Can You Put Bleach in a Dishwasher?

We’re so into our regular hypochlorite bleach due to its Anti-bacterial property which makes it a useful ingredient for disinfecting surfaces. Chemists call it a bactericide!

At the same time however, we’re very much on the qui vive concerning its causticity and harshness, which is why we’re super concerned about putting it inside the very appliance that do the dishes for us!

But don’t worry, because there’s something very interesting you should hear.

Bleach is safe to put inside any dishwasher having a plastic finish on the inside or one that is labelled as “bleach-safe” by the manufacturer. 

Outside this bracket however, include dishwashers having a stainless steel finish on the inside or a hybrid of plastic and stainless steel finish.

Bleach; the chlorine based ones, when applied to stainless steel finishes will typically react with the steel and corrode it, and a warning from the owner’s manual can be a huge sign for a possible health risk! So stay away from using bleach if you fall under any of the two groups.

When not to put bleach in your dishwasher?

The common household bleach plus stainless steel equals aggressive reaction. Yes, these two never get along when brought in contact with one another all thanks to a certain compound in the bleach which are very much familiar with (especially during summer) – salt, a.k.a Sodium chloride.

Read Also: Can you put sponge in the dishwasher? 

When bleach is used for whatever disinfecting purpose it’s wanted for, some of it degrades into salt, which from common knowledge we know is very corrosive when applied on steel materials (including stainless steel).

The main reason for such “aggression” is the chlorine ions present in the salt which penetrate through the protective coating of the stainless steel and then cause it to corrode with time.

That’s why it’s never recommended to use regular household bleach in a stainless steel dishwasher. You’ll be doing a great damage to it and also your warranty!

As for plastic tub dishwashers, these normally fare well under bleach application, and thus can withstand having it in them.

What does bleach do in a dishwasher?

The primary purpose of bleach in a dishwasher is to disinfect and sanitize its interior, not to clean or get rid of grime or gunk. That’s why its use is always preceded by white vinegar and baking soda treatments.

These normally do the work of cutting though grimes and releasing them from the interior of the washer. They also help with mineral deposits from hard water, and also with bad smell that have built up with time, especially due to gunk accumulation in the filter.

Bleach naturally has a broad spectrum bactericidal property, and that’s why it’s able to kill bacteria thus serving as a sanitizer and a disinfectant.

How to disinfect a dishwasher with bleach

We’ll have to go over the entire cleaning process of a dishwasher to be able to know how and when to use bleach. So first, it’s white vinegar application.

Before that, you first need to remove all foreign materials from the dishwasher and do a quick rough cleaning which removes any big particles and residues hanging on the walls and around the drain area (including inside the filter). This is also a good time to unclog the pores of the spraying arm to ensure they’re squirting out water effortlessly.

Next, you want to place a small heat-safe bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher and then run a complete wash cycle on a hot setting, preferably, the hottest. This allows the vinegar to do its job of disinfecting, cleaning, unclogging, dissolution of mineral deposits, and removal of grime and gunk.

Next, it’s baking soda’s time. You want to sprinkle a decent amount or (1 cup) of baking soda on the bottom of the washer and run a short hot water cycle. This adds spark to the cleaning as it eliminates odor and also helps with the removal of gunk.

Afterwards is bleach time.

This will serve the purpose of disinfecting the washer and removing mildew or mold growth.

To use bleach, follow the steps below.

  1. Fill a dishwasher and bleach safe bowl with ½ or one cup of bleach.
  2. Place at the top rack of the dishwasher.
  3. Run the machine on the hottest setting.


Add half or one cup of bleach to the bottom of the dishwasher and run a full wash cycle. That should do the trick. If for some reason, you aren’t able to use bleach because you fall into any of the categories mentioned above, feel free to repeat the baking soda and vinegar steps until you arrive at a squeaky clean machine.

Frequently Asked Question

How much bleach do I use to clean my dishwasher?

Use half or a full cup of bleach at the bottom of the dishwasher or in a dishwasher, bleach safe bowl placed at the top rack.

How do I clean my dishwasher with bleach and baking soda?

Sprinkle one cup of baking soda at the bottom of the dishwasher after removing larger buildups, and then run a short hot water cycle. Next, pour one cup of bleach at the bottom of the dishwasher and then run a full cycle on the hottest setting.

Why is my dishwasher smelly?

Your dishwasher may be smelly because you have particle build up in the nooks and crannies of the machine such as drain area, filter and other corners inside the machine. These build up end up decomposing to emit a foul stench that makes you want to migrate the dishwasher far away from the kitchen. Thankfully, you can get rid of the smell by following the two techniques outlined in the referenced article.

Final Verdict

Bleach is safe to put inside a dishwasher so long the interior isn’t coated with stainless steel or has delicate parts coated with such material. Such material corrode easily under the application of bleach and that isn’t going to be covered in your warranty.

While bleach can cause corrosion in stainless steel tubs, plastic based ones often fare well under its application, and then, bleach does a great job at disinfecting the interior to get rid of mildew and mold growth.

To use bleach in a bleach safe dishwasher, pour one cup of bleach at the bottom of the washer and run a full cycle at the hottest setting. Alternatively, pour one cup of bleach in a dishwasher safe bowl and run a full cycle at the hottest setting.