Eliminate Odors: How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Eliminate Odors: How to Clean Your Dishwasher

When was the last time you cleaned your dishwasher?  

Or better yet, have you ever cleaned your dishwasher? You may be surprised to find that the amazing machine that keeps your dishes clean also needs a scrub from time to time. In fact the buildup of food debris, grease, and soap scum can actually make your dishwasher less efficient so that eventually it won’t even be really cleaning your dishes.

And who really wants to take that responsibility back?

My inspiration for this post actually came during a work meeting last week. In my real world job (the one that pays the bills) I work with contaminated drinking water wells. I was in a meeting/webinar all about decontaminating a residential home after the plumbing has been exposed to contaminated water.

Not to won’t bore you with all the nitty gritty details but I will share this disgusting tid bit: dishwashers harbor everything.

In test after test, whether they were testing for bacteria, Pfas, VOCs, or any other contaminant that had been introduced to the plumbing system, the dishwasher always needed additional cleaning to remove the residual. Now most of us don’t have contaminated water sources that lead to build up of bad things in our dishwashers.

But the thought popped into my head that dishwashers in general (the warm, damp environments that they are) are probably actually pretty gross. Maybe I should even clean mine?

Turns out I was right. The American Council on Science and Health reported that several different species of bacteria and fungus can be commonly found in most dishwashers. While they admit that these low concentrations of organisms are not likely to make a healthy person sick, it’s a good idea to clean your dishwasher from time to time.

The bottom of the dishwasher before cleaning

The bottom of my dishwasher after cleaning.

So here’s the easiest way to clean your dishwasher.

1)Remove the bottom door and look around the drain. Changes are there is some gunk or food debris that has settled here. Not only is this gross, but it can also create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria growth.


Use paper towel to wipe away the food debris.

Super disgusting under side of the drain from my dishwasher

I actually realized that I can remove the metal grate covering the drain in my dishwasher. It was disgusting. Packed with what I am assuming is a combination of grease and soap. To clean this I soak it in a sink full of water soapy water and then scrubbed.

2) Next fill a small bowl with about one cup of white distilled vinegar and place it in the top rack of the dishwasher. Now run the empty dishwasher on a normal hot cycle.

3) Once the dishwasher has completed it’s cycle remove the bowl and pull out the bottom rack. Sprinkle baking soda all over the bottom of the dishwasher. Run the machine again through a hot water cycle to rinse the baking soda through.

Baking soda works wonders to remove hard water stains and soap scum from the bottom of your dishwasher.

I have a stainless steel dishwasher and there were some stains from where the soap dispenser empties. These marks were not completely gone even after both cycles. So I used some dish soap water and a small amount of baking soda to remove them.

Related: How to Clean a Burnt Pan

After the cycle is complete and you’ve scrubbed remaining stains leave the dishwasher open to dry. I know this may seem like overkill when you clean your dishwasher. But it’s important to let the machine dry out completely since bacteria love warm moist environments.

(In my house the best time to do this is overnight when I know the puppy dog isn’t going to stick his head in there and lick the sparkling clean dishwasher).

So there you have it. A super easy way to clean your dishwasher, using ingredients you most likely already have right in your kitchen! Start your new year out right, clean your dishwasher today!

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