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How to clean your dishwasher with items from your pantry

A clean dishwasher is paramount to keeping it running at its best. You can't wash your dishes with a nasty sponge, the same goes for your machine.
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Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer on
Dishwasher and sink in kitchen

You can clean your dishwasher with items you already have at home

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

The only place for dirt and grime in a dishwasher should be down the drain. But have you looked in your dishwasher lately? And I mean really looked? If kitchens are the heart of a home then a dishwasher is the aorta. Whether you cook a four-course dinner or make a sandwich, chances are your dishwasher will be running that night. Even if we order out, we somehow still end up with dirty dishes. Having a clean dishwasher is a big part of the machine's maintenance.

If you find your dishes aren't clean enough at the end of a washing cycle, it might mean your dishwasher needs a deep cleaning. There are some dishwasher cleaning solutions available for sale at stores, but I've been using this method for years with great success, with items that are already in my home. To clean your dishwasher, all you need is a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda, and plan to run two cycles for maximum effectiveness. 

1. Check all the drains inside the dishwasher.

Inside of the dishwasher

Larger food debris doesn't go down the drain and needs to be removed 

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Poke your head in and really look at the drains and all the crevices of your machine. Chances are some old food has accumulated on the drain covers, which can make your dishwasher ineffective. Remove any food debris from the inside of the dishwasher and wipe down the inside edges of the door, where drippings get caught and the water doesn't reach.

2. Place a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher.

Cup with white vinegar on top rack of dishwasher

White vinegar has great cleaning capabilities 

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Put a cup on the top rack, right side up, and fill it with white vinegar. 

3. Then, run a cycle on the hottest water temperature.

Dishwasher controls show hot water and heavy cycle

I chose the heavy cycle for the maximum cleaning power

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

You want the most effective cleaning action on your dishwasher, so the hotter the water, the better.

4. Sprinkle the bottom of your dishwasher with baking soda.

Bottom of the dishwasher with baking soda

Sprinkle about a cup of baking soda at the bottom of your dishwasher

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Once that cycle is done, generously sprinkle the bottom of your dishwasher with baking soda, I find one cup does the trick.

5. Run one last cycle on the hottest setting, but it can be a quick cycle.

Dishwasher controls show hot water and quick cycle

A quick cycle with baking soda will do the trick

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

A dishwasher will benefit from a good cleaning once a month or so. It'll ensure the drains are clear of food debris, so it doesn't retain dirty water, and that the machine itself is clean and running well.

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