Clean a Dishwasher the Easy Way

How to Clean Your Smelly Dishwasher


It seems a bit odd to think about how to clean a dishwasher. I mean doesn’t it get cleaned whenever you wash the dishes? I don’t have a smelly dishwasher and at first glance, it doesn’t appear to be dirty.


Then I cleaned my oven and that got me to thinking about the rest of my kitchen. I did some research to see if cleaning my dishwasher was even necessary and come to find out, it is.


After seeing some before and after pictures of other people’s dishwasher, I took a good look inside of mine and that’s when I realized just how smelly and dirty my dishwasher really was.


Just like I usually do, I set out to find the easiest, most practical way to clean a dishwasher and get the best results.


I’m going to walk you through how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda, how to clean a dishwasher with bleach, how to clean a dishwasher filter, and how to clean the outside of your stainless steel (or non-stainless) dishwasher.


If you aren’t ready to clean your dishwasher right now, I suggest downloading my spring cleaning checklist so that you can get this done sometime this spring.


Plus, you can use the image below, to save this idea for later, on your Pinterest account.

clean your dishwasher naturally

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How to Clean A Dishwasher Filter


Before you get started with the whole dishwasher, you are going to want to make sure the dishwasher filter is clean. You need to be extremely careful with your dishwasher filter. It is a fragile piece and if you damage this, your dishwasher will never run the same.


I had never really thought about the dishwasher filter before and was kind of grossed out when I pulled it out. After seeing this I was even more convinced that we should clean our dishwashers regularly.


How to clean a dishwasher filter.

Wipe Out Any Food Particles From the Bottom


Make sure there are no food leftovers hanging around in the bottom of your dishwasher.


Remove The Upper and Lower Filter


I wasn’t sure how to do this when I first wanted to clean my dishwasher filter. I found this video to be very helpful.


Rinse The Filters With Water


Again, you want to be really easy with your filters. Rinsing them with water should do the job. If there are some things stuck on your filters then you can soak them in some warm, soapy water before rinsing them again.


I had some build up on my mine that was being pretty stubborn. I let it soak and then as carefully as possible, I wiped the gunk away with a washcloth.


Put The Filters Back Before Moving On


Make sure your filters are back in place before moving ahead with cleaning the rest of the dishwasher.


How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda


I found the easiest and fastest way to clean a dishwasher using baking soda and vinegar. If your dishwasher is in really bad shape and super smelly, then I would recommend not taking my short cut. I will go more into detail about that in a minute.


Empty Out Your Dishwasher


The part that makes this a bit time consuming is that you have to have a completely empty dishwasher to do this. If you follow along with my morning and evening cleaning routine then this shouldn’t be a problem for you.


After you unload the dishes in the morning, rinse the breakfast dishes and just leave them in the sink. This makes the perfect time for cleaning your dishwasher.


If you work outside the home you can even get this started before you leave the house and you will come home to a sparkly new dishwasher.


Sprinkle A Cup Of Baking Soda Through Out the Dishwasher


This is going to help with any smells in your dishwasher and help with any stubborn sticky spots.


Set A Cup Of Vinegar In The Top Rack Of Your Dishwasher


The vinegar will help loosen up all the grime in the dishwasher and is a natural disinfectant.


Run Your Dishwasher On The Hottest Cycle Possible


For me, this is my sanitize cycle. If you are unsure what cycle this would be, use the Pots and Pans cycle and make sure the water is as hot as you can make it.


Wash a dishwasher on the hottest settings possible.

If You Have a Super Dirty and Smelly Dishwasher


Maybe you moved into an old house or maybe you never thought about it until now… if this is you then I want you to break the above process down into two cycles.


The first cycle should be done with just the vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher.


Then, after the first cycle is complete, run your dishwasher again, after sprinkling a cup of baking soda around.


The extra cycle will be sure to get rid of any stubborn stains or smells.


Before and After


When you look at the before and after pictures, I admit it is really hard to tell the difference. I promise I could see a difference in real life. I’m kind of kicking myself for not getting out my camera lights out so that you could really see any stains and discoloration.


However, if you pay attention, you can clearly see that the after picture is really white while the before is off white.


how to clean a dishwasher. Before and after pictures.


How to Clean A Dishwasher With Bleach


I personally would never recommend using bleach to clean your dishwasher. The chemicals and the smell can be really bad for you.


However, that is a story for a different day and I know that some of you don’t keep a large bottle of vinegar on hand like I do.


Before I tell you how to do this I do want to encourage you to stop using bleach to clean things in your home. Go the more natural route and use the vinegar option above.


Put a Cup Of Bleach in the Top Rack and Run On the Hottest Cycle


Make sure your dishwasher is completely empty and debris free. Then put the bleach in and run it on it’s hottest cycle. That’s it! Super easy.


How to Clean A Stainless Steel Dishwasher


When trying to decide how I was going to go about cleaning my dishwasher I discovered that a lot of people have a stainless steel dishwasher, meaning it is stainless steel on the inside and outside. Since I saw a lot of questions about washing a stainless steel dishwasher I thought I would address that as well.


It’s the Same As Washing A Plastic Dishwasher


If the inside of your dishwasher is stainless steel you can use any of the methods above to clean your dishwasher. I personally recommend using the vinegar and baking soda option.


There is no difference between cleaning the inside of a stainless steel dishwasher and a plastic one.


Use A Glass Cleaner To Wipe Down the Outside of the Dishwasher


For the outside of a stainless steel dishwasher, you will want to use a special cleaner for stainless steel, a glass cleaner, or make your own cleaner.


Use a lint-free cloth and wipe with the grain of your stainless steel.


Glass cleaner works best with non-stainless steel dishwashers as well.


Before and after cleaning the outside of your dishwasher with glass cleaner.


Last-Minute Tips For Cleaning A Dishwasher


I would start cleaning your dishwasher about every 6 months, or at the very least, once a month. You can use my deep cleaning calendar to remind you of this every spring.


Run the garbage disposal before you clean the dishwasher. Normally the garbage disposal and the dishwasher drain run to the same drain. If your garbage disposal is backed up then the dishwasher may not get as clean as it could be.


Happy Cleaning 🙂


I hope this works for you and that you are excited about cleaning your dishwasher. If you enjoy cleaning you should stay and look around for a bit.


I have tons of amazing resources in both my shop and my free printables library.


Spring Clean your home any time with this deep cleaning guide. It gives you a plan of action to get things clean up and stay on top of it.

cleaning routine checklist

Read More:
How to Clean the Oven Quickly
DIY Dryer Sheets With or Without the Vinegar
Weekly Cleaning Routine :: Get Control Of Your House
Deep clean the dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda or bleach. Clean the dishwasher filter and many more tips. #cleaningtips #cleaning #cleaninghacks #cleankitchen #kitchen #dishwasher


  1. June Knox

    September 3, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    Do you leave the upper and lower racks in the dishwasher while it is going through your cleaning cycle?


    1. KatiesKottage

      September 3, 2021 at 1:16 pm

      Yes I leave them in 🙂

  2. Julianne

    February 7, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Great! Thank you!

    1. KatiesKottage

      February 7, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      You are very welcome. 🙂

  3. Julianne

    February 5, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Hi Katie! Do you have tips on how to deep clean a shower/bathtub? Recommendations for cleaning products?

    1. KatiesKottage

      February 6, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      I do not have a blog post with that information but I would love to write one! I love to use natural products when possible. I would recommend putting down some baking soda, spraying it with a mixture of vinegar and dishsoap, then letting it sit before scrubbing. Peroxide can work just like bleach. That would be a great solutions for the tub. A non natural way to clean a glass door would be scrubbing bubbles with pledge and a Magic Eraser. Hope this helps! I’ll try to write a detailed blog post soon. 🙂

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