How to Clean Dishwasher {with Essential Oil}

You would think that your dishwasher would clean itself, but it doesn’t.

Over time, bits of leftover food, undissolved detergent, and hard deposits build up.  This prevents your dishwasher from running its best, possibly leaving spots and film on your glasses, silverware, and dishes.

 

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to clean your dishwasher.  And you don’t need to use any harsh, toxic chemicals to do it.

It’s easy to de-gunk and deep clean your dishwasher with essential oils and other natural cleaning powerhouses like vinegar, baking soda, and citric acid.

 

To help make this super easy, I’ve broken this out into a couple of sections below:

  • a list of the best essential oils to use for cleaning your dishwasher
  • step-by-step instructions for cleaning your dishwasher

 

Let’s get started!

 

 open dishwasher with cleaning supplies (essential oil, baking soda, vinegar)

 

 

10 Best Essential Oils for Cleaning Your Dishwasher

 

Use any one of these essential oils in the recipes below, or feel free to combine more than one for a powerhouse cleaner.

Lemon with a touch of lavender and eucalyptus is one of my favorite blends for cleaning my dishwasher.  The lemon is great at breaking up stuck-on food and grease, lavender is purifying and anti-odor, and eucalyptus is great for fighting mold & mildew that can build up in dishwashers.   Not only does this essential oil combination get my dishwasher thoroughly clean, my kitchen (and a good part of my house) smell amazing after using it.

 

 

1.  Lemon essential oil

Lemon is great for deep cleaning and breaking up grease & grime.  Lemon essential oil is so great at cleaning tough spots, it’s what I use in my homemade toilet cleaning fizzies.  Plus, lemon has an uplifting, invigorating scent that will leave your kitchen smelling fresh & clean.

 

2.  Orange essential oil (wild orange or sweet orange)

Like other citrus oils, orange is great for cleaning and breaking up grease and stuck-on food that’s trapped in dishwasher from repeated use.  Plus, orange is a happy, uplifting, cheerful scent.  How wonderful to open your dishwasher and inhale the fresh, clean scent of oranges.

 

3.  Lime essential oil

Thanks to its high limonene, β-pinene, and γ-terpinene content, lime is great for deep cleaning dishwashers.  Additionally, lime’s fresh, tart scent has a fantastic secondary benefit — it’s great for cleansing and purifying air, so you can clean your dishwasher and purify the air in your kitchen at the same time.  Lime is so wonderful at refreshing air, I use it in my homemade room deodorizing spray — just spritz it around the room (or anywhere there’s a stink) and it eliminates the odor.  Think of it like a natural DIY version of Febreeze.

 

4.  Grapefruit essential oil

Grapefruit’s antimicrobial properties help to deep clean and disinfect your dishwasher.  Plus, it’s sweet citrusy scent helps balance out the sour smell of the vinegar used in this DIY dishwasher cleaner and other natural homemade cleaners.

 

5.  Geranium essential oil

Geranium essential oil has a sweet floral scent that is perfect to blend with some of the other more powerful cleaners listed here.  Try mixing it with lemon to create a fresh spring scent or combine geranium with eucalyptus and a touch of lime for a scent reminiscent of an ocean breeze.

 

6.  Lavender essential oil

Many people think of lavender first for its calming properties, but lavender is also fantastic for cleaning.  It’s both antibacterial and anti-odor, making it perfect for getting rid of any lingering food smells trapped in your dishwasher.

 

7.  Tea Tree essential oil

Tea tree oil (also called melaleuca essential oil) is one of the strongest cleansing oils.  It kills bacteria, viruses, mold, and mildew (I also use tea tree in my magic shower cleaner).  Use tea tree alone or try mixing it with other essential oils for new, amazing scents in your dishwasher.

 

8.  Pine essential oil

Pine is a common ingredient in a lot of household cleaners, and for good reason.  It’s great at killing germs, mold, and mildew.  And it purifies the air, leaving a fresh, clean scent.

Want another way to use pine essential oil?  Try my DIY forest fresh floor cleaner.  This one floor cleaner is all you need for all the floors in your house (hardwood, tile, laminate, vinyl, and linoleum).

 

9.  Rosemary essential oil

Rosemary oil has great antimicrobial properties for cleaning.  It’s a bit strong to use on its own, but it’s wonderful to mix with other essential oils like orange and lavender.

 

10.  Eucalyptus essential oil

Eucalyptus is a fantastic cleaning agent.  It’s a potent germ killer and disinfectant (I use it in my homemade “Lysol” disinfecting spray).  It’s also powerful for fighting mold and mildew.

 

 

10 best essential oils for cleaning your dishwasher (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit, geranium, lavender, tea tree, pine, rosemary, eucalyptus)

 

 

3 Steps to a Clean Dishwasher

Daily preventative care, weekly maintenance, and occasional deep cleaning keep your dishwasher clean and working its best.

 

Below you’ll find sections with step-by-step instructions for each of these ways to clean your dishwasher:

  1. Daily Preventative Care– After you unload the dishwasher, remove any food bits and gunk from the bottom of the dishwasher and then give the front of the dishwasher a quick wipe.
  2. Weekly Cleaning– Once a week, remove the filter and spray arm so that you can give them a good soak and thoroughly clean out the filter.
  3. Monthly Deep Clean – Once a month or when you notice a problem with your dishwasher not running as well as it should, use baking soda, essential oils, and either vinegar or citric acid to give your dishwasher a good thorough cleaning.

 

 

Step 1: Daily Preventative Cleaning

 

1. After unloading dishwasher pull out bottom rack.  This will make it much easier to do the next step in daily cleaning.

 

removing bottom rack from dishwasher

 

 

2. Remove any pieces of food from the bottom of the dishwasher.

Okay, I know this step is kind of gross, but it is necessary.

Dishwashers are made so well these days, that we no longer need to rinse out dishes before we put them in the dishwasher.  The dishwasher will get the pots, pans, and plates sparkling clean even if they are loaded with pasta sauce, veggies, and other remnants of last night’s dinner.

Most of the food gets broken up into teeny tiny pieces and rinsed down the dishwasher drain, but sometimes food is left in bigger pieces that doesn’t fit through the filter.  And those bigger bits and pieces of food get stuck in the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher.  Over time this debris can buildup and prevent your dishwasher from draining correctly.  This leads to standing water in bottom of dishwasher and your dishwasher won’t work as well as it should.

A little preventative cleaning goes a long way to keeping your dishwasher running at its best.  Just simply scoop up any bits of food and debris from the bottom of the dishwasher.  It usually accumulates right on top of the filter as you’ll see in the photos below.

 

cleaning food from dishwasher filter

 

It’s amazing how much food can get stuck in there if you haven’t done this step in awhile.

food and debris on bottom of dishwasher clogging the filter

 

 

3. Wipe down the outside front of the dishwasher as needed.

For mine, I use this homemade stainless steel polish (recipe here).  It’s super easy to make — just two ingredients plus essential oils.

I use it for all my stainless steel appliances.  It gets rid of fingerprints, smears, dirt, and grime easily without any scrubbing.

 

using homemade stainless steel polish (made with essential oils) to clean the front of dishwasher

 

In the photos below you can see what a difference the stainless steel polish makes on my dishwasher door.

From gross to sparkling clean with just a few wipes.  Love it!

 

before and after photos of dishwasher front -- before and after using essential oil stainless steel polish

 

 

Step 2:  Weekly Cleaning

 

1. Just as we did with the daily cleaning above, pull out the bottom rack and check the drain for anything that might be blocking it. Remove any bits of food or other debris.

 

2. Unlock and remove the filter from below the bottom spray arm of the dishwasher (see photo below)

 

removing filter from bottom of dishwasher

 

This is what was trapped below the filter in my dishwasher.  Gross!

But once it gets cleaned out, my dishwasher will work so much better.

Hopefully, you won’t find as much debris trapped in your filter.  It’s definitely been way too long since I cleaned out my filter.  If you do this once every week or two, it probably won’t have much junk trapped in there at all.

 

the food bits and gunk that's trapped in dishwasher filter -- this needs to be cleaned out regularly so dishwasher runs properly

 

 

3. Using soft brush, scrub mesh screen and plastic frame of the filter to get rid of any grease, debris, and food bits.

 

using a soft scrub brush to clean dishwasher filter

 

Here’s what my screen looks like when it’s all clean.

clean dishwasher filter

 

 

4.  Soak filter and spray arm in hot soapy water for about 10 minutes.

 

dishwasher cleaning spray arms are being soak in tub of hot soapy water

 

 

5. Rinse filter and spray arm in hot running water

 

rinsing dishwasher filter under hot water

rinsing dishwasher spray arm under hot water

 

 

6. Once filter and spray arm look like new again, put them back into place in the dishwasher

 

putting dishwasher filter and spray arm back in place after being cleaned

 

 

7. Wipe down control panel, front of door, and edges of door with disinfecting cleaning spray

Here’s the recipe for the essential oil disinfecting spray I use.

 

using homemade Lysol disinfecting spray to clean dishwasher control panel and door

 

 

8.  Open dishwasher door to clean top and sides.  Use toothbrush or small scrub brush to get into grooves and crevices.

 

using toothbrush (or small scub brush) to clean crevices and grooves in dishwasher

 

 

9. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the door with the disinfecting spray.

 

using DIY Lysol spray to clean inside of dishwasher door

 

 

What a difference a little cleaning makes.  My dishwasher not only looks brand new, it works great again, too!

 

the inside of dishwasher after it has been cleaned

 

10. If you have a stainless steel door, finish your weekly cleaning routine with a quick polish (find my stainless steel polish recipe here).

Not only does it leave a streak-free shine, it also helps prevent future fingerprints and smudges.

 

 

Step 3:  Monthly Deep Clean

In addition to daily and weekly cleaning, do the following once a month for deep cleaning.

 

There are two options for monthly cleaning:

  • option 1 uses citric acid, baking soda, and essential oil
  • option 2 uses vinegar, essential oil, and baking soda

 

You can use either options for traditional plastic interiors.

But if you have a stainless steel interior, the second option will be better for you because vinegar is gentler on stainless steel.  Citric acid can be too harsh, especially if your stainless steel interior has any holes, nicks, or scratches.

Both options will disinfect, deodorize, breakup grease, and remove mineral deposits.  Doing this will help keep your dishwasher in top condition and working properly.

 

Option 1

 

1. Start with an empty dishwasher

 

2. Add 2 tablespoons citric acid to a small bowl

 

adding citric acid to bowl

 

 

3. add 1 tablespoon baking soda to the bowl

Baking soda helps remove odors and scrubs away stubborn stuck-on food, grime, and stains.

 

adding baking soda to bowl

 

 

4. add 2 drops tea tree essential oil (aka melaleuca).

Tea tree is great for cleaning dishwashers.  But if you don’t have tea tree, don’t worry.  There are lots of other great options.

see the list towards the beginning of this article for other great essential oils you can use to clean your dishwasher.

 

adding essential oil to bowl

 

 

5. Mix well

 

using wooden spoon to stir citric acid, baking soda, and essential oil mixture

 

 

6. Sprinkle mixture on bottom on dishwasher

 

sprinkling the baking soda, citric acid, and essential oil mixture all over the bottom of the dishwasher

 

7. Run short cycle of dishwasher on hottest water setting

 

 

Option 2 (best if you have stainless steel interior)

 

1. Start with an empty dishwasher

 

2. Put a bowl with 1 cup vinegar on the top rack of dishwasher.

White vinegar works best for this.  It’s strongest in astringent acid so it’s great at dissolving hard water mineral deposits, removing grime, and sanitizing dishwasher.

 

adding vinegar to a small bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher

 

 

3. add 5 drops of tea tree essential oil (aka melaleuca) to the bowl with the vinegar

Tea tree is great for cleaning dishwashers.  But if you don’t have tea tree, don’t worry.  There are lots of other great options.

see the list towards the beginning of this article for other great essential oils you can use to clean your dishwasher.

 

adding essential oil to the bowl with the vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher

 

4. Run a short cycle on the hottest water setting.

 

5. After the vinegar cycle is done, sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher.

 

6. Run another short cycle on the hottest water setting.

 

 

supplies for cleaning dishwasher (essential oil, baking soda, vinegar, cloths, toothbrush, bowl, and spoons)

 

Where to Find Supplies

Disclaimer: Please know that this website contains affiliate links. This means that should you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission. The price is exactly the same for you as it would be without the affiliate link.  

 

 

So now you have your dishwasher all clean inside and out.  And it’s working better than ever.

 

Want to also use essential oils to also clean your dishes?

Here are some of my favorite essential oil DIY recipes:

 

 

 

how to clean your dishwasher with essential oil (open dishwasher with supplies on dishwasher door)

 

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Disclaimer: Please know that this website contains affiliate links. This means that should you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission. The price is exactly the same for you as it would be without the affiliate link.  

 

how to clean your dishwasher with essential oil (open dishwasher with supplies on dishwasher door)

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Sarah Lewis

A little thing about me: I 💙 essential oils. I also love using my background in research to help people learn more about essential oils and all the wonderful ways they can be used. I share DIY recipes for natural cleaners that really work, non-toxic beauty solutions, and holistic wellness. My essential oil recipes, info, and tips have been viewed more than 20 million times. I've been featured on MindBodyGreen, Health & Natural Living, All Natural Ideas, This Natural Home, Natural Living Ideas, and Passion for Savings.