Home Remedies for Cleaning My Dishwasher

Updated April 17, 2017

Over time, dishwashers can build up soap scum, hard water deposits and a musty odour. Store-bought products designed to clean the inside of the dishwasher may work fine, but several home remedies work just as well, cost less and are non-toxic. It may be time for a dishwasher cleaning when dishes have a white film on them after they have been washed, or a noticeable odour is coming from the machine.


Vinegar is helpful in removing odours, hard water deposits and soap scum inside the dishwasher. Fill a cup with white vinegar, then set it on the top rack of an otherwise empty dishwasher. Run the machine on its hottest setting, and let the vinegar wash around inside. Afterward, any odours or hard water and soap build-up in the dishwasher should be gone. Vinegar is a natural choice, and it will not deposit any toxic materials onto dishes washed after the cleaning cycle. If a load of dishes is covered with white soap scum or hard water stains after a regular cycle, the load can be rewashed with a cup of vinegar and it will clean the dishes as well as the machine. Vinegar will not leave any residue or taste on the clean dishes.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is useful in cleaning and deodorising the dishwasher. Before a cycle, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher tub. Run the machine on a short, hot setting. This can be done with both an empty dishwasher or a load of dishes that have become dull with soap scum and hard water stains. Baking soda is particularly helpful in clearing up glasses and glass dishes, as well as metal pots and pans. It is a common household item available in most kitchens, and is non-toxic and safe to use on all dishes.

Soap and Unsweetened Lemonade

A cup full of dishwasher soap mixed with unsweetened lemonade is another cleaning alternative. Use only dishwasher soap, because regular dish soap or other soaps will produce too many suds that will leak out of the machine and possibly cause a malfunction. Powdered dishwasher soap works better than gel detergents because it can be poured into the bottom of the machine immediately and does not contain bleach. Gels tend to leave dishes with a white film on them. Unsweetened lemonade adds an acidic element to this cleaning method that helps get rid of scum and hard water stains. Lemonade is almost clear and will not stain the inside of the machine like some other flavours and colours might.

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About the Author

Laura Rico has been a journalist for more than five years in Michigan and California. She began her career as a staff writer at two community newspapers before accepting an assistant editor position in Northern California. She currently works as a page designer/copy editor and freelance writer in Holland, Mich.