Why You Should Put a Bowl of Vinegar in Your Dishwasher

It might seem counterintuitive that a dishwasher needs to be cleaned, but it does. Food and grease from your glasses, plates, utensils, pots, and pans can cling to a dishwasher’s racks and interior, creating a mess that a regular cycle can’t adequately scrub. Additionally, the soap cleaning your dishware can leave behind a residue, making your dishwasher look dirty over time. Luckily, cleaning your dishwasher is one of the easiest tasks you’ll ever do, and the only cleanser you need is vinegar.

How to Clean Your Dishwasher With Vinegar

Before you run a vinegar cycle, prep your dishwasher by scrubbing the filter with soap and hot water. If you’ve never done this, check your owner’s manual. Usually, you only need to twist the filter to remove it. While at it, wipe around the filter’s opening to remove any crud — leftover food bits can get trapped in the filter, leading to unpleasant smells. 

Vinegar’s high acidity makes it effective at cleaning. Still, it’s not helpful to just dump vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher — the vinegar should be evenly dispersed throughout the wash cycle. The best way to do this is to pour 1 cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe coffee mug or bowl that is heavy enough to remain upright during the cycle. (You can also use apple cider vinegar in a pinch.) Place the container on the top rack of an empty dishwasher and run on a hot water cycle. The vinegar will gradually be pulled out of the vessel and work its magic. 

Run a Vinegar Cycle Once a Month

However, too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. With excessive use, vinegar’s high acidity can damage your dishwasher’s rubber gaskets and hoses, so only run a vinegar cycle once a month. Also, never put undiluted vinegar in the detergent or rinse aid compartments, as the vinegar won’t properly distribute in the wash cycle. Finally, only clean your dishwasher when it’s empty of other items. If salt is in the dishwasher during the vinegar cycle, it can tarnish metal utensils, bowls, and pans.

Featured Image Credit: DragonImages/ iStock

Paula Peters ChambersWriter

Paula Peters Chambers writes for general-interest and specialty magazines. She covers everything from people and business profiles to science and medicine to the arts and home design and decor. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she enjoys baking, ringing handbells, and listening to live music.

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