How to (eco-friendly) deep-clean your dishwasher

How to (eco-friendly) deep-clean your dishwasher

Clean your dishwasher regularly, and it will work better and last longer.

Green-clean your dishwasher

  • Ditch the toxic chemicals
  • Get cozy with vinegar
  • Unleash your inner lemon
  • Make your routine monthly

Hello there, millions of dishwasher owners! We want you to know that we’re dishwasher owners too. We’re right there with you, taking care of this essential appliance in the best ways possible – because our families rely on them and care about the planet, too. As a company offering home appliance and systems warranties, we know a thing or two about getting the most out of machines like these, which are so vital to our daily lives.

If your dishwasher is suddenly smelly, and you’re out there surfing the interwebs, typing something like “how often should you clean a dishwasher” or “how to deep clean dishwasher” into your favorite search engine, we hear you loud and clear. And we’re here for you with some real answers! We’ll also try to help you avoid all those nasty chemicals while you’re at it.

Most dishwashers tend to last about a decade, but as more environmentally conscious legislation is adopted, this number should improve, resulting in a lot less waste ending up in landfills. If you’d like to do your part to make sure your dishwasher runs as well as it can for as long as possible, you’re reading the right article. Even though it’s constantly washing dishes, your dishwasher can accumulate soap scum, food residue, grease buildup and other particles and deposits that are often wet and can grow bacteria. Before long, your dishwasher can start to look a little gross inside and out, which sometimes even results in an unpleasant stench.

However, if you commit to cleaning as seldom as once a month, you can keep your dishwasher looking, smelling and performing like new. If you haven’t cleaned your dishwasher in a long time (or ever), you may find that a single, deep cleaning will restore that sparkly clean shine to your dishes and might even save you a maintenance call to the professionals. Remember, though: The best way to keep your dishwasher clean is to thoroughly scrape and rinse your plates before placing them into the machine in the first place.

Dishwasher cleaning supplies

Yes, you can ditch the bleach (it can damage stainless steel anyway) and clean your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda. If you find yourself without vinegar and still want to be kind to the planet, you may also want to grab a few other cheap, non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products. Lemons, salt, borax, rubbing alcohol, ammonia, simple soap and even vodka are great for your first adventure into DIY, eco-friendly cleaning products. Once you have these items, you’ll also want to grab some old t-shirt rags, a bucket, dish soap and a pair of rubber gloves.

Make your dishwasher deep-clean green

Who said it’s not easy being green? Now that you have your essential, eco-friendly supplies, you’re ready to deep clean a dishwasher. Use this handy guide for what to use and where:

  • Exterior door & gasket: Wipe everything down using rubbing alcohol to remove fingerprints, but remember not to use vinegar on any plastic buttons, as it could damage them. A bucket of warm water with dish soap is also a good call here, or you can mix a quarter-cup of baking soda into a quart of water. Use soft rags instead of abrasive scouring pads. Scrub around the seal with a toothbrush dipped in the bucket.

  • Utensil holder & racks: These parts are pretty easy to remove and wipe down with vinegar, but if yours are particularly grimy, you can soak them in a sink or your tub with hot water and two cups of vinegar for half an hour before rinsing and replacing them.

  • Tub: White vinegar and lemon juice work wonders inside the dishwasher. Simply fill a small cup with vinegar and a few drops of lemon juice, place it on the top rack, and run a cycle on high heat. Wipe the tub dry afterward. If you want to take this step to another level, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the tub bottom and run the machine once before running the vinegar-and-lemon-juice cycle.

  • Spray arms: You can wipe these down with vinegar, and if you spot any clogged spouts, clear whatever’s stuck in there with a toothpick. Run water through the inlet to spot any stubborn clogs.

  • Filter: Try to do this at least once a month, but if you wanted to clean your dishwasher’s filter after every use, it wouldn’t really be too often. For many dishwashers, it’s super easy and doesn’t even require tools. All you have to do is pop the filter out, rinse, let it dry and then replace it. Filters are usually located on the bottom of the tub, accessible by pulling out the bottom rack and applying a short, counter-clockwise twist. Wipe around the filter attachment point with a clean, dry cloth before replacing it.

  • Drain: Cleaning the dishwasher drain is another good habit to add to your monthly dishwasher maintenance list. Warm up a cup of vinegar, stir in a couple tablespoons of baking soda and pour that mixture into the dishwasher drain. Wait for approximately 15 minutes. Then boil some water and pour it down the drain to flush out the baking soda and vinegar mixture.

You’re not the only one thinking more seriously about spring cleaning, deep cleaning, decluttering and more. Check out our survey of American cleaning and decluttering habits while stuck at home. While you’re at it, spring forward with this home-maintenance checklist, along with our post on sustainable spring cleaning 101 and our 7 spring cleaning tips and tricks. Meanwhile, if you’ve been wondering whether a home warranty covers a dishwasher, you’re in luck. For more great inspiration for this spring season and others, follow us on Instagram.


The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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