15 Easy Dishwasher Cleaning Hacks (For A Really Deep Clean)

If you want a dishwasher that cleans your dishes throughly, you need to try out these dishwasher cleaning hacks. 

dishwasher cleaning hacks

According to a study, a shocking 62% of dishwashers are harbouring harmful fungi and bacteria.

To put this in plain terms that means 1 in 26 of you reading this post might have fungus in your dishwasher. 

Yikes!

In this post, I'll share 15 easy dishwasher cleaning hacks that will help you maintain a clean and odor-free dishwasher. 

No overwhelm, just simple hacks to get you started.

Hack #1: Use Toothpick

When you clean your dishwasher once a month (which you should be doing), don't forget to inspect the spray arms and the utensil holders. 

Over time, they can become clogged with food particles, which will prevent them from functioning properly. 

dishwasher spray holes cleaning
  • Take the spray arms off and insert a toothpick or even a paper clip into the spray holes to clear away any particles that may be blocking the water flow.
  • Inspect the utensil basket and use the toothpick to remove any bits of food stuck onto it. 

Hack #2: Citric Acid

If you want to remove hard water stains from your dishwasher, try using citric acid as your dishwasher cleaner.

If you read this blog, you know I use citric acid a lot in my cleaning, especially for my toilets. 

The reason is that citric acid is a natural acid gotten from citrus fruits plus it removes limescale and kills bacteria and mould without being harmful to us humans. 

What's not to love? 

citirc acid in dishwasher

To use citric acid as a dishwasher cleaner:

  •  Fill your dishwasher tablet dispenser with citric acid and run a normal washing cycle

That's all you need!  It is such an effective and affordable option for cleaning your dishwasher and getting rid of bacteria. 

Hack #3: Unscrew the Filter

If you have noticed any smells coming from your dishwasher, it might be time to clean the filters.

Most dishwashers have self-cleaning filters, but many of us don't know that or even bother to check.

dishwasher filter

The problem with these filters is that over time, food particles and grease can accumulate.

This affects water flow which means that your dishwasher will not work as it should.

Thankfully, cleaning your filter is a very simple process. 

  • Locate the filter, usually at the bottom of the dishwasher, under the bottom rack. 
  • Unscrew it and soak it in a bowl of warm soapy water.
  • Use a brush or sponge to clean it and remove any food particles trapped inside it.
  • Rinse it thoroughly and once the filter is clean, screw it back on.  

Ideally, you should cleaning the filter and your dishwasher at least once a month.

However, but you may need to clean it more frequently if you have a large household or use your dishwasher more frequently.

Hack #4: Bowl of Vinegar

Another product you can use for your dishwasher's monthly clean is vinegar.

A bowl of vinegar placed inside of your dishwasher can work wonders in killing the microbes that make it smell.

@jessicamay_home Part 4| How often do you clean your dishwasher? 💧 When I tell you this was an overdue deep clean… i am telling you it was way overdue! Honestly look at the grime inside our dishwasher 🤦🏻‍♀️ For this clean i used, warm soapy water, white vinegar spray, a microfibre cloth and bicarbonate of soda. I also refilled the dishwasher salt and rinse aid ✨ Now our dishwasher is like new ✨✨ #dishwasherhack #dishwasherdeepclean #deepcleantok #cleantokuk #cleanwithmemotivation ♬ POMPEII X VIVA LA VIDA BY ALTÉGO - ALTÉGO

To use this hack:

  • Fill a dishwasher safe bowl with a cup of white vinegar.
  • Place the bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher, preferably in the center.
  • Run a hot water cycle or just a normal cycle
  • The vinegar will help kill the bacteria and remove any bad odors.
  • After the cycle is complete, open the dishwasher and let it air out for a while.

Hack #5: Rubber Door Seal

If you have tried everything to remove that nasty smell from your dishwasher and it is still lingering, check the door seal.

Over time, the rubber seal of your dishwasher can accumulate dirt, and even mold, which can make it smell and less efficient. 

P.S I don't advocate using soda crystals as the person in this video has done. I embedded the video simply to illustrate how dirt can build up around the rubber seal

To clean the seal: 

  • Make a bowl of warm soapy water and add in some vinegar or citric acid
  • Dip an old toothbrush or a grout brush in the solution and clean thoroughly between the seal. 
  • Wipe with a clean damp microfiber cloth to remove all the dirt. 

Here's a simple maintenance tip.

When you do your monthly washing machine maintenance, always remember to clean the door seal.

If you do this frequently, you will be able to prevent any mold or bad odors from forming. 

Hack #6: Borax

Borax is another product that can be used to clean your dishwasher but it comes with a huge caveat.

Although Borax is effective against bacteria as this research shows, it can be toxic to humans.

This is why Borax is banned in many countries including the UK and the EU. 

borax substitute

However, I have included Borax on this list because there is a gentler substitute that has similar properties to Borax and is also a similar pH to Borax. 

Sodium sesquicarbonate or Borax substitute as it is popularly called is an excellent alternative. It is a good descaler and it kills bacteria too.

It is gentler than Soda Crystals (which you should NEVER use in your dishwasher) and much stronger than baking soda.

To use: 

  • Fill a bowl with Borax substitute
  • Place the bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher
  • Run a hot water cycle
  • The Borax substitute will remove limescale and help kill the bacteria
  • Once the cycle is complete, open the dishwasher and let it air out to dry completely

Hack #7: Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is an amazing natural cleaning solution for your dishwasher. It contains citric acid, which helps kill bacteria and mold.


However, while it's safe to use, I prefer pure citric acid for a few reasons.

First, the amount of citric acid in a single lemon is significantly lower than in a concentrated scoop of pure citric acid.

This means the pure citric acid offers a deeper clean.

Of course, if you've run out of cleaning supplies and need a quick fix, lemons are a perfectly safe alternative. 

Just don't expect the same level of cleaning power as pure citric acid.

To use lemon juice to clean your dishwasher, follow these simple steps:

  1. Cut up some lemons into wedges or circles
  2. Place them on the top and bottom racks
  3. Run your dishwasher on a hot water cycle
  4. Remove the lemons
  5. Leave open to dry completely

This simple hack will make your dishwasher smell really fresh.

Don't forget to remove any left over lemons in your dishwasher. 

Hack #8: Aluminum Foil

This is not exactly a hack for cleaning the dishwasher but it's useful hack while cleaning your dishes.


If you're dealing with cutlery that no longer come out shiny, aluminum foil can help. 

@jojo.butterflylove 🤯Tin foil in the dishwaser to shine Silverware?? #hack #itworks #ForYouPizza ♬ Creative - Smile

Here's how:

  1. Take a sheet of aluminium foil and make it into a ball.
  2. Place the aluminium foil ball on the cutlery rack or the cutlery basket of the dishwasher.
  3. Run a hot water cycle with the aluminum foil ball, and dishwashing tablet as you normally
  4. Enjoy your shiny cutlery

Why does this work you ask?

There's a chemical reaction that happens with the foil that makes your cutlery shiny, that's all I know.

However, it really does work!

Hack #9: Set Reminders on Alexa or Google

Hey! before you wonder if I have run out of ideas to share with you, just bear with me. 

I have a smart speaker in my kitchen and one of the ways I utilise it is by setting reminders on it.

I set reminders to water plants and clean my appliances. 

You know by now that regular maintenance is key to keeping your dishwasher in top shape.

To ensure that you remember to clean it, just set a reminder on your smart speakers. 

It's that simple!

Hack #10: Commercial Dishwasher Cleaner

I have mentioned a lot of hacks so far, but honestly, the best hacks are the simplest ones.


Use a commercial dishwasher cleaning, whenever you can.

dishwasher cleaner

Citric acid is great and so is vinegar but nothing beats a commercial dishwasher cleaner in my opinion.

Dishwasher cleaners have a formulation of ingredients made specifically to give you the best dishwasher clean. 

These specially formulated cleaners tackle grease, limescale, and other stubborn residues better than most hacks. 

Hacks are amazing and I love them but my opinion is that they shouldn't replace a regular cleaner, they should supplement it.

Hack #11: Open Your Dishwasher

Opening your dishwasher regularly is really important to prevent mould and fungus from forming.

We know that microbes thrive better in damp environments. 

By leaving your dishwasher open once in a while, you can help keep it clean and free of smells- which will in turn provide you with sparkling clean dishes every time.

Hack #12: Dishwasher Door Cleaning Hack

When we clean our dishwasher, we often forget the door.

If you have a black or stainless steel dishwasher, you can shine the outer door surface with a little bit of baby oil or a multi-surface polish like Mr Sheen Multi-Surface Polish. 

If yours is integrated like mine is and it is covered by your cabinet door, use magic eraser and a microfiber cloth to clean it at all times. 

We touch our dishwasher doors very frequently, so it can easily accumulate dirt over time.

Keeping your dishwasher door clean is an important part of maintaining the overall cleanliness and efficiency of your machine. 

Hack #13: Refill Dishwasher Salt

Even the best of us forget to refill our dishwasher salt from time to time.

Dishwasher salt actually helps to prevent limescale from building up in our dishwashers especially if we live in hard water areas.

dishwasher salt

 Dishwasher salt also softens the hard water which means that your dishwashing soap works better and your dishes won't come out with hard water stains. 

To refill your dishwasher salt: 

  • Locate the salt tank, usually at the bottom, near your dishwasher filter. 
  • Unscrew it and pour some salt in till the to its recommended capacity. Usually the water will start to spill over. 
  • Screw it back tight and use your dishwasher as normal

Don't be tempted to use regular salt as this can damage your machine.

Hack #14: Baking Soda

I can't stress enough how versatile and effective baking soda can be when it comes to removing the nasty smells in your dishwasher.

Baking soda is not just a trend, it has amazing antibacterial properties

@carolina.mccauley Deep cleaning your dishwasher once a week prevents nasty bacteria 🦠 and keep dishes sparkling ✨😍 #homehacks #homehackswithcarolina #cleaninghacks #cleaningtips #tipsandtricks ♬ original sound - Carolina Mccauley - Home Hacks

To use:

  • Sprinkle some baking soda onto the bottom of your dishwasher
  • Run a hot water cycle to allow the baking soda to work its magic. Not only will the baking soda eliminate any lingering odors, but it will also help to freshen up your dishwasher. 
  • If you're dealing with particularly stubborn smells, try any of the other hacks I mentioned or add a cup of baking soda to a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it on the top rack and run a hot cycle.

Remember, baking soda is also great for cleaning other areas of your kitchen, like the kitchen sink. 

Hack #15: Apple Cider Vinegar

Like white vinegar, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is an amazing ingredient for cleaning your dishwasher.

Not only does it help remove smells and odors, but it also acts as a natural dishwasher cleaner.

If you run out of white vinegar and only have ACV, you can totally clean your dishwasher with it.

To clean your dishwasher with apple cider vinegar, follow the same steps as you would with white vinegar:

  • Fill a dishwasher safe bowl with a cup of apple cider vinegar
  • Place the bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher
  • Run a hot water or a cleaning cycle

Conclusion

So the next time you experience a smelly dishwasher, or if it suddenly stops washing your dishes like it used to, don't panic.

Grab a commercial cleaner or some natural cleaners like baking soda, citric acid, toothpick, lemons or vinegar and clean out that stinky dishwasher.

Don't forget to set a reminder for your next clean on your smart speaker or phone. 

I truly hope this post helped you, as always, if you have any questions, send me a direct message on my Instagram and I'll be more than happy to provide an answer for you. 

FAQs on How To Clean A Dishwasher

What is the best way to deep clean a dishwasher naturally?

I have tried different natural methods for cleaning my dishwasher and my favourite natural method by far is with citric acid.

Many commercial dishwasher pods contain citric acid. It is excellent at removing limescale and killing bacteria. My second best natural ingredient for cleaning a dishwasher is vinegar. 

Vinegar is excellent at removing microbes.

Can I clean my dishwasher with bleach?

If you have a stainless steel dishwasher, using bleach to clean it can technically work, but it's not the safest option and it can permanently damage your dishwasher.

There is a risk of the bleach coming in contact with your dishes and posing a health risk. Safer alternatives like vinegar, baking soda, citric acid and even commercial cleaning pods are readily available and effective.

If you do decide to use bleach, follow these guidelines carefully:

  • Check your manual to see if your manufacturer specifically allows using bleach.
  • Use it only in an empty dishwasher.
  • Run the dishwasher with an empty normal cycle after using bleach to ensure it is thoroughly rinsed away.

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

Once a month.

Setting a once a month cleaning schedule for your dishwasher is what I would recommend to make sure it works the way it's supposed to.

An easy way to remember is to set a reminder on your phone or on your smart speakers in the kitchen if you have any.

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Hey you, I’m Torera

Hey there! I am Torera, a home care and cleaning enthusiast with a mission to make cleaning as fun and easy as possible for women like you. As someone who had to learn everything from scratch, I have the mindset of a beginner and know exactly how to take you from A to Z. Let us ditch the overwhelm and create a space that is clean, cozy, and totally you!

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