How to Sanitize Dishwashers

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A Full Dishwasher
A Full Dishwasher (Image: Carlos Paes)

Your dishwasher may do a good job removing the food particles and debris from your dishes. However, are you certain your dishwasher is not harboring any germs? Dishwasher detergent cleans your dishwasher at the same time as your dishes but it is not formulated to sanitize the inside of your unit. If you have a fairly new dishwasher model, it may have a setting to sanitize during the rinse cycle using high-temperature water. With an older unit, you must manually sanitize your dishwasher at least once a month to avoid breeding germs that could rub off onto your dishes.

Things You'll Need

  • Small bucket
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Small scrub brush
  • Baking soda
  • Kitchen sponge
  • 32 oz. bottle of hydrogen peroxide

Fill the small bucket half full with hot water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to create a soapy solution.

Remove the racks from your dishwasher so that you can easily access the inside and have room to maneuver.

Scrub around the gasket on the inside door of the dishwasher, dipping the small scrub brush into the soapy water periodically. This action will loosen any debris caught inside the crevices.

Use baking soda as an abrasive cleanser if you need to scrub any stubborn, caked-on debris.

Reach into the drain located beneath the heating element and spray arm to remove any food particles and other waste that might have collected. The food particles trapped in the drain can harbor germs.

Repeat the scrubbing process with the scrub brush, soapy solution and baking soda on places inside the dishwasher such as the corners and drain area.

Wipe away loosened debris around the dishwasher door gasket and inside the dishwasher with the household sponge dipped into the soapy solution. Rinse the sponge periodically in the soapy solution to remove any clinging debris.

Pour the bottle of hydrogen peroxide into the bottom of the dishwasher before replacing the dishwasher racks. Hydrogen peroxide is a sanitizing agent that will kill most germs by oxidizing them. Since hydrogen peroxide is composed of only water and oxygen, it is nontoxic and safe to use in the dishwasher.

Turn the dishwasher on the hottest rinse cycle setting with just the dishwasher racks. There is no need to run the dry cycle.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have hard-water deposits inside your dishwasher, place a cup of vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher instead of pouring hydrogen peroxide in the bottom, and then let the dishwasher run one cycle on its hottest setting. The vinegar should loosen the deposits and rinse them away. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a rinsing agent with each dishwasher load. Just pour a small amount in the receptacle reserved for a rinsing agent. This will allow you to stretch the time between your dishwasher sanitizing cleaning sessions.
  • Do not use any other cleaning agents with the hydrogen peroxide so as to avoid adverse reactions.

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