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Dishwasher Cleaning Hacks – Inexpensive Ways to Clean

Last Updated: March 23, 2024

Written by Karen Norman
Dishwasher Cleaning Hack with Lemons

Dishwasher Cleaning Hacks. 

Simple Dishwasher Cleaning Tips. 

In a busy household, a dishwasher can be such a time-saving blessing. Few of us these days can claim to live without one. They go a long way in helping us keep our kitchens clean. Yet they are not exactly self-cleaning. You would think that if dishwashers clean dishes then surely, they would essentially clean themselves.

Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Grime, particles of food and calcium scale build-up from hard water can affect the efficiency of your dishwasher. Even the dishwasher detergent itself can leave a residue. Of course, you can use a dishwasher cleaning product but there are other cheaper household solutions to use for dishwasher cleaning too.

How to Clean a Dishwasher? 

In addition to the dishwasher itself, there are four other areas to consider when you periodically need to do a dishwasher cleaning. They are:

Cleaning the Dishwasher Drain Outlet – It will be obvious that the dishwasher drain is clogged if there are signs of water back up. One solution to this is to add some vinegar and baking soda to the basket at the bottom of the dishwasher. After 15-20 minutes pour in boiling hot water which should clear whatever is causing the block.

Cleaning the Dishwasher Filter – Depending on the age of the dishwasher, filters come in two types. Older models tend to have self-cleaning filters whereas newer models have filters that need to be manually cleaned on a regular basis. If it is a self-cleaning filter it will rarely need cleaning.

However manual ones collect food particles over time and can be responsible for unpleasant odors. Manual filters can be removed as per the instructions that came when you purchased your appliance. Then it can be rinsed under the kitchen tap to remove any debris.

Cleaning the Seals on the Dishwasher – One way to clean the seals is with a toothbrush and soapy water.

Cleaning the outside door and handle – You can use soap and water and dry with a towel. Or use a glass or stainless-steel cleaner.

When to Clean a Dishwasher? How Often? 

Obviously, if your dishwasher starts to clog or smell, a dishwasher cleaning should be cleaned right away. However even if it does not appear to need cleaning, it is wise to clean it once a month.

Is your Dishwasher starting to smell? 

Are you putting in dishes and other crockery with way too much food coated on them? Or are you including jars with paper labels? A rough rinse and remove is best. Then after each wash cycle, check for remnants of food left accumulated in the bottom of the dishwasher and remove them with some kitchen paper roll. Use disinfectant wipes to wipe the door inside and out as well as the handle.

Some Dishwasher Cleaning Hacks. 

Lemon Peel – For Scum and Soap Residue

When you have a recipe that calls for lemon juice, do not throw away that lemon peel. Instead, add it to the dishwasher with those dirty dishes. The citric acid in the fruit naturally cleans the dishwasher, helping to dissolve scum and built-up soap residue. It will also help disinfect and will leave a fresh clean scent.

You could put the lemon on the top shelf or in the cutlery compartment, provided it is away for the heating element. In fact, any citrus fruit will work. Oranges, Limes or Grapefruit all contain the citric acid that cleans so effectively. A word of caution though, excessive use of citric acid could tarnish your silverware or aluminum and erode patterns on your dishes.

Baking Soda – For Deodorization

Sprinkle Baking Soda inside your washing machine when cold, and run through a wash cycle. Baking Soda Deodorizes. Alternatively, wait until after one wash cycle and after the dishwasher has cooled and sprinkle some in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a second hot wash cycle.

White Vinegar – Can also do the Trick

Pour some into the dishwasher during the rinse phase. Or leave a cup full of vinegar on the top shelf and run an empty cycle (albeit the vinegar cup), on a hot setting.
Often these household items that remove odours act as cleaning agents too, dissolving the build-up of mucky residue. A two-pronged approach is best. Deodorize yet remove the culprits that are causing the odours in the first place.

Run out of Dishwasher Tabs?

Then why not make your own? See 3 Ingredient Homemade Dish Tablets by Mom 4 Real

Is your Dishwasher showing signs of Mildew or Mold? 

Some recommend adding one cup of bleach to the bottom of the dishwasher and running it on a full cycle. We at Dang Good DO NOT. Firstly, Bleach should not be combined with any other household product. Secondly, it CANNOT be used if the inside of the dishwasher is stainless steel and a lot are.

Instead, we recommend adding a solution of white vinegar or lemon juice and running the dishwasher on empty on a hot setting.

Uses other than Dishes for your Dishwasher

Hard Plastic Toys – These can be put on the top shelf of the dishwasher provided they are heat-proof and melt-free. However, you should be aware that any plastic toy placed in the dishwasher may strip any paint coating off the plastic.

Kitchen Cleaning Tools – Such as Brushes, Sponges etc. The dishwasher is a great way to get these clean. Again, use the top shelf.

Clean Fruit and Vegetables – run the dishwasher on a soap-free (and rinse-aid free) cold setting to remove sand, dirt, and other residues from your produce. Take care to place the food so it does not fall through the gaps in the rack.

Makeup Brushes – these can be placed in the cutlery container to clean and sanitize. Allow brushes to dry thoroughly afterwards.

HVAC Vent Covers – This can be effective if the vents have not been painted.


Just a little maintenance will help your dishwasher run longer and more efficiently. In addition, dishwasher cleaning will help maintain good indoor air quality too by preventing unpleasant odours.

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