clean dishwasher fast and easy

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

I shared how I clean my dishwasher on Instagram back in November, right before Thanksgiving, as a reminder for my Internet friends to give theirs a quick cleaning before houseguests arrive for the holidays. Holy manoly, I have never gotten so many DMs in such a short timeframe!

I quickly realized that a lot of people don’t know that you’re supposed to clean a dishwasher, so I thought I’d turn that Instagram post into a detailed blog post so you can pin it and save for your Cleaning boards on Pinterest. So here is my super fast, super easy guide for how to clean your dishwasher with just two ingredients.

how to clean your dishwasher by Lela Burris

Why Clean Your Dishwasher?

Sure, your dishwasher “cleans itself” when it runs a cycle, but not really. Dishwashing detergent residue and hard water builds up every single time you wash a load of dishes.

That build-up eventually starts to cake onto the edges around the seals, which can cause your dishwasher to not seal all the way, resulting in it not getting as hot and steamy as it should.

That same build-up also clogs your “water spouts” and makes the appliance work harder than it should. Between the hard water “clogs” and little bits of food residue in the filter, your dishwasher will end up wasting a lot of unnecessary energy, and will never actually get your dishes clean.

Think of it like your shower. Even though your shower “cleans you” you still clean it. A dishwasher is exactly the same.

how to clean detergent buildup in a dishwasher

When To Clean Your Dishwasher

I typically clean mine once every couple of months, but you don’t have to be that diligent. A good rule of thumb is to try to clean yours a few times a year, maybe quarterly. Some people clean theirs every month to prolong the life of their appliance, and if you can remember to do that monthly, it’s definitely a good habit to get into.

You’ll know when it’s time to clean it because your glasses and utensils will start to get a little hazy. That’s a clear sign that there’s hard water and detergent residue building up inside.

You’ll also be able to see white crusty stuff (eww) around the seals of the dishwasher door. And I know you don’t want to know this, but all the hidden food bits inside your filter just get sloshed back up inside again every time you wash more dishes, so you’re essentially caking on dirty water to the dishes you eat from…


Ingredients You Need:

  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Baking Soda

Supplies You Need:

how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar

How To Clean Your Dishwasher

Start by opening up your dishwasher and locating the filter. It’s usually in the bottom, but some dishwashers are different. Go ahead and pop the filter out, as well as the “spinny thingy” and put them in a sink full of hot water with 1.5 cups of vinegar added.

Let that soak for about 30 minutes, then scrub them with a soft toothbrush. Make sure you check the holes of the spinny thingy to be sure they aren’t obstructed with hard water.

There is a ton of hard water buildup and dried detergent on the door. Ewww.

clean dishwasher with vinegar

Once you’ve soaked, scrubbed, rinsed, and replaced the filter and skinny-thingy (no idea what that’s called, but skinny-thingy feels right), you’re ready to do the hardest, most labor intensive job of all.

Kidding! This is literally the easiest thing to clean EVER!

Just pour one cup of vinegar into a dishwasher-safe glass (I used a Pyrex measuring cup) and put it on the top shelf in the middle of the tray. Just sit it there, standing up. Seems weird, I know, but resist the urge to pour it in.

clean dishwasher fast and easy

Then sprinkle baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher, as wells as the inside of the door. For now, don’t worry about the door seals. We’ll take care of that in a bit.

Once you’ve got the baking soda all situated, close the door and turn on your dishwasher for the hottest and longest cycle it can do. This is a good time to run the “sanitize” cycle if you have that option. You can skip the dry cycle, if you have a selection on your buttons to do that, but if not, it’s no biggie.

*Do not put detergent in. Only the vinegar in the cup and the baking soda in the base/door.

easy way to clean dishwasher

After the cycle is done, open the dishwasher while it’s still hot and steamy inside. (Be careful not to put your face or hands nearby when you open, because the steam can sometimes be really hot and well… steamy…)

Use a microfiber cloth or sponge that has been soaked in vinegar to wipe down any areas that still have hard water or detergent build-up on them. Specifically the door seals and edges/corners.

Since the steam loosened everything up, the residue should slide right off with no scrubbing needed.

how to clean a dishwasher

And that’s it! Your dishwasher is sparkly clean with minimal effort! Easy peasy, right?

You’ll notice instantly that it looks (and smells) cleaner, but you’ll really be able to tell when you run your next load of dishes. Your glasses and utensils will be shinier and clearer, and your dishes will feel cleaner with no glossy residue on them.

Work This Into Your Cleaning Schedule

If you aren’t used to cleaning your dishwasher regularly, you’ll need to add this task to your cleaning schedule so you don’t forget about it. Don’t have a cleaning schedule? I got you Girl!

You can download my Cleaning Schedule Planner to help you build better daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly routines so you spend less time cleaning and more time “living.”

Because that’s what being Organized*ish is all about.

Pin This Guide For Reference!

the easiest way to clean a dishwasher

This post was originally written in May 2015, and has been updated with new information, text, tips, and images. Most recent update February 2020.


  1. I have a stainless steel interior; is it ok to do the vinegar/baking soda?

    • Hi Deb! Yes, baking soda and vinegar are very safe for stainless steel, just be sure to use a microfiber cloth for cleaning and not an abrasive (gritty side) of a sponge. You can also use baking soda and vinegar to clean and shine a stainless sink.

  2. This is great! I just recently ran a load with the vinegar on the top rack and then followed your cleaning tips, huge difference! Thanks for sharing.

    • Lela Burris

      Thanks James! So glad it was helpful for you! And thank you for the comment, you just reminded me that I need to run a vinegar load in mine again before we move out. Much appreciated!!!

  3. Very good idea. Cleaning my dishwasher was never in my “to do” list. I am going to clean it next weekend. Now I realize how important it is to clean your dishwasher regularly. Best regards!

  4. Hello beautiful! Great tip. Pinned and tweeted. I hope to see you on tonight at 7 pm because we love to party with you! Happy Memorial Day! Lou Lou Girls

  5. Hey Lela! I’m horrified right now because I never even thought about cleaning the machine that cleans my dishes. Thanks for linking up on Tuesday!

  6. I am going to definitely clean mine. I have only wiped the inside with Clorox wipes. thanks for sharing.

  7. This made me laugh because hubs cleaned ours for the 1st time just yesterday! It wasn’t cleaning very well at all and yes, it was disgusting 🙂 I’ll need to keep up with it for sure.

  8. Yuck! I never thought of cleaning mine…now I’m gonna have to!

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