Yes, You Need to Clean Your Dish Rack 

Your dish rack cleans itself, right? Wrong. 

Published Nov. 12, 2022.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a professional equipment tester is that people often don’t think about cleaning their cleaning tools

My teammates and I are trained to look for sponges, scrub brushes, and mops that clean better than any other products on the market, but are also easy to clean and maintain in and of themselves. 

One oft-neglected cleaning essential: the dish rack

“But all I do is add clean dishes to my dish rack,” you might think. “The soapy water drips down and cleans the dish rack as it sits there! It cleans itself!” 

Alas, if only it were so. Slightly soapy dish runoff isn’t enough to keep germs and other baddies at bay. Dish racks are notorious for harboring excess moisture, ensuring a perfect environment for mold, mildew, bacteria, hard water stains, and yes, insects.

Here are five tips for keeping your dish rack fresh and clean. 

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1. Choose the Right Dish Rack in the First Place 

A good dish rack is easy to use, makes efficient use of space, and—most importantly—actually drains water. 

I have our winner from SimpleHuman and love it. It has an additional rack for stemmed wine glasses and a swiveling spout that collects and pours water into the sink. It’s also spacious, easy to assemble and disassemble, and ingeniously designed so that water won’t sit in it for long. 

But even the best-designed dish racks need regular cleaning and upkeep, so keep reading!

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2. Run It Through the Dishwasher

If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher in addition to your dish rack, that’s your best bet for a regular, reliable clean. Some dish racks are completely dishwasher-safe, but most have at least a few parts that aren’t. Take your rack apart, sort the safe and non-safe parts, and run them through. The top shelf is generally your best bet for plastic parts. 

3. Get Scrubbing

If your dish rack isn’t dishwasher safe or it has some components that aren’t, here’s the part where I tell you to wash and scrub it all with warm, soapy water about once a week. No, that measly soapy runoff from regular cleanings isn’t enough. Active and intentional scrubbing removes stains, mold, and bacteria far more effectively. Rinse with hot water and set aside. 

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4. Make Sure It’s Completely Dry

Accumulated standing water is your enemy. Use a high quality, absorbent dish towel (and make sure that towel is clean!) to get your dish rack completely dry, regardless of whether you washed it by hand or in the dishwasher. You could even let it sit upside down after the towel dry to completely and thoroughly drain and air dry. 

5. Give It a Deeper Clean if Needed

Mildew and mold should be eliminated by hot water, soap, and lots of scrubbing. But what about stubborn hard water or limescale stains? Your best bet is probably white distilled vinegar, which is what I use to descale ice makers

Take a few minutes each week to maintain your dish rack and you’ll have sparkling, actually clean dishes every day!

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