Can You Put Vinegar In The Dishwasher?

By Cory White
Can You Put Vinegar In The Dishwasher?

Are you looking for a natural and effective way to clean your dishwasher? Vinegar might be the answer! Known for its versatile cleaning properties, vinegar has become a popular choice for various household tasks. But when it comes to the dishwasher, can you safely put vinegar in it? 

Luckily, you can put vinegar in your dishwasher, as it serves as an excellent agent for both cleaning and deodorizing. However, it is crucial to use vinegar correctly in a dishwasher to not harm its components.

In this article, I will tackle the benefits, potential risks, common queries,  and proper usage of vinegar in the dishwasher. Discover how this pantry staple can help keep your dishwasher clean and fresh, ensuring optimal performance and sparkling dishes. Let’s go!

The Role of Vinegar in Your Dishwasher

white vinegar

Vinegar makes an invaluable addition to your dishwasher routine, acting as a natural odor neutralizer and potent grime remover. This common household essential, often used in cooking and cleaning, has a distinct role to play in maintaining the cleanliness and efficiency of your dishwasher.

The natural acidity of vinegar works to cut through stubborn grime and food residues that stick to your dishes and the interior of your dishwasher. This same acidity also aids in the removal of mineral deposits left by hard water, restoring the shine to your dishes and dishwasher walls.

Apart from its cleaning prowess, vinegar is a notable odor-neutralizer. If you’ve ever noticed a pungent smell floating up from your dishwasher, vinegar can help. When run through a cycle in your dishwasher, it eliminates odor-causing bacteria, leaving your machine smelling fresh and clean.

The Right Way to Use Vinegar in Your Dishwasher

vinegar in dishwasher

Introducing vinegar to your dishwasher is a simple procedure, but knowing the correct usage is essential to get the desired results and protect your appliance. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wisely incorporate vinegar into your dishwasher cleaning routine.

  1. Start by ensuring your dishwasher is empty. Having dishes in the machine could obstruct the vinegar from reaching the necessary parts and could potentially taint your dishes with an unwelcome vinegary taste.
  2. Once the dishwasher is free of dishes, pour about one cup of white vinegar directly into the bottom of the machine. It could be tempting to put the vinegar on the top rack or in the detergent compartment, but this could dilute the vinegar too quickly and reduce its effectiveness.
  3. Now that the vinegar is in place, run your dishwasher on a normal cycle with hot water. This will help the vinegar spread and access all parts of your dishwasher, ensuring thorough cleaning and deodorization.

Frequency of Vinegar Cleaning

Striking the right balance in frequency is crucial when using vinegar in your dishwasher. It’s all about sufficient cleaning without going overboard to the point of potentially damaging your appliance.

Typically, running a vinegar cleaning cycle in your dishwasher once a month is a good rule of thumb. This ought to suffice in keeping the interior clean and shiny, as well as combating any unpleasant odors.

However, the frequency might need to ramp up if you spot visible signs of grease buildup or stains, or detect a persistent foul smell. In such instances, more regular use of vinegar may be needed to keep your dishwasher in top shape.

Remember, every dishwasher’s needs are unique, much like its users. Factors such as frequency of use, the local water hardness, and the types of food typically washed off your dishes can all impact how often you need to run a vinegar cleaning cycle. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Using Vinegar in Your Dishwasher

While vinegar is a helpful partner in maintaining your dishwasher, considerations must be made to ensure we’re not causing harm. Here are some dos and don’ts when using vinegar in your dishwasher to ensure you reap the benefits without falling prey to any potential downsides.

  • Do: Use white vinegar. One of the simplest and most effective options, known for its fantastic cleaning properties and safe usage.
  • Don’t: Use apple cider vinegar or any colored vinegar. These vinegar types can stain the interiors of your dishwasher.
  • Do: Pour the vinegar directly into the bottom of an empty dishwasher. This ensures the vinegar spreads evenly and effectively throughout the dishwasher during the cleaning cycle.
  • Don’t: Pour vinegar into the detergent dispenser or onto the top rack. The action could lead to premature dilution or unevenly distributed cleaning.
  • Do: Keep a regular, but not overly frequent, vinegar cleaning schedule—once a month, for example.
  • Don’t: Use vinegar too frequently, as its acidity can potentially damage the rubber seals and other parts of your dishwasher.

Alternatives to Vinegar for Dishwasher Cleaning

vinegar and lemon

If vinegar isn’t your go-to cleaning agent, or if your dishwasher’s materials aren’t compatible with it, don’t worry. There are several efficient and practical alternatives to vinegar for keeping your dishwasher sparkling clean.

Baking soda

This natural cleaner does an excellent job of removing stains and freshening up your dishwasher. Merely sprinkle some on the bottom of your dishwasher and run a cycle.

Citric acid

Another effective cleaner, citric acid helps address hard water stains. Try running your dishwasher with a cup of lemon juice or a packet of unsweetened lemonade mix.

Specialized Cleaning Tablets

Available at most grocery stores, these tablets are explicitly designed to clean dishwashers. They often have instructions on the package, making their usage simple and straightforward.

Tips to Maintain a Clean Dishwasher

dishwasher filter being cleaned

Maintaining a clean dishwasher is not only about dealing with issues after they arise but also about taking preventative measures. Here are some useful tips that can help keep your dishwasher running efficiently in the long run:

Regularly inspect and clean the filter

The filter, nestled at the bottom of the dishwasher, traps food particles preventing them from redepositing on your clean dishes or clogging the drain. Ensure you clean it once a week at least.

Wipe down the rubber door seal

Over time, food residues can accumulate and cause an unpleasant odor. Wipe it down every few weeks with a damp cloth.

Use the correct dish detergent

Always go for dish detergents recommended by your dishwasher’s manufacturer. Some detergents are more effective at keeping your machine clean and clog-free.

Rinse dishes before placing them in the dishwasher

Removing food residue from dishes keeps your dishwater cleaner and prevents clogs from forming.

Never overload

Loading the machine to its optimum capacity ensures that water and detergent can reach every item, which promotes better cleaning.

Common Queries about Vinegar Use in Dishwashers

Vinegar in dishwashers can invite a lot of questions due to its acidic nature and multi-utility purpose. It’s essential to clear any misconceptions to ensure effective and safe usage. Here are some common queries and their answers:

Is it safe to put vinegar in the dishwasher?

Yes, but proceed wisely. Vinegar’s acidity can harm rubber parts if used excessively. It’s important to follow the recommended usage guidelines.

Can vinegar harm the dishwasher? 

Not when used correctly. However, its acidic property could pose potential risks to your dishwasher’s rubber parts if overused. Stick to a once-a-month cleaning routine unless otherwise necessary.

Can I replace dishwasher detergent with vinegar? 

No, vinegar isn’t a substitute for dishwasher detergent. It aids in cleaning your dishwasher and deodorizing it, but shouldn’t be used to clean dishes as it won’t have the same effectiveness.

Can I use any vinegar type? 

Stick to white vinegar. Other types, like apple cider vinegar, could stain your dishwasher interior due to their color.


In conclusion, vinegar can indeed be a terrific ally for maintaining a clean, odor-free dishwasher. Through its ability to break down stubborn grime and neutralize unpleasant odors, it provides an affordable and accessible solution to common dishwasher woes. 

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