Although it seems counterintuitive, dishwashers can get pretty darn dirty—even with all the hot water and detergent constantly running through it. Whether it’s the chemicals in dishwashing soap or grease and grime build up, your once-pristine dishwasher may be brimming with scummy residue, germs, and odours. While we know we need to properly care for our coffee machines, clean oven glass, and sanitize our countertops, we rarely think to do the same for our cleaning devices. Luckily, cleaning your dishwasher is quick and easy with items you already have in the pantry: vinegar and baking soda. And when you’ve finished this super-simple chore, you can still reward yourself by kicking back and listening to some classic country tunes while you read a book.
We’ve sung the praises of apple cider vinegar, but for this particular duty, you’re going to need white vinegar. Every few weeks, fill a dishwasher-safe cup or bowl with white vinegar and place it on the upper rack of your machine. Run the otherwise-empty dishwasher on the hottest setting—this will allow the vinegar to absorb odours and erode grimy build up on the walls of the machine. Vinegar is astringently acidic, which makes it a great agent for breaking down scum on most appliances (you can use it in your washing machine, too). Keep a spray bottle with vinegar on hand and spritz the inside of your machine frequently in between washes for prolonged sparkle.
Maybe you already use baking soda to remove pesticides from fruit. It’s a safe and mild alkali substance that goes a long way in removing persistent residue left by food waste. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda along the bottom of your dishwasher and rinse on a hot-water cycle. Repeat this process when you have especially stubborn stains or smells. For extra cleaning punch, create “baking soda bombs” by mixing 2 cups of baking soda with 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide in a bowl until it’s a paste-like consistency. Drop spoonful onto parchment paper and allow to dry for a few hours. Toss them on the bottom of your dishwasher and run a hot-water cycle in an empty machine. For a fresher scent, add a few drops of an essential oil to the mix.
We know: Prewashing dishes even a little bit feels like it defeats the purpose of having a dishwasher, but stay with us. Scraping all the food off a plate and giving it a quick rinse means fewer food particles potentially clogging the dishwasher drain.
And speaking of the drain: Check it frequently to make sure there’s not a bunch of gross stuff in there just waiting to stink up the place.
Make sure the garbage disposal is clean prior to running the dishwasher. The two are often connected and can be cross-contaminated, so if the garbage disposal is full of yucky stuff, your filled-to-the-brim dishwasher could be, too. Let’s avoid that!