Why You Should Put a Bowl of Vinegar in Your Dishwasher

It’s pretty magical.

A dishwasher slightly ajar, filled with plates, bowls, cups, and silverware

You might be surprised to hear that the hardworking appliance that cleans your silverware, dishes, and glassware, needs a spruce-up of its own from time to time. You'd think a machine that is regularly assaulted with soap and scalding hot water would be clean as a whistle, but the inside of a dishwasher can get pretty gnarly.

"Built-up grease, soap scum, and hard water can cause your dishwasher to work poorly, look dirty, and most of all smell awful," says Leslie Reichert, eco-friendly cleaning expert and creator of Green Cleaning Coach.

If your glassware is emerging from a cycle looking cloudy or your dishes aren't as spotless as they once were, it's a sign that it's time to clean your machine (and sometimes that you're not loading your machine properly).

And of course, the more you run your machine, the more it's going to need a touch-up. According to a Statistica survey, 30% of Americans use their dishwasher once a day and 46% run it several times a week. All this washing means lots of opportunities for crud to accumulate. 

Yay, one more thing to clean! But here are two bits of good news:

  1. You can clean your dishwasher with zero elbow grease—no scrubbing! 
  2. You probably have the required cleaning product in your pantry, and if not, it's so affordable, can be found in the grocery store, and can be used for laundry and cleaning just about every kitchen surface.

How to Clean Your Dishwasher With a Bowl of Vinegar

Before we get to the vinegar part, let's ensure we really get the ick out by doing a quick sweep of the dishwasher filter. To locate it, remove the bottom rack of your dishwasher and look in one of the back corners of the tub or around the base of the bottom spray arm (most are located in one of these areas, according to Whirlpool). Remove the filter, rinse it in the sink, and replace it. Now onto the magic vinegar trick!

Place a bowl filled with two cups of white vinegar (also called distilled vinegar or white distilled vinegar) on the bottom rack of your empty dishwasher and run a hot cycle, without dishwashing detergent. After the cycle, open your dishwasher and admire your newly clean appliance. That's it!

Here's How It Works

"Vinegar is a natural acid and works to break down grease and food particles that are on the sides and shelves of the dishwasher," Reichert says. You can also try using cleaning vinegar, which is slightly more acidic (6% acetic acid vs. white vinegar's 5%), which means it's even stronger, she says. Reichert recommends running a vinegar cycle every three months or so.

So let us go forth and shower our dishwashers with love, hot water, and vinegar.

A version of this article originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.