You can clean your dishwasher with vinegar. You can also use vinegar as a cleaning agent inside your dishwasher.
I actually do both at once. I add vinegar to each rinse cycle, because it prevents steaks and residue from clinging to my dishes. When I don’t use vinegar in the rinse cycle, my glasses come out looking spotty and unclean.
Because I use vinegar with each rinse, it helps keep the inside of my dishwasher clean. So, I’ve never had the need to run an empty dishwasher “clean” cycle. And, I don’t need to waste money on rinse agents, and expose my family to more chemicals.
If your dishwasher is already fill of residue, deposits, or buildup – run an empty load. When the machine is on, and you hear it starting to fill with water, open the door. Pour in a jug of white distilled vinegar, and close it again. Allow the machine to run for another minute or two. Then, turn the machine off, but don’t let it drain. You can do this by cracking the door, or switching the dishwasher off. After a few hours have passed, start the machine again. Let it run the full cycle. This should clean your dishwasher rather well. If you have hard water, the acidity in vinegar will help cut through mineral deposits.
With all that said, I have heard that vinegar can be detrimental to seals and hoses. It is, after all, an acid. I can say that I’ve been using vinegar in my dishwasher for years, and have never had a problem. Even though vinegar is a mild acid, the vinegar you add to your wash is diluted with gallons of water, hence weakening it. Also, since most detergents are very alkaline, the vinegar and detergent residue likely interact, hence weakening the acid in the vinegar.