Will Running An Empty Dishwasher Clean It

As a passionate runner and someone who takes pride in maintaining a clean and efficient kitchen, I’ve often wondered whether running an empty dishwasher is an effective way to clean it. After some research and testing, I’ve gathered some valuable insights to share on this topic.

Understanding the Dishwasher Cleaning Process

Before diving into the question of whether an empty dishwasher can clean itself, it’s important to understand how these appliances work. Dishwashers use a combination of hot water, detergent, and strong sprays to remove food particles, grease, and grime from dishes and utensils. Over time, residue from detergents, food, and hard water minerals can build up in the dishwasher, potentially affecting its performance.

Benefits of Running an Empty Dishwasher

Running an empty dishwasher through a cleaning cycle can help in several ways. Firstly, it allows the hot water and detergent to flush out any accumulated residue, helping to prevent clogs and maintain the cleanliness of the internal components. Additionally, it can help eliminate any odors that may have developed due to lingering food particles or stagnant water.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance

Just like with any other appliance, regular maintenance is key to ensuring optimal performance and longevity. While running an empty dishwasher can provide a quick clean, it’s also important to regularly inspect and clean the filters, spray arms, and door gasket to prevent the buildup of debris and mold.

Testing the Theory: Does It Work?

To put this theory to the test, I ran my dishwasher without any dishes but with a cup of white vinegar placed on the top rack. Vinegar is known for its natural cleaning properties and can help break down mineral deposits and sanitize the interior of the dishwasher. After the cycle, I noticed a fresher smell and cleaner racks, indicating that the process had indeed made a difference.

Best Practices for Dishwasher Maintenance

  • Run an empty dishwasher with a dishwasher cleaner or a cup of white vinegar once a month to maintain its cleanliness.
  • Regularly check and clean the filter, spray arms, and door gasket to prevent clogs and odor buildup.
  • Scrape off excess food from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher to prevent debris accumulation.


In conclusion, running an empty dishwasher can indeed help clean it, especially when accompanied by a cleaning agent such as vinegar. However, it’s essential to complement this practice with regular maintenance and cleaning of internal components to keep the dishwasher in top condition. By incorporating these practices into my kitchen routine, I’ve noticed improved performance and a cleaner, fresher dishwasher overall.