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I don’t know anyone who loves cleaning their dishwasher. It sort of feels like one of those appliances that should clean itself because it’s constantly cleaning other things. However, it totally needs its own TLC. Fortunately, with the help of a well-known, effective household cleaner, the job becomes a little easier. Here’s how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar — pour, run, scrub, run again.

Cleaning a dishwasher with vinegar is a simple and effective way to remove buildup and odor and to keep the appliance running smoothly. Use white distilled vinegar, but don’t just pour it directly into the dishwasher because the acid may disintegrate any gaskets or rubber seals.

If you’re in the cleaning mood, we also have a step-by-step guide to cleaning your microwave with vinegar (seriously, vinegar does all the things). For all of our cleaning tips, browse our ultimate cleaning guide and get cleaning supplies coupons to save while you sanitize.

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How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar in 3 Steps

a dishwasher safe bowl filled with vinegar sitting on the top rack of a dishwasher

Hard water spots, unpleasant smells, and better performance are all reasons to give your dishwasher some love. Plus, for overall disinfecting, it’s recommended that you clean your dishwasher with vinegar every few months. This process will help prevent a buildup of minerals, food, and grease.

Before you begin, empty the dishwasher. Ideally, you’ll clean it right after a cycle is done. This way it’s already hot. You want an empty canvas for cleaning.

Here are the steps to follow to clean a dishwasher with vinegar:

  1. First, pour vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to a heat-resistant bowl. Place it upright on the top rack. Don’t add any detergent.
  2. Next, run a full cycle. Start a full cycle on the hottest setting. Let the dishwasher run until the vinegar mixture has been thoroughly distributed.
  3. Scrub the interior. Use a scrub brush or an old toothbrush to wipe the interior of the dishwasher. This includes the door seal, around the spray arms, and any other hard-to-reach areas. Pay extra attention to spots where there may be buildup or stains. Culprits include the utensil holder and detergent dispenser.

By cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar regularly, you can help extend its lifespan. Regular cleaning also keeps it running smoothly. You can run another rinse cycle, but that’s optional. If food odors are a huge issue, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher while running the vinegar to clean.

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Related: How to Clean a Mattress and Remove Stains Like a Pro


Do not try to use anything other than white distilled vinegar for cleaning.

White distilled vinegar is the most commonly recommended type of vinegar for cleaning purposes because it’s a clear, colorless vinegar made from grain. This makes it more versatile and mild than other types of vinegar.

For example, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, while great for cooking and salad dressings, can leave a sticky residue or stain surfaces due to their darker color and more pronounced flavor. Other types of vinegar, such as rice vinegar or red wine vinegar, may have a lower acidity level or a different flavor profile which can affect their effectiveness as a cleaning agent.

White distilled vinegar, on the other hand, has a high acidity level which makes it effective for breaking down grease, grime, and mineral deposits. It’s also colorless and has a neutral scent, so it won’t stain or leave any residual odors.

Here's How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar (Hint: It's Easy)