Can I Run The Dishwasher With Vinegar To Clean It?

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if you can give your dishwasher a thorough cleaning using just vinegar, you’re in luck. Whether you’re looking to remove built-up grime or eliminate unpleasant odors, the answer is a resounding yes – running the dishwasher with vinegar can be an effective and efficient way to give it a fresh start. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of using vinegar as a cleaning agent for your dishwasher and provide a step-by-step guide on how to do it properly. So next time you’re yearning for a sparkling clean dishwasher, reach for that bottle of vinegar and let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Benefits of using vinegar to clean the dishwasher

Effectiveness of vinegar in removing mineral buildup

Using vinegar to clean your dishwasher is a cost-effective and natural way to remove mineral buildup. Over time, hard water minerals can accumulate in your dishwasher, affecting its performance and the cleanliness of your dishes. Vinegar, with its acidic properties, can easily dissolve and remove these mineral deposits, leaving your dishwasher sparkling clean.

Eliminating unpleasant odors

One of the biggest benefits of using vinegar to clean your dishwasher is its ability to eliminate unpleasant odors. Dishwashers can develop a musty smell over time, particularly if there is leftover food or residue trapped in the machine. The acidic nature of vinegar helps to neutralize and eliminate these odors, leaving your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean.

Removing tough stains and residue

Vinegar is highly effective in removing tough stains and residue that can build up in your dishwasher. From coffee stains to grease and grime, vinegar can cut through these stubborn stains and leave your dishwasher looking brand new. Its acidic nature works as a natural degreaser, making it an excellent choice for tackling those hard-to-remove stains.

Preventing mold and mildew growth

Mold and mildew can be a common problem in dishwashers, especially in warm and damp environments. The acidic properties of vinegar help to discourage the growth of mold and mildew, keeping your dishwasher clean and hygienic. Regular cleaning with vinegar can help prevent these unwanted microorganisms from taking hold in your dishwasher.

Types of vinegar suitable for dishwasher cleaning

White distilled vinegar

White distilled vinegar is the most commonly used vinegar for cleaning purposes, including cleaning the dishwasher. Its clear and mild nature makes it an ideal choice for removing mineral deposits, stains, and odors in your dishwasher. White distilled vinegar is widely available and affordable, making it a convenient option for regular dishwasher maintenance.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another suitable option for cleaning your dishwasher. It has a slightly more pronounced aroma compared to white distilled vinegar, but it still effectively cleans and deodorizes your dishwasher. Apple cider vinegar also has natural antibacterial properties, which can be beneficial in preventing the growth of bacteria in your dishwasher.

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar, commonly used in Asian cuisine, can also be used to clean your dishwasher. It has a milder and sweeter taste compared to other types of vinegar, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a less powerful scent. Rice vinegar is gentle enough to clean your dishwasher without causing any damage to its components.

Steps to clean the dishwasher with vinegar

Emptying the dishwasher

Before cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar, empty it of any dishes or utensils. Remove any food debris or large particles from the dishwasher’s interior and discard them in the trash. This will ensure that the vinegar can effectively clean all areas of the dishwasher without any obstructions.

Preparing the vinegar solution

To prepare the vinegar solution, mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a bowl or measuring cup. For example, if you use one cup of vinegar, mix it with one cup of water. This dilution helps to prevent any potential damage to the dishwasher’s components while still providing the cleaning power of vinegar.

Pouring vinegar into the dishwasher

Once the vinegar solution is ready, carefully pour it into a dishwasher-safe container. Place the container on the bottom rack of the dishwasher.

Running a hot water cycle

Select the hottest water setting on your dishwasher and start a complete wash cycle. The hot water, combined with the vinegar solution, will help to dissolve mineral buildup, remove stains, and eliminate odors from your dishwasher.

Wiping down the interior

After the wash cycle is complete, open the dishwasher and use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down the interior surfaces. Pay special attention to areas prone to buildup, such as the spray arms, door gasket, and utensil holders. Wiping down the interior helps to remove any remaining residue or debris.

Cleaning the filter

To ensure optimal dishwasher performance, it’s essential to clean the filter regularly. The filter traps food particles and prevents them from clogging the dishwasher’s components. Remove the filter and rinse it under running water to remove any trapped debris. If necessary, use a brush or toothbrush to gently scrub away stubborn residue.

Maintaining a regular cleaning routine

To keep your dishwasher in top condition, it’s important to establish a regular cleaning routine. Cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar once a month or every few months, depending on usage, can help prevent the buildup of mineral deposits, stains, and odors. Consistency is key to maintaining a clean and efficient dishwasher.

Alternative methods to clean the dishwasher

Using citric acid

Citric acid is another natural cleaner that can be used as an alternative to vinegar. It is highly effective in removing mineral buildup and stains from your dishwasher. To use citric acid, dissolve a few tablespoons of it in warm water and pour it into the bottom of your empty dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle to allow the citric acid to work its magic.

Using baking soda

Baking soda is a versatile household ingredient that can also be used to clean your dishwasher. Its mild abrasive properties help to remove tough stains and residue without scratching the dishwasher’s surfaces. Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge or cloth and gently scrub the interior of your dishwasher. Rinse thoroughly afterward.

Using commercial dishwasher cleaners

If you prefer ready-made cleaning solutions, there are numerous commercial dishwasher cleaners available on the market. These cleaners are specifically formulated to tackle tough stains, mineral buildup, and odors in your dishwasher. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and dosage to ensure effective and safe cleaning.

Using hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be an effective alternative to vinegar when it comes to cleaning your dishwasher. It has excellent disinfectant properties and can help remove stains and odors. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water and pour the solution into the bottom of your dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle to allow the hydrogen peroxide to work its magic.

Precautions and considerations

Avoid using vinegar if you have a stainless steel interior

While vinegar is generally safe for most dishwasher interiors, it is not recommended for dishwashers with a stainless steel interior. The acidic nature of vinegar can potentially damage the stainless steel surface, causing etching or discoloration. It’s best to consult your dishwasher’s manufacturer for specific cleaning recommendations if you have a stainless steel interior.

Consulting the dishwasher manufacturer’s recommendations

Every dishwasher model is different, and it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for specific cleaning instructions. Some manufacturers may provide guidelines on whether vinegar is safe to use or suggest alternative cleaning methods. Following the manufacturer’s instructions helps to ensure that you clean your dishwasher properly and maintain its warranty.

Checking for any special cleaning instructions

In addition to the manufacturer’s recommendations, it’s important to check for any special cleaning instructions that may apply to your dishwasher. For example, certain dishwasher models may have removable parts that need to be cleaned separately or filters that require specific maintenance. Being aware of these instructions will help you clean your dishwasher effectively.

Considering water hardness levels

The hardness of your water can impact the performance of your dishwasher and the effectiveness of cleaning methods, including vinegar. If you live in an area with hard water, which contains high mineral content, you may need to adjust your cleaning routine accordingly. Running a vinegar rinse or using a dishwasher cleaner specifically designed for hard water can help tackle mineral buildup effectively.

Performing a vinegar rinse with an empty dishwasher

To give your dishwasher a thorough cleanse, consider running a vinegar rinse with an empty dishwasher. Fill a dishwasher-safe container with 1-2 cups of vinegar and place it on the bottom rack. Run a hot water cycle without any dishes or detergent. This vinegar rinse helps dislodge and remove any leftover residue or buildup, leaving your dishwasher fresh and clean.

Frequently asked questions about cleaning the dishwasher with vinegar

Is vinegar safe for all dishwasher parts?

Vinegar is generally safe for most dishwasher parts, including the interior, spray arms, and utensil holders. However, it’s important to check your dishwasher’s manual or consult the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure that vinegar is safe to use with your specific model. Avoid using vinegar on stainless steel interiors as it can potentially cause damage.

How often should I clean my dishwasher with vinegar?

The frequency of cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar depends on your usage and water hardness levels. As a general guideline, cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar once a month or every few months is typically sufficient. However, if you notice an increase in odors, stains, or mineral buildup, it may be necessary to clean your dishwasher more frequently.

Can I run my dishwasher with vinegar and detergent?

Mixing vinegar with detergent in the dishwasher is not recommended. Vinegar works best as a natural cleaner when used alone, as combining it with detergent can interfere with its cleaning properties. To achieve optimal results, run a separate cycle with vinegar and another cycle with detergent, ensuring that the dishwasher is empty for each cycle.

What other benefits does vinegar provide for dishwasher cleaning?

In addition to its cleaning properties, vinegar offers other benefits when used to clean your dishwasher. It is a natural deodorizer, neutralizing unpleasant odors that can develop in your dishwasher. Vinegar can also help to sanitize your dishwasher, killing germs and bacteria that may be present. Its natural and non-toxic properties make it an eco-friendly choice for dishwasher cleaning.

Can I use vinegar to prevent limescale buildup?

Yes, vinegar can be used to prevent limescale buildup in your dishwasher. Limescale, which is a hard, chalky deposit caused by mineral-rich water, can affect the performance of your dishwasher. Running a vinegar rinse periodically can help dissolve and remove limescale, keeping your dishwasher free from this unsightly buildup.

Tips for maintaining a clean dishwasher

Scraping food debris before loading

Before loading your dishes into the dishwasher, make sure to scrape off any excess food debris. Large food particles can clog the dishwasher’s filter and spray arms, affecting its performance. By scraping off food debris, you can prevent it from accumulating in your dishwasher and ensure a thorough cleaning process.

Using rinse aid

Using a rinse aid in your dishwasher can help prevent the formation of water spots and improve drying performance. Rinse aids help to reduce the surface tension of water, allowing it to flow off dishes more easily. This helps to prevent mineral deposits from forming on your dishes and the interior of your dishwasher.

Regularly cleaning the filter

The dishwasher filter plays a crucial role in trapping food particles and preventing them from clogging the dishwasher’s components. Regularly cleaning the filter is essential to maintain optimal dishwasher performance. Remove the filter according to your dishwasher’s instructions and rinse it under running water to remove any debris.

Running hot water before starting a cycle

To ensure that your dishwasher cleans effectively, it’s a good practice to run hot water in your kitchen sink before starting a dishwasher cycle. Running hot water helps to prime the dishwasher with hot water, ensuring that the cleaning process begins with water at the optimal temperature.

Keeping the door slightly open when not in use

After each dishwasher cycle, it’s beneficial to keep the dishwasher door slightly open to allow moisture to escape. This helps to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Keeping the door open also allows fresh air to circulate, reducing any potential odors that may develop within the dishwasher.

Avoiding overcrowding the dishwasher

To ensure that your dishes are thoroughly cleaned, it’s important to avoid overcrowding the dishwasher. Overloading the dishwasher can restrict water and detergent circulation, resulting in poor cleaning performance. Make sure that dishes are spaced apart adequately, allowing water and detergent to reach all surfaces.


Using vinegar to clean your dishwasher can provide numerous benefits, including the removal of mineral buildup, elimination of odors, removal of stains and residue, and prevention of mold and mildew growth. Different types of vinegar, such as white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and rice vinegar, offer suitable options for dishwasher cleaning.

Following the steps to clean your dishwasher with vinegar, such as emptying the dishwasher, preparing the vinegar solution, pouring vinegar into the dishwasher, running a hot water cycle, wiping down the interior, and cleaning the filter, is an effective way to maintain a clean and efficient dishwasher.

In addition to vinegar, alternative methods such as using citric acid, baking soda, commercial dishwasher cleaners, or hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean your dishwasher. However, it’s important to consider precautions and considerations, such as avoiding vinegar on stainless steel interiors and consulting the dishwasher manufacturer’s recommendations.

Maintaining a clean dishwasher can be achieved by following tips such as scraping food debris, using rinse aid, regularly cleaning the filter, running hot water before starting a cycle, keeping the door slightly open when not in use, and avoiding overcrowding the dishwasher.

In conclusion, vinegar can be a friendly and effective cleaner for your dishwasher, helping to keep it fresh, clean, and odor-free. Regular maintenance, consideration of your dishwasher’s materials, and following the manufacturer’s recommendations are essential in ensuring a clean and efficient dishwasher.