dish drainer rack

How to Clean a Dish Drying Rack

Dish racks often bring about a love-hate feeling.

We love them because they keep our dishes upright and allow them to dry quickly with minimal spotting.

However, they collect water in the trays and require frequent cleanings to keep away mildew and slime from developing underneath.

There are many varieties of dish racks available: wood, plastic, vinyl-covered, and even metal.

Each type has its own pros and cons.

Though one thing is for sure, no matter what material your dish rack is made from, it will require periodic cleanings to keep it mold and mildew free.

Regular Cleaning

Dish racks can get dirty from the grease in the kitchen air, regular household dust, and just by being located in a busy area of the kitchen. Some food particles that may have been missed during cleaning can also get onto the rack, so it is a good idea to give it a cleaning regularly to ensure it is ready to hold your clean dishes.

You Will Need

  • Dish Liquid
  • A Sink
  • A scrub brush
  • White vinegar (optional)
  • A clean towel

Steps to clean the dish rack

  1. Take the rack apart as much as possible. Sometimes the tray can be removed from the rack or the silverware container can detach.
  2. Wash each piece separately in the sink with some dish liquid. Be sure to fully scrub every part. A scrub brush can help to get into all of the grooves.
  3. Rinse the dish rack well.
  4. For extra cleaning, fill one side of the sink with enough water to cover the dish rack parts and add one cup of white vinegar.
  5. Submerge the rack in the water to rinse it off.
  6. Wipe the rack dry with a clean kitchen towel. Do not use a kitchen towel that has previously been used. It is also best to avoid using paper towels as they many deposit lint onto the rack. Do not allow the rack to air dry as moisture can get caught underneath it and may lead to mildew.

Removing Mildew

You Will Need

  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Sink or tub
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Old toothbrush

Steps to clean the dish rack

  1. The most effective way to disinfect and remove mildew is with bleach.
  2. Start by filling a sink, bucket, or tub with water. It needs to be large enough to fit the rack inside and submerge it in the water.
  3. Add ¼ cup of bleach for each gallon of water.
  4. Place the drying rack in the bleach/water mixture and allow it to soak for at least 20 minutes. If the mildew is severe, allow some extra soaking time.
  5. After the rack has soaked, use the soft cloth or sponge to gently wipe away any remaining mildew or slime. Clean each bar on the rack to ensure all of the mildew is removed or it will quickly return.
  6. An old toothbrush works well to get in all of the corners and tight spaces.
  7. When the rack is completely cleaned. rinse it thoroughly with clean water.
  8. Allow it to dry completely before use.

Removing Limescale

Hard water can lead to a white hazy residue known a limescale or mineral deposits. To remove this residue, use the guide How to Remove Buildup from a Dish Drainer.

Removing Rust

If your rack is stainless steel and it begins to rust, use Bar Keeper’s Friend or another oxalic acid cleaner to clean it. Bar Keeper’s Friend can be purchased at most major supermarkets and is a good choice for an item that will be use on something coming in contact with your dishes. It is available in either a powder or liquid version. The powder version is a better choice as it can help with scrubbing, but either version can work well. To use it, simply sprinkle the powder or pour some liquid onto a damp cloth or damp scrub brush and scrub off the rust. Rinse the area thoroughly when finished.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If mold/mildew is a problem for your dish rack, clean it weekly using the method for Removing Mildew above to avoid having the mold return.
  • If you place a towel under your drying rack, replace it daily at a minimum to prevent mold. It is best to hang it after each use so it can dry completely.
  • If your dish rack does not have a tray, put a cookie sheet under it to catch drips. The cookie sheet will dry much faster than a towel and prevent mildew.
  • If there is excess water remaining in the tray after the dishes are dry, put the dishes away and them dump out or towel dry the tray to prevent mildew.
  • When it is time to retire your dish rack, consider using it in a cabinet to organize serving trays, lids for pots and pans, or other items that could be racked instead of stacked.
  • Dish rack taking up too much room on your counter? If you have a cabinet over your sink (or can install one), cut out the bottom of it and install the dish rack inside. The dishes will be able to drip into the sink and there will be more counterspace available.


  • Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook by Martha Stewart
  • Household Hints for Dummies by Janet Sobesky
  • 10,001 Hints & Tips for the Home by Reader’s Digest

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