over time.

Step 3: Replace Dishwasher Filter

Once the dishwasher filter has had a chance to soak, scrub it well until clean, rinse and replace into the bottom of the dishwasher.

Step 4: Run a Cycle with White Distilled Vinegar

Into a mug or liquid measuring cup, add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar – 5% or 6% acetic acid works perfectly. Run a sanitizing cycle (or the equivalent) with the vinegar sitting in the top rack of the dishwasher. The vinegar wash will remove food, soap scum and grease build up. After the cycle, open the door for a sparkling clean dishwasher that is as good as new.

Watch How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar here:

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