How To Unclog A Dishwasher With Baking Soda and Vinegar

how to unclog a dishwasher with baking soda

If your dishwasher is annoyingly clogged up, you may be wondering if there are other ways to unclog it besides the usual chemical options.

At SparklingPenny, we love natural cleaning methods.

Since I knew about baking soda and vinegar, and the little volcano you can create with it, I have never had to reach for chemicals when unblocking or freshening up a sink or dishwasher drain.

So in this post I am going to show what I do to unclog the dishwasher using just baking soda and vinegar. Most of us have these two items in our cleaning cupboard, and if you don't, they are cheap and easy to buy.

To unclog your dishwasher with baking soda, first make sure the sink drain is not blocked. Then pour a 1/2 of baking soda into the drain, followed by another 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let it sit for at least fifteen minutes and then flush with some boiling water.

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How to know if your dishwasher is clogged

A dishwasher can get blocked at any point from the dishwasher drain hose to the sink drain. Sometimes it can be the pump inside the dishwasher that is failing.

It's tempting to call an engineer out immediately, but before you do that, it might actually be easy to solve yourself.

Here are the telltale signs your dishwasher drain is blocked:

  1. The dishwasher is making a gurgling noise.
  2. There is water flowing from the sink drain.
  3. Your dishes are not getting cleaned properly.
  4. There is water in the bottom of the dishwasher that will not drain away.

How to unclog a dishwasher with baking soda and vinegar in 6 steps

Baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda) and vinegar are both fantastic cleaners in their own right. But when combined, they are even more powerful.

Things you will need

baking soda and vinegar

Step 1 - Remove the filter

dishwasher filter

Firstly, remove the bottom filter.

Often, you only need to turn it a few times, and it will come out. In some cases, you might need a screwdriver to get it out.

Step 2 - Unclog the drain

Next we need to unclog the drain, and you can do this with baking soda and vinegar.

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain.
  2. Follow with 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar.
  3. Let it sit for at least fifteen minutes.
  4. Then pour down some boiling water.

If the above steps do not work, you may have a clog further up the pipe.

Dishwasher drains are often plumbed into the sink drain. If the sink isn't draining either, try a sink plunger to loosen the clog, and you may find they both start draining again.

Another thing to check is the dishwasher pump. If it is consistently not draining, you may need it replaced. In that case, it is best to call out an engineer.

Step 3 - Wash the filter

filter in the washing up water

This is a great time to wash the filter. Fill your sink with some warm soapy water and give it a good clean.

Step 4 - Clean the inside of the dishwasher

Wipe the inside of the dishwasher with a damp microfiber cloth, removing any stuck-on food.

You don't need the inside to look perfectly clean at this stage. The next step will do that. You just need all the stuck-on food scrubbed off.

Step 5 - Run an empty cycle with vinegar

cup of vinegar in the top rack

If you have taken out the racks and the cutlery basket, put them back in, so you can give them a good clean.

Add a cup of vinegar to the top rack.

Vinegar is perfect for breaking down greasy food deposit and removing odors.

Now run your hottest washing cycle.

Step 6 - Run a second short cycle with baking soda

baking soda in sprinkled in the bottom rack

Sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher.

Run a second cycle. This time, select the shortest cycle.

Other ways to unclog your dishwasher

If you are all out of vinegar and baking soda, don't worry because there are other options, including making use of that old bottle of coke that went flat!

Here's how to unclog a dishwasher without baking soda:


Like vinegar, cola has high acidity, so it can break down clogs just as well as vinegar can.

If you have some lying around. Perhaps you had opened a bottle, and it's gone flat? This is the perfect use for it!

Here's how to use coke to unclog a dishwasher:

  1. Pour a large two-litre bottle of coke directly down the dishwasher drain.
  2. Let it sit for a couple of hours.
  3. Follow by pouring in some boiling water.

Preparatory dishwasher cleaner

There are several dishwasher cleaning products available. Here are some that are top-rated on Amazon. They are simple to use, just pop them in an empty dishwasher and run a hot cycle.

How to prevent your dishwasher from getting clogged

Now you know how to unclog your dishwasher, let's stop it from happening again!

Here are some tips to help prevent your dishwasher from clogging and becoming smelly going forward.

  1. Always rinse food from dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.
  2. Run a monthly cleaning cycle with a cup of vinegar, followed by a second cycle using baking powder.
  3. Regularly remove and rinse the bottom drain filter.
  4. Keep the door ajar to prevent it from smelling.

Frequently asked questions

Can you use a plunger on a dishwasher?

The dishwasher drain is often connected to the sink drain. If your sink is blocked, use the plunger to unclog the drain from there.

You could also try using a plunger in the dishwasher directly, but it is often hard to get a good seal. If the plunger does not seal around the drain hole, it will not be effective. You may need to buy a bigger plunger for this.

Can you use Drano in a dishwasher?

It is not safe to use Drano in your dishwasher. Drano is too strong and could damage the pipes inside.

Can I run my dishwasher with baking soda?

If you have run out of dishwasher tablets, you can run your dishwasher with baking soda and a couple of drops of ordinary dish soap. It's actually a pretty effective alternative.

Don't add more than a couple of drops of dish soap. Otherwise, there will be too much foam and your dishes won't get clean.

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Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys and one dog, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.