This is a cleaning post with tips on how to clean your dishwasher with vinegar (for green cleaning) or cleaning tablets.
Sometimes, we are hit with that familiar stench when we walk into the house. No, not the kitty litter box. It’s the dishwasher. As much as I love our Bosch dishwasher, it must be run frequently and aired out, or it will have a foul odor.
There are lots of things in the house that need to be cleaned, but often I forget that our kitchen and cleaning appliances also need to be cleaned.
I try to use natural cleaning as much as possible and make many of my household cleaning products. So, I figured if there were good ways to use green cleaning products for my other appliances, I was pretty sure I could use some for my dishwasher too.
So, this post is for you if you too often get hit with that horrible dishwasher smell.
How to Clean Your Dishwasher
Some dishwashers need to be cleaned more often than others. In our home, we have a Bosch dishwasher. Although we love how well it cleans the dishes, we have found that we will have a smelly dishwasher if we don’t run it frequently and let it air out after use.
Why do you need to clean your dishwasher?
First, let’s talk about why you need to clean it, and then we will get to the how.
What is black stuff in my dishwasher?
If you find black particles in your dishwasher, then that is a sign you need to clean it. The black stuff in your dishwasher is likely bacteria caused by food particles that block the drain.
If you don’t clean the drain, door, and tub, the bacteria will continue to grow and stick to surfaces.
Why does the dishwasher smell bad?
Again, you can blame those food particles. As they accumulate over time in the filter and small crevices, they begin to smell and cause you to have a stinky dishwasher.
We asked our appliance specialist about this. They said the problem is actually from the dish soap we were using. He said to avoid liquid dishwashing liquid. It’s easy to use too much and then the soap scum builds up and clogs the drain.
That was true in our case, but he said a few other reasons why dishwashers sometimes smell like rotten eggs and sulfur are:
- A clogged food trap: Checking the food trap and dishwasher drain at the bottom of the tub should be your first step if your dishwasher smells. The runoff from the cleaning cycle is collected in a hole there. Check to see if there is any leftover food in the food trap’s basket while the dishwasher is still drying. Then remove the bottom dish rack.
- A damaged drain hose: The way a drain hose functions is by discharging any small food particles and unclean water into the disposal unit under your sink. Your dishwasher may have an unpleasant odor if the drain hose isn’t working correctly.
- A poorly placed drain hose: Your drain line may be the source of the odor in your dishwasher even if it is not kinked or otherwise blocked by food scraps. Gravity can be acting against you if the drain pipe from your unit drops from the back and moves around the floor before rising to the sink.
- Garbage disposal issues: And last, it’s possible that your dishwasher isn’t even to blame for the scent. The drain pipe joins your device to the sink’s garbage disposal. Food jammed inside your disposal may be stopping your dishwasher from fully emptying if it is blocked with food.
How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter
Now that you know your dishwasher filter needs cleaning let’s talk about how to clean a filter. To optimize your dishwasher’s performance, Bob Villa recommends cleaning the dishwasher filter for a few minutes each month.
There are two types of dishwasher filters – self-cleaning filters and manual filters. To determine which kind of filter you have, you will need to check the owner’s manual or look at the bottom of the dishwasher. You will see a removable cylindrical piece if you have a manual filter.
Use a gentle soap, vinegar, and a scrubber to clean a manual filter. You can find some cleaning gloves to protect your skin and hands.
For step-by-step deals, head over to Bob Villa’s post.
How to Clean the Inside of the Dishwasher
Cleaning the inside is very easy. You can use tablets or manually clean them yourself. I alternate between the two.
How to Use Dishwasher Cleaning Tablets
You can use dishwasher cleaning tablets with or without dishes. To use cleaner with dishes, put one tablet in the bottom of the dishwasher and use your regular detergent as directed.
To clean it without dishes, put one tablet in the detergent tray. For a lot of buildup or smell, you can place a second tablet at the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run a normal cleaning cycle.
How to Clean with Vinegar
If you prefer green cleaning and want to naturally clean your dishwasher, then you can use vinegar as a cleaner.
To clean with vinegar:
- Remove any dirty dishes and make sure you have an empty dishwasher.
- Clean the rubber seals and small crevices using white vinegar and a clean cloth.
- Wipe the spray arms down with a wet rag, or clean them with a soft bristle brush. You can also spray them with white vinegar.
- Remove any food debris and food waste.
- For hard-to-reach spots, a toothbrush or toothpick comes in handy.
- Wipe down the walls and racks.
- Add one cup of vinegar to a dishwasher safe bowl on the bottom rack.
- Run a normal hot water cycle. The hottest setting sometimes works even better to cut through the grease and kill bacterial growth.
- While the wash cycle is running, wipe down the outside of the dishwasher door with mild dish soap, warm water, and a wet rag or microfiber cloth. Or use your favorite all-purpose spray on the dishwasher door.
- Let the dishwasher air dry.
You can also add a dishwasher safe container of vinegar to the top rack.
If there are any lingering odors, repeat the process. If you haven’t cleaned your dishwasher in a long time, or ever, the grease buildup may be especially bad.
How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher with Vinegar
- Glass Bowl
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 cloth rag
- Clean the seals and small crevices using white vinegar and a clean cloth. (For hard to reach spots, a toothbrush or toothpick comes in handy. )
- Place a glass bowl in the middle of the top rack of the dishwasher
- Fill the bowl with 1 C white Vinegar
- Run the dishwasher on a normal cycle. If possible use high temp wash and heat dry
- After cycle is complete, empty bowl into sink.
How do you clean a dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda?
Make a wash with baking soda and after the vinegar process is over add a teaspoon of baking soda and put the dishwasher on a short cycle and repeat with the highest temperature possible. Baking soda is helpful at deodorizing the dishwasher and removing the stains that remain.
You have several ways to clean your dishwasher, including a green option. You know how to clean filters and deep clean the inside.
You’ll know what to do as soon as you see those black particles or get a whiff of that sulfur dishwasher smell.
How often should I clean my dishwasher?
Clean your dishwasher on a monthly basis. Doing so will prolong the life of the dishwasher. It will also eliminate the need for deep cleaning.
For more cleaning ideas, hacks, and guides check out Green Cleaning.
As parents to 3 little kids, we are always on the hunt for non toxic/eco-friendly products. We found one we use daily called Force of Nature, It's a little appliance that uses electricity to turn salt, water & vinegar into a multi-purpose cleaner, EPA registered disinfectant and deodorizer. It's strong enough to kill bacteria and viruses just like bleach, but it has no toxic chemicals whatsoever! It's also EPA approved for use against Covid-19. They have a promotion right now for 40% off & free shipping if you use coupon code SAFESUMMER40 (for bundles) or 30% off using SAFESUMMER30 (for starter kits). Give it a try: Force of Nature See our full review of Force of Nature.
Erin is the mother of identical twin girls and their slightly older brother. She is a domestic engineer, and previously had a career leading customer service teams for a major HVAC company. Cleaning without harsh chemicals, and cooking easy and usually healthy meals are part of Erin's daily life. She volunteers with youth leaders, and genuinely wants to help others win. Erin has a degree in Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism.