How to Sterilize in a Dishwasher

Clean and sterile don't necessarily do the same thing. Sterilizing things cleans and kills living microorganisms on surfaces. Although clean dishes are good enough for most adults, babies with delicate immune systems need sterilized bottles to ensure that they don't get sick. In order for your dishwasher to sterilize things adequately, the dishwasher itself needs to be clean. Actually sterilizing things in the dishwasher is rather simple and doesn't require any special equipment.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Run the dishwasher on high temperatures to sterilize baby bottles.
  1. Ensure that your dishwasher is clean. Remove any debris or scraps of food in the drainage basket and clear out any gunk and soap scum from around the gaskets and corners of the machine with a damp towel or sponge.

  2. Remove built-up debris with a toothbrush or small scrub brush and a paste made from 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water.

  3. Place a cup filled with white vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher.

  4. Run the empty dishwasher --- except for the vinegar-filled cup -- on the hottest cycle. As the dishwasher runs, the vinegar will overflow and clean the dishwasher.

Sterilizing Dishes inside the Dishwasher

  1. Scrape or rinse excess food off the dishes and cutlery.

  2. Load the dishes evenly spaced. Dishes overloaded in the dishwasher can't get adequately cleaned.

  3. Add detergent to the dishwasher according to manufacturer's suggestions.

  4. Run the dishwasher on the hottest setting possible. According to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, dishwashers must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter in order to sanitize. Allow the dishwasher to dry with the door closed to increase the time the dishes are exposed to high temperatures.

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