How To Clean Dishwasher With Vinegar And Other Uses

Our grandmas used to clean everything with a little bit of vinegar and they were right to do so as it is an excellent homemade and cheap cleaning agent. More and more though, cleaning supplies were readily available and people lost touch with cleaning using them.

But some have gone back to it as they realize the impact these chemicals can have on their health and as new appliances come to life it begs the question of is it possible to clean them with vinegar? Specifically, can you clean dishwasher with vinegar, and how so?

Why Use Vinegar Instead Of Conventional Cleaning Agents?

Vinegar is natural and apart from acetic acid, doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals unlike dishwasher cleaners do. The problem with them is that they might end up on your clean dishes which you’ll then ingest. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can lead to serious health concerns, most commonly skin and respiratory problems.

Toxic Chemicals

What Kind Of Vinegar Is Best For Dishwasher?

Vinegar is basically a mix of acetic acid and water. The main difference between types is where the sugar comes from since it influences on fermantion creating each type. Anything with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic meaning that the lower the number, the more acidic the substance is.

Note: Strength is the concentration(%) of acid in a solution

Apple Cider Vinegar

Strength: 5%
pH Level: 3.5

White Distilled Vinegar

Strength:  5%
pH Level: 2.5

Red Wine Vinegar

Strength: 4-6%
pH Level: 2-3

Final Note: White distilled vinegar is best used for cleaning as it is slightly more acidic than others.

Can Vinegar Damage The Dishwasher?

This depends solely on what you want to clean on your dishwasher. The main concerns are rubber gaskets and hoses that can get seriously damaged. Other components needing cleaning should be fine. Besides, you’ll always dilute the vinegar in water which will reduce its acidity and make it safe for the dishwasher cleaning.

Vinegar Cleaner

Will My Dishwasher Smell Bad?

No, it won’t but if you’re still worried about the smell you can also mix it with a few drops of essential oil of your choice to make it smell better.

Ways To Clean Dishwasher Using Vinegar

Although many parts of the dishwasher will need cleaning, these are the most common ones. You can clean all of them with vinegar and most likely some other substance.


– located below the spray arms on the bottom of the dishwasher. It will collect big food particles and can get clogged with dirt. It prevents the particles from entering the drain. Clean every 3 months.

  1. Take out the filters
  2. Place in warm water and 1 cup distilled white vinegar mixture
  3. Soak for 30 minutes and clean out the residue left with a toothpick or rinse underwater

Bonus Tip: You can clean the racks and utensil holders the same way


– located below the filter. you’ll typically have to access it by unscrewing the bottom. The most common issue are drain clogs. Clean annually.

  1. Make a mixture of equal parts baking soda and vinegar
  2. Reveal the drain by removing the filters on the bottom
  3. Pour into the basket and let sit for 15 minutes
  4. Pour hot water down and run a rinse cycle

Spray Arms

– located on the bottom of the dishwasher. They have tiny holes in them that release high pressured water onto the dishes to clean them. The holes are what will likely need cleaning. Clean every 3 months

  1. Remove the spray arms by tugging them upwards
  2. Make a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar, water, and some detergent
  3. Place spray arms inside and let soak
  4. Clean the holes with a toothpick by pushing the dirt back to clear the holes
  5. Rinse well before placing back into the dishwasher

Filter and Sprayarms


– The walls of the dishwasher usually made from stainless steel are the easiest to clean since they can be cleaned even while your dishwasher is running:

  1. Grab a dishwasher safe bowl and place it on the bottom of the dishwasher
  2. Fill with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
  3. Run a hot water cycle while the dishwasher is empty
  4. Alternatively, to deodorize, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom once done and run a half-cycle using hot water

What Does (And What Not) Combine Well With Vinegar?

Borax – Vinegar and borax mix incredibly well together and it’s safe to do so. Combined with warm water, they do the job of removing mold extremely well.

Baking Soda – They generally mix well. The mixture will bubble up and release gasses. Nothing to worry about unless you seal it in a bottle or container which will cause it to explode.

Bleach – NEVER combine bleach with vinegar. When combined, they release chlorine and chloramine vapor that cause chemical burns.


Hydrogen Peroxide – Commonly used for teeth whitening and as a natural rinse aid replacement. Combined with vinegar it creates peracetic acid which is highly corrosive and can harm your skin, throat, eyes, and nose so don’t mix the two ever.

Other Uses Of Vinegar In Dishwashers

Vinegar As Rinse Aid

Rinse aid reduces the surface tension of water to prevent your dishes from getting out with spots. They’re especially great for glasses and stainless steel dishware. Vinegar is a natural rinse aid replacement. Do not place it in the rinse aid compartment as the vinegar will damage the water gaskets and more. Simply place vinegar in a dishwasher-safe bowl, place it on the top rack, and run a regular cycle with a fully and properly loaded dishwasher.

Rinse Aid Compartment

Combating Hard Water

Many of us struggle with dishwasher hard water that leaves our dishes looking anything but clean. To combat the problem place 2 cups of vinegar in a dishwasher safe bowl, place it on the bottom rack with your dishwasher full, and run a cycle with no detergent. Then, start a new cycle with dishwasher cleaner to remove any vinegar left.

To Wrap It Up

Vinegar comes with a few warnings when cleaning dishwashers but generally has a wide range of cleaning applications. We’d suggest it over store-bought cleaning agents as it is natural while the opposite can be said about store-bought cleaning products that often contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your health more than vinegar ever will be.

As an English major student at the time, Petra was stuck at home with online classes when the lockdown started. Soon enough, Petra discovered a passion for cooking and making pastries to pass the time. She started small with some experimenting and trying out new techniques inspired by French, Italian, and Asian cuisine. Since then, she has become a full-blown “little chef”, making dinner parties for her friends and expanding her knowledge with cooking classes.