These 8 dishwasher cleaning hacks will make this chore so much easier

Dishin' out tips

A graphic with a dishwasher on a circle with a blue gradient background
(Image credit: Future)

There’s nothing more beaut than finishing a meal and putting all your dishes in the dishwasher. No mess, no fuss. I don’t mind handwashing, but given the choice, I’d choose to chuck everything in the dishwasher any day.

Totally relate? If you’re all about that easy breezy dishwasher lifestyle, chances are you’re using it all the time. But have you actually thought about cleaning the thing that cleans your dishes? I mean, your dishwasher spends so much time scrubbing off food and tackling your grimiest cookware, so it needs a li’l bit of love, too.

You don’t want a dishwasher that’s stinky or sticky. This can make your dishes smell and lead to the appliance working poorly and giving you grimy plates. Eating off dirty dishes is so not cute.

These dishwasher cleaning hacks are super simple and won’t damage your machine. Spend less time cleaning and more time… well, eating from the dishes that eventually need to be cleaned all over again.   

8 dishwasher cleaning hacks that will make it sparkle and shine 

From natural cleaners to unusual cleaning brushes, these dishwasher cleaning hacks will make your dishwasher look, smell, and feel basically brand new…

1. Pour in white vinegar

Vinegar isn’t just great for making your dishes delish, you know. It’s actually amazing for cleaning your dishwashing appliance too. Pour in two cups of white vinegar directly into your dishwasher, then put it on a hot dishwashing cycle. You don’t need to mix this solution with water, and you don’t need to do anything else after — just carry on using the machine as normal. BTW, we majorly rate Heinz’s vinegar for this, which you can get from Amazon.

2. Clean trays with a toothbrush

I can’t express how gross soggy food pieces are. Like, I don’t want to be touching them — ever. Sometimes they can get trapped in cutlery trays and baskets, which have tricky gaps to clean. I recommend using a small cleaning brush like a toothbrush to get into these holes. Add a little white vinegar to the bristles and dip them in water before scrubbing to loosen particles. If you’d rather use an actual cleaning brush, these Oxo brushes from Amazon are the perfect size for getting those chunks (*shudders*) out.

3. Sprinkle in baking soda

Baking soda (I rate Arm & Hammer’s from Amazon for all things cleaning) is super effective in dishwashers, as it soaks up all the nasty bacteria, deodorizes gross scents, and can be flushed away easily. Sprinkle a tablespoon of baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher, and put on a hot cycle. If you want to combine two hacks in one, halfway through the cycle put two cups of vinegar in for a major deep clean. 

4. Tackle tough stains with a steam cleaner

If your dishwasher has stains that just won’t budge, this hack is for you. Steam cleaners are useful household cleaning tools that work on some appliances, as well as on floors. Preheat yours, then go all around the inside of your dishwasher with it. Focus on the corners, fittings, and seals, as dirt tends to really stick to these. Pair this method with an all-purpose cleaning spray for even better results (at Real Homes, we love the Mrs. Meyer’s one, which you can buy from Amazon).

5. Halve a lemon and put it inside

As the saying goes: When life gives you lemons, put them in a dishwasher. Okay, it might not go exactly like that, but the point remains. All you need to do is slice a lemon in half, place it on the top rack, and start a hot wash. Not only will the acidity from the lemon clean your dishwasher, but the zesty scent will make it smell oh-so-fresh compared to the vinegar cleaning hack. There are pros and cons of using lemon and vinegar for cleaning, but they're both so good to have ready to go in your kitchen.

6. Clean the door seal with a firm sponge

Is the inside of your dishwasher squeaky clean, but you can still sniff something icky? The door seal (aka the gasket) is a prime spot for gunk to build up. It may not be the first area you think to clean, but it’s important. By using a firm sponge like the Scrub Daddy from Walmart, you’ll be able to get all the dirt off without damaging the equipment. Use this with regular dish soap (I use the Method one, which you can get a two-pack of from Amazon) to create a major dream team. Don’t use anything too abrasive, like a metal scourer, as you don’t want the seal to peel away. 

7. Use a toothpick to clean the spray arm

Okay teeth cleaning tools, come through. The spray arm can be removed and wiped down with soapy water, but many of these have tiny holes that you just can’t reach with a normal cleaning brush (FYI, the spray arm is the bit at the bottom of the dishwasher that looks like a helicopter blade). To clean these, poke a toothpick through the tiny holes to get rid of any dirt or food that is stuck in there. Do this over the trash can so you don’t have to clean up any nasty surprises. 

8. Place a bowl of bleach on the top tray

I’m a huge fan of using bleach to clean appliances, and this also goes for the dishwasher. If you want to give this a go, check that your dishwasher doesn’t contain stainless steel parts, and then also check that your dishwasher is bleach safe (if you don’t have your instruction manual handy, find the make and model and check the manufacturer's website). All set? Put one cup of bleach into a bowl, place it on the top drawer of your dishwasher, then select a hot cycle. Remember not to mix it with anything else, like baking soda or vinegar, as this could be harmful.  

What you’ll need to try out these dishwasher cleaning hacks

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.