How to clean a dishwasher with vinegar

Give your dishwasher the deep clean it’s been dreaming of

A dishwasher and bottle of white vinegar on a pink and blue background.
(Image credit: Future)

Confession time: I didn’t realize that dishwashers needed to be deep cleaned, and FYI, it’s not just me. After chatting to some friends — none of which knew that they needed to deep clean their dishwasher — I realized that dishwasher care is one of those things a lot of us put off. 

It was only when I noticed a rather funky smelling odor emanating from my dishwasher whenever I opened the door, that I realized that it was in need of a little TLC. After doing a deep dive on #CleanTok, I learned that your dishwasher needs to be deep cleaned every two months. To keep it smelling fresh, distilled white vinegar is a great option. 

But, why does vinegar work to clean your dishwasher? I spoke to professional cleaning expert Jade Piper about the benefits of vinegar for cleaning. “Vinegar is a natural, all-around, and eco-friendly household cleaner," said Piper. "It’s also a very accessible, cheaper, and safer option than other chemical-based cleaning products which might have harsh ingredients.” 

Good to know

Time: 1 dishwasher cycle 

Effort: Easy 

Here’s what you’ll need

  • A dishwasher-safe bowl or cup
  • Distilled white vinegar (this one from Heinz that's available on Amazon is my go-to)

How to clean a dishwasher with vinegar

Step 1: Fill a cup with white vinegar

Cleaning expert, Jade Piper explains that, the first step to cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar is to, “place a cup of white vinegar in your dishwasher” — ideally this should be positioned on the top shelf for maximum results. 

Step 2: Run your dishwasher on a hot cycle


The next step is to turn your dishwasher on, running a hot cycle with the cup (or bowl) of vinegar left in there. 

Step 3: Remove the cup of vinegar

Once your dishwasher has finished and the steam has begun to disperse, you can remove and pour away the leftover vinegar. 


Where do you put vinegar in the dishwasher?

For best results, place the distilled white vinegar in a cup on the top shelf of the dishwasher.

Is it safe to clean your dishwasher with white vinegar?

Yes, it’s safe to clean your dishwasher with white vinegar. However, if you’re unsure it’s always best to check the manufacturer’s care instructions.  

Why does vinegar work to clean a dishwasher?

Jade explains that vinegar is an effective cleaner because it “can kill bacteria and dissolve the build-up of filth, grime, and deposits because of its very acidic composition. It is made up of 5% acetic acid that chemically alters the structure, lipids, and proteins of bacteria”. 

How often should I run vinegar through my dishwasher?

You can run distilled white vinegar through your dishwasher whenever you feel that it needs a clean. Ideally, every few months tends to work best. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.