Using vinegar or unsweetened lemonade are two of the best ways to clean a dishwasher to avoid using toxic chemicals, according to HowtoCleanStuff.net. Commercial-grade cleaners are available at building supply stores in some areas, but they must be handled and stored properly.
Before using vinegar, HowtoCleanStuff.net suggests scrubbing the interior of the dishwasher, including the door, with an old toothbrush and some soft abrasive cleaner to remove larger chunks of mineral deposits. After scrubbing and wiping the appliance clean with a sponge, one places a cup of white vinegar on the top rack, and runs the dishwasher on the hottest cycle so that the vinegar can wash away grime and sanitize the appliance. A packet of unsweetened lemonade placed in the soap cup also does the trick.