How To Clean A Dishwasher

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Maintaining the inside of dishwashers isn’t high on To-Do lists since they do a great job cleaning themselves while they run a load. Sometimes though there may be a few rust stains, detergent or mineral buildup or even an off-smell that you want to get rid of.

EmptyHere are few quick & easy tips for freshening things up.

  • Using citric acid is a popular trick, here’s how you do it: Fill the detergent cup with 2 tablespoons of powdered citric acid (some even recommend just filling the soap dispenser with powdered Orange Tang since it contains citric acid) and run through a full cycle. This is especially good for removing rust spots (you may have to do more than one treatment).
  • To remove buildup of minerals or stains, run a full cycle with vinegar, here’s how you do it: Start the appliance and once it fills up with hot water, pour in a cup or two of regular household vinegar. Turn it back on and let it finish its cycle. Another method is to set a bowl filled with 3 cups of vinegar on the bottom rack when the machine is empty. Let run for a full cycle.
  • Borax or Baking Soda Freshener: After dishes are done for the night and the appliance is dry, sprinkle a layer of Borax or baking soda on the bottom. Close it and let it sit overnight. The next day take a damp sponge and scrub the powder into the inside walls and door. Remove most of the powder then run a full cycle on empty to remove all traces of the powder. Another method to freshen up is to toss in a cup of baking soda when the machine is empty then run it on the rinse cycle.

Smelly Tips:

If the appliance smells, you could have food trapped in the bottom filter. After running a load, remove the bottom rack and look for any crud trapped in the filter on the bottom. If there’s food trapped in the holes, you’ll need to remove it and clean it. Also look around the gasket, you could have an accumulation of gunk in there that needs to be washed up.

Remember: Unplug appliances before removing or handling parts.

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15 Comments to “How To Clean A Dishwasher”
  1. Laura Sverha says:

    All my glasses are getting a cloudy look to them from being washed in the dishwasher. What is it from and how can I get rid of it? Hand washing or scrubbing doesn’t remove it.

    • nancy phillips says:

      Make sure milk is rinsed out of your glassware before putting in the dishwasher. Milk is notorious for etching glasses. To remedy this, place your glasses in hot water with a cup of white vinegar, use a dish rag to wipe clean.

    • phurnie says:

      Hi Laura, I was told this cloudiness was etching and cannot be removed. It’s in the glass and permanent. I believe it was caused by the “scratchy” detergent over time.

    • Emily says:

      I had the same problem. Hard water buildup caused my glasses to look terrible. Soak your glasses in a sink full of water and 2 tablespoons citric acid and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Let them soak for about 30 Minutes. See if that does the trick.

  2. Ashey says:

    Laura, It could be from using to MUCH detergent. Try using vinegar in your rinse cup as the rinse-aid instead of jet-dry or anything like that. Also cut back on your detergent amount. I hope that helps.

  3. Barb Big Red says:

    Dishes are not washing nicely any longer due to changes in the detergent and elimination of a critical element earlier this year. I am having the best luck using Cascade in the large cycle and a lemon based/citric product in the smaller cycle. This is the only combination working for me in Omaha, NE.

  4. Adele Hendry says:

    How do i get rid of smells in my washing machine?-anybody-please>

  5. Dianne says:

    Tip a bottle of white vinegar in machine and wash on a hot wash.

  6. nancy phillips says:

    I was having trouble with Cascade making my dishwasher all clogged up with soap scum. The scum was on everything and it turned pepto bismal pink, yuck!
    I switched to Finish and no more problems, it even has cleaned the dishwasher. I am using the rectangular tabs with the red ball in the center.

    • Chanda says:

      How long did you use Finish before seeing results? Our dishwasher is doing the same thing (although not pink…yet). I have tried soaking it in vinegar, but it’s not doing much good.

      • Wendy says:

        The results with Finish are Immediate.

        I find that with my dishwasher(s), If I use anything that is Cascade, my dishes end up with stuff stuck to them, spots every where, the powder is stuck to everything, and the washer is covered in gunk. I tried cutting it down by half and 3/4 but the dishes were always dirty. I tried using jetdry but it didn’t help. I had to rinse them, wash them, and then rinse them again another 2 times for them to come out without food on them, and they were still covered in spots.

        I have soft water. I broke down and finally bought Finish. Now I cannot use anything other than the Finish all-n-1 Gelpacs. A plus is, the Orange packs make my kitchen smell delightful, it cleaned all the gunk off the inside of my dishwasher that the cascade left behind, and the results were immediate.

        However I did find that I need to clean out the dishwasher at least once a month now. But considering I had to clean it out at least every week, sometimes twice when I used cascade, I like the trade off.

  7. will moots says:

    my dishwasher has a buildup of grey rubbery substance in the water impeller and the water spray arms.What causes this and what can I do to clean it out of the places I cant reach?

  8. Karen McAuliffe says:

    The government has restricted the use of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in dishwashing detergent. This ingredient produces algae in the watershed and impacts aquatic life. I live in Pennsylvania, in the Chesapeake watershed. There are dead areas in the bay. This ingredient is what made everything sparkling clean.

    Also, flatware manufactures say not to use citric acid on flatware. Just saying.

  9. Sally says:

    Laura use lime away on your glasses it works.

  10. Rebecca E Case says:

    When doing the citric acid technique, do you have an empty dishwasher? Or can you wash dishes while you do it?


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