Mold in Dishwasher: How to Clean And Stop It Coming Back

Your dishwasher is supposed to be clean, but you’ve noticed traces of mold lately. You want to kill the mold before it gets worse and prevent the fungi from coming back. How do you do that?

To kill mold in your dishwasher, you can use vinegar and baking soda with hot water. Prevent mold recurrences by allowing your dishwasher to dry after use, cleaning the filter, and sanitizing the gasket.

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about dishwasher mold so you can put an end to this troublesome problem once and for all.

dishwasher mold removal

Signs and Symptoms of a Moldy Dishwasher

Is it mold or is that simply gunk in your dishwasher?

If you can’t recall the last time you treated your dishwasher to a thorough cleaning, it might seem hard to tell the difference.

Not necessarily! You can discern between mold and other dishwasher substances in the following ways.

The Dishwasher Smells Especially Bad

Although the smell of unwashed food is anything but appealing, that odor is not at all close to the telltale musty smell of mold.

Thus, if you have mold in your dishwasher, you might be able to confirm it by smell alone.

The earthy, musty scent of mold, which is reminiscent to some of wet socks, is pretty hard to miss. That’s especially true if the fungi are propagating in your dishwasher.

Items in your dishwasher Feel “Slimy”

We’d recommend wearing gloves before touching the components of your dishwasher to check for mold, but even still, you should be able to feel the slimy residue in your dishwasher that’s indicative of mold.

The Discoloration Is Abnormal

You generally know what food residue looks like by now, even food residue that’s several days old.

Mold in your dishwasher can appear in a whole assortment of colors, including green, black, orange, white, and pink. That’s a clear giveaway that you have a serious problem with your dishwasher.

Why Does Mold Grow in Dishwashers?

You’ve never heard of mold growing in dishwashers before, which is why you felt so flabbergasted once you realized that’s what it was. What has caused the mold to spread here?

It’s simple. Mold grows best in dark, moist environments.

Your dishwasher checks off both those boxes, not to mention it has plenty of organic material in the form of the dirty utensils, plates, and cups you insert onto the racks.

Yet surely, once you blast all the dishes in the dishwasher with burning hot water, the mold can’t possibly survive, can it?

If that were true, you wouldn’t have a mold problem. The hot temperatures won’t deter mold, and even the detergent you use won’t do it.

If anything, the detergent can encourage the mold to live on, as it may contain salt that some types of mold will feed on.

How to Clean Mold from a Dishwasher

Running your dishwasher time and again won’t remove the mold that’s growing in there, so what will? All you need is some hot water, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar.

Here are the steps to follow to kill mold in your dishwasher with the above ingredients.

Step 1 – Empty Everything from Your Dishwasher, Including the Racks Themselves

Your dishwasher should not have any cups, plates, bowls, or utensils in it, dirty or clean. Take everything out and detach the racks too.

If the racks have gotten a little moldy, you can clean them by hand in the sink with dish soap and hot water.

Step 2 – Combine Distilled White Vinegar and Hot Water

Although you usually don’t dilute distilled white vinegar when killing mold, in your dishwasher, the mold removal process looks a little different.

This time, take a half-cup of distilled white vinegar and pour it into two cups of hot water. The water needn’t be burning hot, but it shouldn’t feel lukewarm either.

Transfer the ingredients to a spray bottle and mist all the moldy components of your dishwasher with the mixture.

With a sponge as well as a clean toothbrush (that you’ll throw away after use), reach all the crevices and corners of the dishwasher with the distilled white vinegar.

You especially want to focus on the dishwasher’s spinning arms as well as the components underneath.

Step 3 – Remove the Distilled White Vinegar Residue

Using a clean sponge separate from the one you cleaned with before, run it under your sink and clean all the components that you just went over with the distilled white vinegar. This will remove any remaining residue.

Step 4 – Put the Dishwasher Racks Back On

Take the newly cleaned dishwasher racks, dry them with a dish towel or a paper towel, and insert them into the dishwasher.

Step 5 – Run the Dishwasher with a Cup of Vinegar

Next, grab a dishwasher-safe cup or bowl and pour in two cups of vinegar.

Put the cup or bowl on the upper rack of the dishwasher and close the lid. Do not add any detergent.

Turn the dishwasher settings to the highest heat and then run the dishwasher.

Step 6 – Add Baking Soda to the Bottom of the Dishwasher

When your dishwasher is finished running, take out the cup of vinegar, dump it down the sink, and reach for the baking soda.

Use a cup of baking soda to cover the floor of the dishwasher.

At this point, the mold is dead thanks to the baking soda. However, spores might linger, and bad smells can too.

These are jobs for baking soda.

Using the same settings as before, run your dishwasher through a cycle. Once again, don’t use detergent.

When you open your dishwasher door, it will smell great and be free of mold as well.

How to Prevent Mold Buildup in a Dishwasher

The mold is gone but knowing what you do about the potential prevalence of mold in the dishwasher, you worry that it could return.

How do you keep mold gone? Try following these tips.

Regularly Clean with White Vinegar and Baking Soda

The above cleaning measures needn’t only be for when your dishwasher has an active case of mold. You can also combine water, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle to clean the dishwasher every now and again.

This time, after spritzing the entirety of the dishwasher, place a bowl or cup with two cups of vinegar in the top rack and cover the bottom rack with baking soda. Run the dishwasher without detergent on its highest heat setting.

Let Your Dishwasher Air-Dry

To vent out the heat and prevent the accumulation of humidity that mold loves, allow your dishwasher to dry out after you use it.

All you have to do is leave the door open for an hour or two after the latest rinse cycle concludes.

Keep the Dishwasher Filter Clean

Your dishwasher uses a filter that catches debris such as food particles.

If food is left to rot, which can happen if the filter needs a replacement, mold is likelier to spread.

At least every week, check the filter. If yours is replaceable, then clean it and put it back.

Clean the Rubber Gasket

The dishwasher door features a rubber gasket that can be quite the hotbed for bacteria and mold.

Mix water and distilled white vinegar to bust the bacteria here and kill any remaining mold.

Can Black Mold Grow in the Dishwasher? What About Orange or Pink Mold?

Black mold, which is also referred to as toxic black mold, can possibly grow in the dishwasher.

As we alluded to earlier, that’s not the only type of mold for you to beware of.

Orange and pink mold can also form, as can a residue of the same colors that aren’t mold at all.

This is a type of bacteria from the Serratia marcescens strain. This strain grows in a cell matrix that sticks well together and develops as a slime.

Besides your dishwasher, you might also see this orange or pink slime in your bathtub and toilet.

The above cleaning measures ought to do the trick for this slime but do be forewarned that it’s notoriously difficult to remove.

Can You Get Sick from a Moldy Dishwasher?

Although the source of mold is in your dishwasher, which you can close and obscure at any other time, that doesn’t mean you should ignore a lingering mold problem in this kitchen appliance.

The mold spores can spread, possibly leaving the dishwasher when you open it and traveling throughout the air.

Household members who have mold allergies or asthma will find that their symptoms are more severe, and not only in the kitchen, either.

Those with healthy lungs may eventually develop throat inflammation, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

Do what’s best for yourself and your family. Don’t ignore a moldy dishwasher.


Mold in a dishwasher limits your options for cleaning your dishes and poses a health risk to you and your family.

Although using bleach to clean a moldy dishwasher is tempting, bleach can damage the components of the dishwasher. Instead, you should trust distilled white vinegar and baking soda for a clean, mold-free, deodorized dishwasher.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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