How to Clean Soap Scum from Dishwasher

Soap scum can be a common and frustrating issue in your dishwasher. Over time, a build-up of soap residue, minerals, and food particles can accumulate on the interior surfaces, affecting the dishwasher’s efficiency and cleanliness. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to effectively clean soap scum from your dishwasher, ensuring it functions at its best.

Understanding Soap Scum

What is Soap Scum?

Soap scum is a stubborn residue that forms when soap combines with hard water minerals and food debris. It typically appears as a white, chalky film on the interior of your dishwasher.

Why is Soap Scum a Problem?

Soap scum can lead to several issues in your dishwasher:

  • Reduced cleaning performance
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Clogged spray arms and nozzles
  • Soap scum deposits on dishes

Materials Needed

Before we dive into the cleaning process, gather the following materials:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Old toothbrush
  • Dishwasher-safe bowl

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Follow these steps to effectively clean soap scum from your dishwasher:

Step 1: Empty the Dishwasher

Ensure your dishwasher is completely empty before starting the cleaning process. Remove all dishes, racks, and utensil holders.

Step 2: Wipe Down Interior Surfaces

Using a soft cloth or sponge, dampen it with white vinegar and start wiping down the interior surfaces of the dishwasher. Pay special attention to areas with visible soap scum deposits.

Step 3: Remove and Clean Spray Arms

Gently remove the dishwasher’s spray arms. Inspect them for any clogs or soap scum buildup. Use an old toothbrush to scrub away any residue.

Step 4: Run a Vinegar Cycle

Place a dishwasher-safe bowl filled with white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle without any dishes. The vinegar will help dissolve soap scum and mineral deposits.

Step 5: Baking Soda Scrub

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the dishwasher’s bottom surface. Baking soda is a natural abrasive that helps remove tough stains. Allow it to sit for about 20 minutes, then scrub gently with a damp cloth or sponge.

Step 6: Final Rinse

After scrubbing with baking soda, run another hot water cycle in the dishwasher to rinse away any remaining residue and baking soda.

Maintenance Tips

To prevent future soap scum buildup, consider these tips:

  • Use a high-quality dishwasher detergent.
  • Regularly clean and inspect the spray arms.
  • Keep the dishwasher filter clean.
  • Run a vinegar rinse cycle every few months.


A clean dishwasher not only ensures better cleaning results but also extends the appliance’s lifespan. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively remove soap scum from your dishwasher and keep it running smoothly for years to come.


1. Can I use any type of vinegar for cleaning my dishwasher?

Yes, you can use white vinegar or distilled vinegar for cleaning your dishwasher effectively.

2. How often should I clean my dishwasher to prevent soap scum buildup?

Cleaning your dishwasher every 1-2 months is a good practice to prevent soap scum buildup.

3. Is it necessary to remove the spray arms for cleaning?

While it’s not always necessary, removing and cleaning the spray arms can help ensure better cleaning performance.

4. Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

It’s not recommended to use bleach as it can damage the rubber seals and other components of your dishwasher.

5. Will cleaning soap scum from my dishwasher improve its energy efficiency?

Yes, a clean dishwasher is more energy-efficient as it can operate without clogs and buildup, allowing for better water circulation and cleaning performance.

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