Nowadays, dishwashers are a common sight in households as people use them to quickly and efficiently wash their dishes. And while some people still wash their dishes the old-fashioned way, it’s hard to deny that dishwashers are much more convenient. Equipped with racks similar to those used to dry and hold dishes, dishwashers can handle all sorts of kitchen utensils and dishes. However, what happens if your dishwasher rack begins to rust? Do you try to save it or simply purchase a new one?

Why Is My Dishwasher Rack Rusting?

Generally speaking, rusting occurs when the coating which protects the dishwasher rack starts to fade. That onto itself can happen for a variety of reasons, but it’s usually related to aging or mishandling the washing cycles:

  • Heating Cycle: If the heating cycle is too hot, the vinyl covers from the stands will melt and damage the dish rack’s coating. Not only that, but the melting vinyl may also damage the dishwasher itself.
  • Trauma: Dropping dishes into the rack and overloading it can slowly chip the vinyl coating away. As a matter of fact, sharp utensils such as knives and forks can also damage the coating if not placed properly.
  • Aging: As a result of intense usage, the coating of low-quality racks will begin to crack and fall. That process happens over time and becomes more noticeable after a few years of usage.

What About Metal Dishwasher Racks?

But what happens if your rack has no vinyl coating and is made out of stainless steel? In that case, if your rack has no coating to protect it, rust can appear due to a few reasons:

  • Water Pipes: The dishwasher’s water pipes are made out of copper, metal, and brass, meaning that they are prone to rust. And if that happens, there’s a strong chance that your rack will also rust when coming in contact with the pipes.
  • Forgetting Cutlery: Most metal cutlery such as knives and forks are prone to rust, especially if they are old. Forgetting them in the rack after a washing cycle is dangerous as rust can spread to the rack itself. 
  • Iron-Rich Water: In some areas, the local water supply contains iron oxide, which accumulates in the machine during each washing cycle. The iron oxide will stick to metal parts such as racks and pipes and cause them to rust.

Is Rust on My Dishwasher Racks Dangerous?

If rust starts forming inside your dishwasher, it usually sticks to the rack and other metal utensils. And while it can also end up in your dishes, the amount of rust is undetectable and harmless.

However, if you notice large amounts of rust on your dishes, you need to avoid eating from them. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting skin rashes due to bacterial infections caused by rust. As a rule of thumb, you should rinse your dishes before eating from them, even if you washed them in the dishwasher recently.

Can I Use My Dishwasher if It Has Rust?

Depending on how much rust you have in your dishwasher, you could still use it for a few more years. Yet, it’s important to understand that rusty pipes will eventually break and could cause flooding. Even worse, if water touches any electrical components of the dishwasher, it may cause a shorting and leave you without electricity or worse.

Therefore, we recommend that you clean your dishwasher and its racks as much as you can in order to prevent rust. You could also call a specialist to check your dishwasher and help clean it. And if that’s not possible, you should buy a new appliance as soon as you can.

Ways to Get Rust Off a Dishwasher Rack

If you are dealing with rust on your dishwasher rack, you can relax as there are a variety of ways to get rid of it. From professional compounds to DIY solutions, the following will help you clean your dish racks in no time.

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is a compound famous among plumbers as they use it to remove rust from pipes. As a result, you can use oxalic acid to clean stainless-steel dishwasher racks that have started to rust. And while it’s available in both liquid and powder form, the latter is more efficient.

All you have to do is to sprinkle it all over the rack and then give it a scrub until rust starts to break. But if you decide to buy it in liquid form, you can pour some oxalic acid into a towel and use it to clean the rusty area. And don’t forget to rinse the rack after you manage to remove the rust.

Rust Remover Spray

Although oxalic acid should do the job just fine, you can also opt for rust remover sprays that work similarly. Just apply it to the rusted area, let it soak for a few minutes and then give it a scrub. Repeat the procedure until all rust is gone, and rinse the rack to remove any traces of chemical residue. However, be careful what rust remover spray you buy, as some of them are corrosive and can damage the rack.

Baking Soda

There’s almost no DIY cleaning tutorial that doesn’t mention baking soda, and for a good reason. Baking soda is a powerful chemical that, when mixed with water, has the power to dissolve rust. Simply fill the sink with water, add a little amount of baking soda, and then soak the dish rack in it for up to 20 minutes. After that, remove the rack and rinse it thoroughly before letting it dry.


Vinegar is similar to baking soda, but it has the added benefit of also preventing rust for a few days after using it. So, how does it work? You need to fill the sink with water and then add a cup of vinegar or, you can simply pour vinegar directly onto the rusted parts of the rack. Afterward, scrub the rack using a sponge or a brush, and the rust should disappear with ease. Give it another scrub using plain water, and your dishwasher rack should be as good as new.

Lemon Juice Mix

If none of the above work, then you need to bring in the big guns. Start off by mixing an equal amount of baking soda and vinegar until you make a paste. Then, cover the rust using the paste and leave it there for about 30 minutes. Once that’s done, scrub the area hard enough to dislodge rust but not too hard as you could damage the rack. You can use a 3-in-1 Cleaner Brush to avoid doing any additional damage to your rack. Repeat the procedure until you remove all the rust, and don’t forget to give the rack a rinse before using it.

The Bottom Line

Overall, there’s no denying that dishwasher racks can quickly get dirty and rusty, for a variety of reasons. From intense usage to contaminated water, it’s hard to prevent rust from taking over our favorite kitchenware. However, it’s important to remember that rust can end up in our food which may cause a few health issues. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to clean and remove any traces of rust from the dishwasher and its racks.

Luckily, it doesn’t matter how rusty or dirty the dish rack is, as there are a lot of ways to take care of that. And if somehow everything fails to work, we can always buy a better and more reliable replacement.

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