How to Clean a Dishwasher With Citric Acid

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The dishwasher can benefit greatly from a good douse of a citrus-based cleaner.
Image Credit: Kentaroo Tryman/Maskot/GettyImages

Efficient and environmentally friendly, citrus-based cleaning products are ideal for taking down jet-clogging debris and hard water deposits. The dishwasher can benefit greatly from a good douse of a citrus-based cleaner.


Whether you create a homemade mix of a citrus-based cleaner, buy organic citric acid to clean with or use a commercial citrus-based cleaner, citric acid in a dishwasher can offer up wonderous results for cloudy dishes or a dull finish on silverware.

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Citric Acid for Cleaning

The reason that citric acid does so well in cleaning is due to the d-limonene. This natural solvent cuts through grime and grease. It has the added benefit of making the house smell fresh and clean.


The d-limonene is in the terpene family that includes pine oils. Generally, the terpene family of cleaners are not harmful to metals, polymers and most plastics. They don't cause rusting, etching, pitting or staining on most porous materials and can dissolve most heavy petroleum-based greases in less than it takes to bake a pie.

Where to Find Citric Acid

It's not hard to locate packets of citric acid. In a pinch, a packet of lemonade or citrus-based powder for drinking can work well in cleaning out the jets and filters located on the inside of the dishwasher.


Bottles and individual packets of citric acid crystals can be purchased online, in grocery stores or home improvement stores. They are safe to handle, but it isn't a bad idea to use a pair of gloves and a breathing mask if you have respiratory issues. The crystals can cause a puff of tiny particles when poured into the detergent cup and cause some respiratory distress.

Cleaning the Dishwasher with Citric Acid

Many appliance manuals recommend using the natural cleaner to maintain the dishwasher's optimal performance. For instance, the GE dishwasher cleaning guidelines recommend filling the detergent cup with 3 to 4 ounces of citric acid. Close the cup and run the dishwasher.


It's preferable to run the dishwasher with the citric acid when it is empty of all kitchen cookware, utensils or other items. This can also be done with plain glasses, plates or other items placed in the appliance, as long as they have no patterns or etchings that can be disturbed by the citric acid.


Don't place metal or soft plastic items in the dishwasher when running it with the citric acid. They can get pitted or etched by the citric acid crystals flying around the tub of the dishwasher.


Citrus Cleaner for Maintenance

For a dishwasher that is creating a cloudy film on clear glasses after every wash, a citric acid dishwasher cleaner can significantly reduce the problem.

Once a week, use a citrus-based cleaning tab placed in the bottom of the dishwasher. Run the appliance empty to clean out the jets and filters.


Fill a spray bottle with 1 part water, 1 part lemon juice and 1 part white vinegar and spray down the inside of the tub, paying close attention to the base, water arms and filters. This will keep for a week. Use it daily paired with weekly cleaning to keep the dishwasher functioning well.

Cleaning Garbage Disposal with Citrus

If you have a garbage disposal, then you need to run it until it sounds clear before you run the dishwasher each and every time.


A thin slice of lemon can clean the blades and base of the garbage disposal. Run hot water, if you are not in a drought area, for one minute through the sink to flush out food particles in the sink and connecting lines before running the dishwasher.



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