By Kate Doherty
You’re thinking why clean the dishwasher – it cleans itself, right? Not so. Each time you add dishes that contain minute food particles in a moist, hot environment, you have the perfect breeding ground for fungi, bacteria, and microorganisms. According to a January 2018 microorganism study in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, the culprits that promote mold, viruses, and infections may be living in your dishwasher.
Yuck. There’s slimy funk in my dishwasher!
The COVID-19 pandemic kept many RVers from traveling last summer and beyond. But what’s that got to do with fungi, mold, mildew or bacteria in a dishwasher? Your RV dishwasher needs sanitizing every now and then, especially if it has sat idle through a warm climate. Fungi, bacteria and mold cause a host of irritants to our sinuses, lungs and skin.
Another offender to funky odor is standing water in the filter and around the rubber seal. The quality of water you’re pumping into your RV may also contain microorganisms that stimulate fungal proliferation. If your water smells like rotten eggs, it likely contains sulfur bacteria.
Avoid an ecosystem
Knowing food particles eventually create an unwanted ecosystem, I diligently remove the preponderance of food and rinse dishes prior to placing them in the dishwasher. After reading more studies, I decided to inspect our dishwasher and sanitize it. Looking into dishwasher cleaning agents, I didn’t want to add chemicals into our gray tank, so decided to sanitize it naturally with ingredients already in our coach – distilled vinegar and baking soda.
Five easy steps to clean and sanitize your dishwasher
We all know that bacteria and fungi cause mold. RVs and mold do not mix! Here are five easy steps to clean and sanitize a dishwasher:
1. First, dip a clean sponge in vinegar and warm water and wipe around the rubber seal, checking for mold. Then, wipe the seal again with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any excess vinegar and dry the seal.
2. Remove the racks and pull out the filter. The filter on mine looked slimy, so I scrubbed it with a toothbrush in hot soapy water. Using paper towels, I soaked up the remaining water from the filter well. Even if your filter doesn’t look slimy, don’t skip this step.
3. Next, fill a 1-cup measuring cup with distilled white vinegar and place it in the middle of the rack and run the dishwasher on the hottest cycle. Hint: Turn the hot water faucet on before starting the dishwasher so hot water is in the pipeline.
4. After the cycle stops and the dishwasher has cooled, sprinkle ¾ to 1 cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher. Run the cycle once again, short duration, warm/hot temperature. If the spray arm remains obstructed, soak it in water and scrub the holes with a toothbrush to remove excess soap.
5. After this cycle has stopped and the dishwasher has cooled, wipe the bottom of the dishwasher. It should be shiny, sanitized and smelling fresh.
When reassembling the dishwasher after you clean and sanitize it, make sure the spray arm twirls easily. Replace the filter, rack and silverware holder. If you have serious mold, you can also dilute bleach and wipe the rubber seal. However, vinegar is a natural bactericidal which inhibits growth and kills some food-borne pathogenic bacteria. If you sanitize your dishwasher monthly, the components should last longer, and you avoid funky odor and an ecosystem.