Cleaning the Things That Clean

by Tricia Goss
How to Clean The Things That Clean photo

How clean are your appliances that are used to clean? Take these simple steps to clean and prolong the life of appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and garbage disposals with little to no effort.

Cleaning products that clean your cleaning appliances?

You may have seen them while browsing the aisles at the grocery or discount store. Perhaps, as you were clipping coupons, you may have noticed them.

On the other hand, you may not have even heard of them yet. There is always some new product on the market that promises to clean up your dishwasher, washing machine and garbage disposal with little or no effort on your part.

Cleaning appliances helps to maintain them and prevents buildup from assailing your otherwise fresh, sanitary home. While these products may not seem terribly expensive, if you purchase them month after month, the costs can add up.

Fortunately, you can clean these machines quite simply, effectively, and affordably using products you probably have on hand.


Your dishwasher removes all sorts of food from your plates, pans and pots. Bits of that food, along with grease, soap scum, and minerals from your water, can make for a smelly dishwasher that doesn’t clean as well as it should.

The first step to cleaning your dishwasher is to remove the bottom rack. Dip a small brush in hot, soapy water (a toothbrush works great) and scrub around the dishwasher door, cleaning the grooves in the seal that closes it. Scour any visible food or grease particles as well, using scouring gel or powder if necessary. Scoop out any bits and pieces caught in the dishwasher drain. Wipe away any soap or scouring cleaner with a damp sponge or dishcloth.

With the bottom rack still removed, sprinkle a cup of baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher. Set a bowl upright on the top rack and fill it with a cup of white vinegar. Close the dishwasher door carefully and run it on the hottest, shortest setting. When it is finished, your dishwasher will be fresh and sparkling clean.

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Washing Machine

When you consider the dirt and grime that your washing machine rinses away, you will probably agree that it deserves a nice cleanup now and then.

Turn your machine on to the largest and hottest setting you have. Add two cups of white vinegar and one cup of Borax or baking soda to the water as it fills. If you use a liquid fabric-dispensing ball, fill it with a bit of vinegar and toss it into the water to remove any buildup it has accumulated. Allow the machine to complete the cycle. When it is finished, your washer should smell loads better (no pun intended), and any built-up grunge and soap should be gone as well.

This is a good time to wipe away dust and dirt on the exterior of the machine. Pay special attention to built-in bleach, soap or softener dispensers and the gasket around the door, if you have a front-loading washer. Carefully move the machine away from the wall and vacuum or sweep behind it, as well.

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Garbage Disposal

While it isn’t exactly a cleaning appliance, your garbage disposal helps your sink and drains stay clean and warrants a little maintenance and TLC now and again, too. If you have a double sink, you can perform the first step on both drains.

Set a kettle or pot of water on to boil (two or three cups is sufficient). As the water heats up, pour a cup of baking soda into the drain. Pour a cup of white vinegar directly onto the baking soda and place your sink stopper into the drain. The mixture will fizz and bubble, pushing buildup away and neutralizing any funky odors lingering there. Follow up by pouring boiling water down the drain to rinse away even more gunk.

Next, toss a few ice cubes down into the garbage disposal and turn it on. This removes grease and grime from the blades. Slice up a citrus fruit, such as a lemon, lime or orange, and toss the chunks into the disposal. Turn it on and let it chew up the wedges. The citric acid acts as a natural degreaser and the fragrance will leave your drain smelling wonderfully clean.

Make a habit of cleaning appliances once a month. The more regularly you do so, the less scrubbing and toiling you will have to do. Your appliances will work, look, and smell better, too!

Reviewed February 2024

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