How to Clean a Dishwasher

Dishwashers are convenient and save water compared to washing dishes by hand. Over time, however, dishwasher interiors collect hard water buildup and soap scum, preventing dishes from becoming as clean as possible.

Although there are products to specifically clean dishwashers (one example is Jet Dry dishwasher cleaner), they are not always easy to find in stores. Using everyday products in your home, that dishwasher can become sparkling clean!

Warning: Although many people recommend muriatic acid, it is highly reactive and is not suggested for use around children or infants. It can also be a highly corrosive chemical, and can seriously damage dishwashers. If you do decide to use this chemical, run the dishwasher a second time to rinse any residue off of the panels. This is not a product you want on your dishes or in your food!

If you are worried about harmful chemicals or VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), do not use bleach. Although it does clean dishwashers well, it can also create harmful fumes when used with other products.

Cleaning products are a big no-no for dishwashers. Residue from these products can remain in your dishwasher, and then end up on your “clean” dishes. Who wants CRL in with their dinner? These chemicals are also very strong, and have been known to literally eat through dishwasher panels! Using these products will often void your dishwasher warantee as well, so watch out!

For those that use Oxyclean, try running an empty dishwasher with the regular amount for a load of dishes. This should clear up any buildup and will make your dishwasher smell amazing.

Vinegar and baking soda are strong enough to get the job done without damaging your dishwasher or putting chemicals on your dishes. Dishwashers that are extremely dirty or have lots of build-up will often require a repeated cleaning with the same product.

For the baking soda treatment, run the dishwasher with 1 cup of baking soda. This will also make your dishwasher smell fresh and clean!

Run the empty dishwasher with 2 cups of white vinegar (other vinegars might stain). Some people suggest putting the vinegar in a bowl on the top rack, while others suggest pouring it into the base of the dishwasher.

Either way, vinegar removes odors, build-up, and hard water stains. This method is even recommended by dishwasher repairmen!

A couple packets of unsweetened lemonade mix will make the dishwasher smell fresh without using chemicals or cleaners. Again, dishwashers with a lot of build-up might need a second washing.

To prevent future build-up, always rinse dishes off before putting them in the dishwasher. Avoid using gel cleaners, as this can actually create build-up!

Every so often, try adding some white vinegar to your dishwasher before turning it on. This should help prevent buildup and makes glasses sparkling clean.

If possible, remove the jets from your dishwasher periodically and clean them thoroughly by hand. These often catch food particles left on dishes, and can easily become clogged.


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