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Cleaning a Dishwasher

Dishwasher full of dishes.

Periodic cleaning of your dishwasher can help prevent odors. It will also ensure that you get many years of use out of it. This is a guide about cleaning a dishwasher.



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Tip: Use Tang To Clean Dishwasher

Fill soap container with Tang and run the dishwasher empty of all articles. The dishwasher will sparkle like new.

By Nancy from Wilmington, DE

Tip: Use Drink Mix To Clean Dishwasher

It's very easy to clean your dishwasher and you should at least once a month. Recently I found a new way I hadn't been aware of. You fill the cup where the soap goes with any lemon-lime or citrus drink mix. Then let it run using only the drink mixture. It kills the germs and get rid of food particles,build up grease left behind from all of those loads of dishes. It does a great job with little effort.

I saw this on a professional cleaning show. Buying those drinks at the 99 cent store will work just fine. I had dishwashers in the past,always wiped them out. This professional cleaning company said "found nothing else that works as well" as drink mixes. Thought I'd share one I hadn't heard of before.

I now have no use for a dishwasher so I use lemon slices on my sink. Keeping the disposal up with half baking soda and half vinegar. If you eat eggs, the shells are perfect for keeping the blades sharp. If no egg shells, a 1/2 cup of ice works well, also.

Source: HDTV

By Luana M. from San Diego, CA

Tip: Kool-Aid For Cleaning Dishwasher

To clean a dishwasher, put 1 pack of orange Kool-Aid (unsweetened) in bottom and run through a full cycle. It will come out sparkling. Be sure it is empty of all dishes, etc.

By jan5055 from Corvallis, OR

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Here are questions related to Cleaning a Dishwasher.

Question: Cleaning a Dishwasher

Can Home Hardware brand CLR be used to clean dishwashers? If yes, how much do I use and what type of dishwashers may be cleaned using this product?

By Arlene from Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B.03/08/2011

I am sure that this is one of the uses that CLR is advertised for. It is just a stronger acid than vinegar. I would put a cup in the machine, and run a regular cycle. Read the label of the container, or go online to the CLR product site (they must have one) to see what they say. On this site, people have advised vinegar and citric acid. CLR is just another kine, stronger than vinegar.

Question: Cleaning a Dishwasher with Interior Stains

What do I use to clean dishwasher stains? Would baking soda and lemon be good? Thanks for your help.

By Vicki from OH

Most Recent Answer

By Trish09/15/2010

I have used a package of dry KoolAid Lemonade sprinkled onto the bottom of the dishwasher and then run a light cycle. Only the Lemonade will work as it contains citric acid but it does work. If you are a cheese maker and have citric acid, a couple of tablespoons in the bottom of the dishwasher will also work. If you do this regularly (I do mine every 6 months) you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Good luck, Banty

Question: Cleaning a Dishwasher

What can I use to clean the drain in my dishwasher? Also, what should I use on the inside of the dishwasher?

By Sam

Best Answers

By MystikMommy01/16/2012

I would clean the inside of dishwasher itself with a clean sponge and a bleach/water mixture (bleach is the only thing I've found that will kill any mold, but mix nothing stronger than a 50/50 ratio in a spray bottle or bucket, use tepid water, and wear clothes that you don't mind getting bleached, as this still happens when bleach is diluted with water), rinse well. Use a pitcher of hot water or a clean spray bottle if your sink sprayer won't reach.

If you use a spray bottle, empty it as soon as you're done so it won't expand with hot air. Vinegar mixes with bleach fine (not harmful), so don't worry about getting the liquid out before the next step, which is to then run the dishwasher empty, using white vinegar instead of soap in one of the reservoirs. Put a basic grainy /powder soap or some baking soda (not liquid, and nothing with any ammonia in it) into the second reservoir (I do not believe it matters which reservoir gets filled with which). This should do it.

You can always run the vinegar with the soap (any soap, now that the bleach is gone) when you run the dishwasher (empty or full), which helps kill bacteria and give your dishes a natural spot-free finish! You will still have to get the "big stuff" off your dishes first if you have an older model.

Also, the Tang thing most likely works b/c of the acid in the orange and the grainy texture of the mix; same concept as the white vinegar with soap powder, but the vinegar is much cheaper and can be used for many other things, unless you happen to have the Tang. I hope this helps, and good luck!

Best Answers

By Vicki01/03/2012

I recently bought a house with a very old dishwasher. It wasn't washing all that well. I poured about a quart of white vinegar into the wash (as it was about to wash), along with the soap and it's been great since. As to your question about cleaning it, you can manually clean the inside of your dishwasher with just hot water and some dish soap (hand soap), I also had to do that. Even though the function of a dishwasher is to wash, it doesn't seem to always wash itself that well.

Question: Cleaning Dishwasher Food Trap

Would putting in Tang or a pack of lemon Kool-Aid to wash the dishwasher help get rid of food particles in a non removable food trap? I am getting a lot of food particles coming back on some dishes. I am now using Finish tablets and it is doing better, but I still get little bits on plates and such?

By Sue from Cincinnati, OH

Most Recent Answer

By Misti02/12/2012

Take out the sprayer arms and clean them. make sure there is no food stuck in the little holes. The trap at the bottom should come out. Try twisting it and pulling up. Use a tooth brush or tooth pics to clean all the little spaces. Wipe out the interior and rubber door seals with white vinegar. You can even run a cycle with a cup of vinegar...dissolves the calcium deposits.

Question: Ecofriendly Dishwasher Cleaner

I am looking for something environmentally safe to clean my dishwasher. Suggestions?

By Brenda from Omaha, NE

Most Recent Answer

By Margy Conlee01/06/2012

Totally agree with the TANG method. Girlfriend told me about this method about 15 years ago and have been using ever since.

Question: Cleaning a Greasy Dishwasher

My dishes come out with greasy film. What should I use to clean the dishwasher?

By Maere

Most Recent Answer

By Jonnie Shambarger08/25/2011

I use 'Tang'-the powdered drink mix. Just fill the detergent despensers with Tang instead of detergent and run the empty dishwasher through its cycle.

Question: Cleaning Dishwasher Drain

The bottom drain with holes is filled with mud like junk. I've scraped under and pulled out big chunks of black dirt and black junk under middle round thing that shoots up with water. How do I get it clean and what is the black junk?

By Ginny M

Most Recent Answer

By Patricia Nicholas09/14/2012

Most likely you have food residue that is now growing mold and mildew. Try putting 1/4 cup borax in the bottom of the dishwasher and then running it through a cycle. Also using white vinegar in place of a rinsing agent (ie jet dry) will help keep your dishwasher clean and keep spots off your glass.

Unfortunately if it's really bad you will have to scrub it well with a toothbrush and a baking soda paste to get all the gunk out. Don't use any harsh chemical cleaners in your dishwasher, besides putting harmful chemicals on your dishes (many are not water soluble and do NOT wash off) they can damage the rubber gaskets and cause leaks.

Question: Best Household Product for Cleaning a Dishwasher

Should I use bleach or vinegar to clean a dishwasher?

By Phyllis from Home, NC

Most Recent Answer

By Annie Rios Hill07/25/2010

Ok my dishwasher is new after 10 months a smell was bad. I tried all types of cleaners. Turned out, it was garbage disposal. Used costly cleaners to no avail. What finally worked was a 5 pound bag of ice cubes put through the disposal with cold water. It cleaned the blades. My maintenance man told me and it was cheap and easy. Wished I had done that first. It took the sour smell out of dishwasher. Good luck.

Question: White Deposits in Dishwasher

I have a Bosch dishwasher in my home. I found chalky/white deposits inside. How to clean that residue on the stainless steel interior?

By kanakadoss

Question: Cleaning a Dishwasher

I have tried baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. to clean my dishwashing machine like the store bought cleaners on the store shelves do, and nothing has worked. Any suggestions?

By dndfox1998

Question: Water Backing Up in Dishwasher and Disposal

My dishwasher has a bad odor and water is backed up in it. What can I do?

By Lisa from VA

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B.09/30/2010

If the machine is still working, sort of, but runs a cycle without completely pumping out, try running vinegar through it or the Jet Dry dishwasher cleaner. If the machine no longer pumps out, you could look to see if there are clogs in the pump out filter (this is in different places in different machines, you have to get in there and look around), and see if you can manually unclog it. If not, it is time to call a repair person.


Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

How can I clean the inside of my dishwasher? I have hard water build-up and soap scum on the inside of dishwasher and the dishes do not get properly cleaned.


White Vinegar

I had a real build-up in my dishwasher and white scum on my dishes. I changed detergents but that didn't help much. I thought I might need a new dishwasher. I got something at Wal-Mart to clean it. It did a good job taking the stuff off the inside of the dishwasher but the dishes were still cloudy. Now I put a "glug" of white vinegar in the rinse water when I use the dishwasher and the dishes come out great. I am so delighted, no more scum but nice shiny dishes and the dishwasher is staying nice and clean also. (03/19/2003)

By Grandma D.


You might try running the dishwasher with CLR in it, I have never read anything about not using it in dishwashers, I know it does wonders for hard water spots and lime deposits on shower-heads. (03/20/2003)

By Jackie11065

Clean Gunk Off Inside Dishwasher

Put 1 cup of baking soda in dishwasher, run rinse cycle. Cleans gunk off the inside dishwasher. (11/05/2004)

By Gladys Hill


This works the BEST! Pour in 2-3 packages of unsweetened Kool-Aid Lemonade in the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a cycle. If the buildup is really bad it may take another try! (11/08/2004)

By Banker Sandy

Citric Acid Crystals or Powder

You can get "Citric Acid Crystals or Powder" from your local pharmacy. You only need to use 1/2 tablespoon in the detergent cup and run through a cycle. Also, use 1 tsp. in water in your coffee maker and it will clean it up perfectly. Vinegar also works well, if you don't want to use the Citric Acid. I've used it for years and have no problems of any kind of buildup on my appliances and I have hard water from a well. (11/13/2004)

By Dee K.

Hot Water

Also, I forgot to mention in my previous feedback, You definitely have to have very hot water coming into the dishwasher for it to work properly. Check in your owner's manual what the temperature should be and adjust your water heater accordingly. I've had my same dishwasher for 20 years and no problems with dingy dishes or soap scum, no matter what detergent I've used. (11/13/2004)

By Dee K.

Lemon Shine

Lemon Shine works better than anything else out there. A lot of Wal-Mart stores carry it. (11/19/2004)

By Cheryl

Lemon or Orange Powdered Drinks

Buy lemon or orange powdered drink mix. The inexpensive brand will do. Fill the soap dispensers with the powdered mix and run through normal wash cycle. This will leave the inside dishwasher very clean! (11/20/2004)

By Gladys Hill


Use orange flavoured TANG. It really works (04/08/2006)

By Pat

Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

I have hard water build-up and soap scum on the inside of dishwasher and the dishes do not get properly cleaned.



Did you know you can bleach your dishwasher? I run a cycle of bleach through my empty dishwasher monthly. It cleans AND deodorizes my dishwasher. In the rinse cycle of this non-load, I put in a "glug" (thanks Gramma D for the word!) of white vinegar. My whole dishwasher comes out smelling clean and shiny! (09/05/2006)

By smcarney

Baking Soda and White Vinegar

Today I am trying a concoction of both baking soda and white vinegar. I tried to clean it with vinegar and an abrasive sponge, but it didn't work well enough. It really needed some sort of an abrasive, but not wanting to use good ol' comet in the dishwasher, I pulled out the baking soda. When mixed with the vinegar it gets very acidic. Im now running an empty load to do the rest of the work. (10/02/2006)

By im'audie

Vinegar and Regular Cleaning

I have very hard water and I use vinegar along with my detergent every time I run the dishwasher but sometimes my dishes still have this white course sand like substance, what can I do to prevent this? On top of the vinegar I also clean the dishwasher twice a month but nothing seems to help. (11/06/2006)

By Summer T

Condenses Lemon Juice

Use condensed lemon juice and your dishes will sparkle. It's $1.50 a bottle. (11/26/2006)

By Lemonhead

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

Regarding heavy lime and/or soap scum build-up in your dishwasher, I experienced the same thing, and was desperate. After months of research (asking appliance repair folks, checking with friends with the same problem, and researching topics on the internet, etc.), I finally found a process that was extremely effective for me. My dishwasher is a stainless steel unit, so your experience may differ:

With your dishwasher empty set your unit to the "heavy load option" then (1) wait until the dishwasher completely fills with water in its LARGE water cycle, then add one cup of muriatic acid to the water. [Almost all dishwashers have a small water cycle that pre-rinses and drains, and a large water cycle that subsequently refills the unit - this is where the real cleaning takes place.]

(2) You will see a significant difference; however, if the build-up was as bad as mine, you'll need to do this about three or four times to get it 99% clean. To get it 100% spotless, I used a new product that I found at Walmart, called Jet-Dry Dishwasher Cleaner. This was a remarkable product, and I'm wondering if I should have used that one first. [Note that a chemist told me during my research that muriatic acid is a corrosive chemical, and she did not recommend it as a regular cleaner for dishwashers. Since one of my friends has used the muriatic acid process in his dishwasher for 10 yrs. and hasn't had a problem, I did it anyway, and I'm happy.]

(3) After my unit was scum/lime free, I ran it through a full cycle again without dishes, chemicals or dishwashing liquid (just water) about two times to get rid of the extremely fine lime particles that were left behind.

(4) From this point forward, DO NOT pre-wash your dishes by hand using dishwashing liquid, such as Dawn or Palmolive. The residue on your dishes from these liquids that were formulated for hand/sink use only, appear to neutralize the effectiveness of dishwasher (machine) detergents and rinse aids - this is probably why the lime-looking soap scum build-up started in the first place. Pre-rinse your dishes by hand if you wish, using water and a scrubber WITHOUT soap. Let the dishwasher do the rest.

(5) I also stopped using a gel dishwashing product for my unit, and changed to "Cascade 2 in 1 Action Pacs" that does not require pre-washing. This is working well.

(6) Make sure you use a rinse-aid and keep it filled to the proper level.

(7) I find that my glasses come out crystal clear if I use the normal dishwashing cycle, not the heavy/extended cycle.

(8) Finally, DO NOT overload your dishwasher.

I saved my dishwasher after thinking I needed to buy a new one. My dishes are now spotless. Hope this helps! (12/02/2006)

By R. Arredondo

A Glug

What is a glug of vinegar?

Editor's Note: An ounce or two. (01/01/2007)

By Christi

Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

A while back I think I remember reading how to clean the dishwasher but I can't find the answers. Mine is not cleaning glasses thoroughly, leaving smudge marks and residue in the bottom. I have just moved in and have no idea how long if ever the dishwasher has been cleaned. Any ideas?

Aquarius from Ontario Canada

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

I just did it TODAY! Fill up dishwasher with only glass and plastic, all the ones you want cleaned. Place a dish of 1 cup of bleach at the bottom of the dishwasher, run 1 wash cycle do not dry. Then do the same thing with 1 cup vinegar. The processes together works wonders, I've tried either or, this one works the best! Sparkling clean eveything. I got the idea from the Queen of Clean. You can dry the second round if you want to. (02/03/2007)

By michawnpita

Editor's Note: Mixing bleach with acidic materials (like vinegar) can create a toxic gas. Make sure one substance has been cleaned out of the dishwasher before adding the second one.

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

The repairman told me to use a cup of vinegar on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a cycle. I did this several times. We have very hard well water and the vinegar allowed the water to flow once more.It wasn't rinsing out the food. I also tossed in some cleanser for coffee makers and that seemed to help. The best thing of all is to get a water softener and have a filter hooked up in front of the softener. You should see all the black sludge it catches from the well. (02/03/2007)

By Anna

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

Once in a while my husband takes out the things in the dishwasher that spray water and cleans all the chunks of food out of them. That makes a BIG difference. (02/04/2007)

By Allison

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

I put denture cleaning tablets in the bottom of my dishwasher. It dissolved the soap scum and now my machine is clean! It works great in toilets too! (03/06/2007)

By Adrienne

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

I did the 1 cup bleach in the wash cycle and did 1 cup of vinegar in another wash cycle. What a difference! I had tried lemonade kool-ade and purchased citric acid but this was about a 90% improvement. Others were very minor improvements. The inside of my dishwasher was dark gray and my plastic had started to have a black finish to it. It all looks almost new now. (07/16/2007)

By Nikki

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

My dishwasher repair man told me to squirt some toilet bowl cleaner in after it had filled with water and run it through empty. It did a great job! (01/14/2008)

By Lori

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

I use The Works tub cleaner. I just spray it allover the inside of the tub and then run a rinse cycle. There is a little foam left, but that can be taken away with some cold water, then hit the drain button. You can get the works at wal-mart for just over a dollar, it is in a green bottle, the blue one is for toilets. (03/23/2008)

By Bridgete

RE: Cleaning a Dishwasher

Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

How do you clean a smelly dishwasher?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

How do I get rid of gunk in the dishwasher?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

How do you clean a dishwasher?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

How do I clean the inside of the dishwasher?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher with Interior Stains

What is the best way to clean a stained interior of a dishwasher. We rented a house with one that looks shameful. I read that running lemon Koolaid in an empty washer would do it, but it didn't work.


Archive: Lemonade Koolade For Cleaning Dishwasher

Use one packet of Lemonade Kool Aide (and it can be this flavor only) Place in dishwasher soap cup and run dishwasher. Leaves your dishwasher sparkling clean and fresh.


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

What can I use to clean my dishwasher?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

One of my kids washed a load of dishes and saw the rinse aid was empty.


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher with Interior Stains

I put a pan in my dishwasher that had been used on an outside gas grill open flame. It has turned the inside of my dishwasher a nasty, dirty, gray color. What can I do to clean it?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

My dishwasher is full of soap scum or a white powder. It is even on dishes and pots. We are using Cascade.


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

How do I clean a dishwasher with dry lemonade powder?


Archive: Cleaning a Dishwasher

Will CLR clean the hard water deposits in a dishwasher so that it cleans the dishes better?