One of the most used appliances in your kitchen, but also probably the most overlooked appliance in your kitchen. When it breaks we often feel lost without it. The machine does load after load of dirty dishes saving us a lot of time.
However, we so easily overlook it when cleaning our kitchens. Think of all of the food and other germ-infested items it washes.
Plus, it is a moist, heated area that is a great place for germs to grow. So do yourself (and your loved ones) a favor, don’t overlook it during your cleaning routine anymore.
Not sure how to clean your dishwasher? Well, read on because I’ve got you covered!
How to clean your dishwasher in 5 easy steps:
#1 – Clean Out the Drain
I’m going to share something really embarrassing with you all because it’s our blog slogan….sharing everything on our homesteading journey.
Unfortunately, a dirty dishwasher was on this journey. It was one morning last summer when I opened my dishwasher and suddenly a bug crawled out! I was half asleep and just looking for a coffee cup.
Now, I’ve shared repeatedly how I am a neat freak! So how in the world could this have happened? A bug? In my kitchen? The same one that I wipe down daily to make sure that my family is free from the flu and any other illness? (How many other large family readers do I have on here that knows that if one person in your family gets sick, you all are down for about a month trying to get that illness out of your house?)
So that is when I learned that my dishwasher had been neglected, but it had made the list of priorities starting that day! I clean my dishwasher daily now, and I am happy to report that the bugs that were trying to make my dishwasher their new home have now been wiped out!
The first thing you need to realize when cleaning your dishwasher is you aren’t ridiculous for cleaning it. I’ve had people laugh at me for cleaning mine so thoroughly but stop and think. Would you want to wash your dishes in a dirty sink?
No, you wouldn’t. So why is it weird to clean your dishwasher?
Now that we have that out of the way, you begin cleaning your dishwasher by cleaning out the drain. You should always scrape your plates clean and rinse them before loading them in the dishwasher.
But let’s be real here. If you have kids, a late night, a large family, or a combination of any of those things, then your dishwasher probably has dishes thrown into it that are not spotless.
So the drain will often catch food in it. This is a food source for all kinds of bugs ranging from water bugs to roaches. Be kind to your dishwasher and keep that drain clean.
#2 – Spray Out the Inside
Once you’ve gotten the drain completely clean, it is time to take care of the rest of the inside. I use a homemade bleach mixture to wipe down my kitchen every day.
But I was shocked to find out that though this diluted bleach is great for killing germs, it is terrible for cutting through grease.
Well, as mentioned before, if you put your cookware in your dishwasher you are probably going to have some grease that comes along with it. This is a problem because bugs love grease!
Again, making your dishwasher a place for nastiness to breed.
So what I do now is I place Pine Sol in a spray bottle. I only use about a ¼ cup and then fill the spray bottle up the rest of the way with warm water. I use this to spray down my stove, oven, and microwave because it is great for cutting through grease.
But I also use it to spray down the inside of my dishwasher. It gives it a nice, fresh smell while also cutting through the grease that may be trying to build up in my dishwasher.
So I’ll spray down the door, around the door where the dishwasher seals, along the sides of the dishwasher, the top of the dishwasher, and around the drain in the bottom as well. Then I wipe it all down. I make sure to spray down the door and the drain daily. The rest is cleaned once a week when I’m cleaning my house.
#3 – Run a Short Cycle
Now that the grease has been cut through and the food particles removed, it is time to start cleaning the dishwasher again as a whole.
So you’ll want to use a medium sized coffee cup and fill it about half way with vinegar. In my opinion, white distilled vinegar works best, but I have used apple cider vinegar as well.
Basically, just use what you have on hand. Then you’ll place the cup with the vinegar in it on the top shelf of the dishwasher when it is completely empty.
Next, you’ll run the dishwasher on a short cycle that does not require it to dry. It is more energy efficient if you use this cycle option.
Plus, you don’t really need the dishwasher to dry during this step.
#4 – Run a Sanitizing Cycle
After you’ve completed the vinegar washing cycle, you’ll need to open the dishwasher and remove the coffee cup that should now be filled with water and no vinegar. The vinegar will help clean and deodorize simultaneously so it is great for your dishwasher.
However, the next step will continue to clean and deodorize as well. You’ll want to buy some cheap lemon juice. The cheaper the better because the more lemon scent it tends to pack.
Next, you’ll place the lemon juice in the dispenser where the detergent normally goes. Some people recommend using about a ¼ cup. This does fill up my dispenser, but if by some chance it doesn’t fill your dispenser up, I’d keep pouring the juice in until your dispenser is full.
Then you’ll need to sprinkle a heavy dose of baking soda into the bottom of your dishwasher around the drain. This too will kill odors that could form in your drain.
Finally, you’ll need to run your dishwasher on a sanitizing wash. This will deodorize, clean, and sanitize your dishwasher. Make sure your dishwasher is empty during this step too.
Now, I have to share a funny story that goes along with how I discovered this step to my cleaning method. Not too long ago I went through an egg salad phase. I wanted egg salad almost every day for lunch.
So I was making a ton of boiled eggs. I was rinsing everything before putting it into my dishwasher, yet my dishwasher still stunk like you would not believe. I did my normal cleaning of my dishwasher (which was everything up to this step), and I could not get rid of the odor of cooked eggs.
It was really a terrible smell.
Well, we were putting our home on the market that week so I had to get rid of the egg smell before the realtor came by. That is when I began scouring the internet and decided to mix up my own concoction of the advice I had found.
And I’m happy to report that it worked wonderfully. So now I include this step in my weekly cleaning process to be sure that no other foul odors overtake my home like those eggs did.
#5 – Maintain It
The last step to cleaning your dishwasher is to maintain it. This is just my recommendation for dishwasher cleaning maintenance, but you might want to tweak it to suit your family. If you have a smaller family than mine, then your dishwasher may not need as much attention.
If you have a larger family, then it might actually require more. It is up to you and your preferences.
My daily routine for keeping my dishwasher clean is to make sure that the drain is clear every night when I’m loading the last load of dishes.
Then I spray down the inside of the door and around the door where the dishwasher seal with diluted Pine Sol. This helps with odors, degreasing, and wiping any leftover food off of the door as well. Don’t forget, I also try to stay on top of keeping the dishes completely cleared of food and rinsed before loading as well.
But we all know that this doesn’t always happen.
Next, I make sure to include my dishwasher as part of my weekly cleaning routine when I’m cleaning my kitchen. I run the vinegar cycle earlier in the day. I usually unload my dishwasher from the night before first thing in the morning.
So when I’m done, I’ll run the vinegar through as the next thing on my list during my cleaning day. Then when that is done I’ll do the baking soda/lemon juice/sanitizing cycle. That way my dishwasher will be clean, and I can get the dishes cleaned prior to cleaning the kitchen that day.
Also, sprinkling some Borax in the bottom of the dishwasher is a great way to maintain your dishwasher's cleanliness as well.
Then you just run it as normal. This will keep the dishwasher clean and make the dishes sparkle simultaneously. Remember, just a small sprinkle in the very bottom of the dishwasher should do the trick.
This may sound like a lot of work just to keep a dishwasher clean, but it really isn’t. Keeping a clean house is a huge priority for me because it helps me keep my sanity, and it also helps to keep myself and my family healthy as well.
Which means, adding a few small tasks to my day is well worth it. And truthfully, since I’ve been cleaning my dishwasher regularly, I haven’t seen another bug.
Also, since I’ve devoted myself to wiping down our kitchen and bathrooms daily, my family hasn’t fallen ill either. So it is truly worth it to me just to keep everyone happy and healthy.
Bonus: Alternative Dishwasher Uses
Dishwashers aren’t just used for washing dishes anymore. If you have one, you can use it for many different things. Here are a few alternative dishwasher uses:
#1 – Washing Baby Toys
Babies are especially prone to catching different illnesses because their immune systems aren’t fully developed yet.
So instead of washing all of their toys by hand, toss them in the top rack of the dishwasher on a sanitizing cycle, and ensure that they stay clean and keep baby from getting sick.
#2 – Washing Baby Bottles
There are baby bottle systems that have been developed so you can wash the bottles in the dishwasher now.
However, I would caution against washing the nipples in the dishwasher. Again, I’m a super clean freak so when my kids were little I always preferred to boil the nipples so I knew they were extra clean. But there are cleaning systems in place where this can be done in a dishwasher.
#3 – Washing Legos
Did you know that Legos are supposed to be washed every two months? Yeah, I didn’t either until recently.
But apparently, to keep them sanitized, they are. You toss them in a laundry bag (like this) on the top rack and let them be cleaned. That’s simple enough.
#4 – A Facial
We used to do this as kids, but it really does work. If you have blackheads and need to get rid of them, just rev up your dishwasher.
Once the dishwasher has steam, then carefully open the door so the super hot steam can be released first. Then you’ll place a towel over your head when you know the steam won’t burn you and allow it to help the dirt in your pores be released. Then you’ll just wash your face and use a facial cleanser that will clean your pores.
Well, now you know how to clean your dishwasher! Give it a try and see how it works for you, and if you think it is worth the little extra effort to not have germs (or bugs) making a home in your dishwasher.
But I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you clean your dishwasher? Do you clean your dishwasher? If so, we’d love to hear any tips or tricks you may have to keep it sanitized and smelling fresh.
Do you have any other appliances or places you clean that others may not normally think of to clean? How do you clean those areas and why are they important to you?
Or do you have any alternative ideas for ways a dishwasher can be used?