Got Gunk? How to Naturally Clean Your Dishwasher

The following post is from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship:

The Green & Frugal Way to Clean Your Dishwasher | lifeyourway.net

source: Kitchen Stewardship

It’s the perfect time for fresh starts – New Year’s resolutions, losing weight, setting yearly goals for just about every area of your life.

I want to bring your attention to something which may need a fresh start in your home, something you might not immediately think of, yet I bet you look into it every day and hardly notice.

Check on your dishwasher for me, will you?

Ours is an absolute workhorse, cleaning a load of the nastiest dishes imaginable every day and pulling double shifts when company comes. The children load it with errant leafy greens on their plates, the toddler tries to climb on its open door, and it has even been subject to experiments without its consent when I was searching for the best natural dishwasher detergent. (I still don’t know if I’ve found it.)

The poor thing gets slimy, grimy, and downright icky. See?

How to Naturally Deep Clean a Dishwasher

source: Kitchen Stewardship

And yes, that is immediately after running it and unloading. Yuck.

When this dishwasher was quite new, we weren’t happy with the job the fancy pot-scrubbing feature was doing (we splurged on the super duper upgrade version and lost the gamble) and called the repair service. When the appliance repairman came out, he told me pretty much what I expected – that it was working as well as the manufacturer intended – but he did leave me with a gem that made me glad I wasted my time calling.

How to Naturally Clean a Dishwasher, Straight from the Appliance Repairman’s Mouth

  1. Fill two coffee mugs with white vinegar.
  2. Place one on the top rack and one on the bottom (upright).
  3. Run a cycle on HOT with only those items and nothing else in the dishwasher.

The water will overflow the cups and slowly clean the dishwasher due to the acidity of the vinegar. The trick you may have heard (I’d done it before) of tossing a cup of vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher doesn’t work because the first thing the appliance will do it flush it right out. Makes sense to me!

Here’s my happy dishwasher after its “natural” deep clean with vinegar:

Naturally Clean Dishwasher

source: Kitchen Stewardship

Vinegar as a Rinse Aid

I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention this other vinegar in the dishwasher trick. I’ve used white vinegar as my rinse aid (instead of chemical-laden Jet Dry) for years. I put it in the rinse aid compartment, and it does a great job.

However.

Whole New Mom shares what her appliance repairman told her in this natural dishwasher rinse aid update, which I’ll summarize for you:

She says he says that the rinse aid compartment rubber parts may be damaged by vinegar in there because they’re not designed for something so acidic, so you should use a tiny cup of vinegar in every load, on the top rack, just like this clean out method that I shared, but refilling it with dishes each time.

Um…I need to call my manufacturer to see if I might be eating away at my rinse aid compartment! Shoot!

How do you “go natural” when it comes to getting those dishes clean?

Katie Kimball has been “green” since 5th grade when she read 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. She remains slightly disappointed that she didn’t actually save the whole thing back then, but now that she has 3 kiddos counting on her, she keeps plugging away hopefully. Katie blogs at Kitchen Stewardship about real food and natural living and is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and other eBooks, available for Kindle.
  • Amber

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m off to try this out right now. My dishwasher has a major case of the YUK. :)

  • Mag

    I started making my own detergent. Borax, washing soda and citric acid. I love the results. Now I’m worried about the vinegar I’ve been using in the rinse compartment too… hmmmmm.

    • Suzana

      I’ve made it too, Mag, with washing soda, baking soda and citric acid. How do you like it? I made it today and am yet to test it.

  • j.t

    can you use any vinegar or just white vinegar? have apple cider vinegar