How to clean a dishwasher

Cleaning your dishwasher might seem a little pointless at first, but if you don’t, it will start to smell and the load will not be cleaned. Even if you have one of the best dishwashers, maintenance-free, it will eventually stop working, leading to expensive repairs or a new machine.

If your dishwasher does not have an odor, it is always a good practice to clean it as you cannot see how much lime has built up in the pipes – a particular problem if you live in an area where the water is hard. So how do you clean a dishwasher? Here’s a complete guide to getting it smelling fresh, including how to unclog a dishwasher.

How to clean a dishwasher

How often should you clean your dishwasher? Well, a lot of it depends on how often you use it, but as a general rule, you should check the filter for any food residue or blockage after each cycle. Otherwise, the same foods will make the water dirty every time you wash it.

What you will need

Dishwasher cleaner OR distilled white vinegar

Baking soda

Microfiber cloth or sponge

Toothbrush

It is also advisable to clean the dishwasher once every one to two weeks. This involves removing and rinsing the filter, as well as cleaning the inner door as well.

Finally, you need to thoroughly clean the dishwasher once a month. Here are the steps to follow.

1. Empty the dishwasher, then completely remove the baskets to give you some space. Most lower baskets will simply slide out, but you may need to refer to your manual for the upper basket. If the floor spray arm can be removed, remove it as well. Set them aside for now.

2. Then you will need to clean the filter. First, remove any obvious food debris from the well. Then remove the filter; it is usually located in one of the rear corners of the machine floor. Most of them can simply be turned to unlock, but refer to your manual if necessary. Clean your filter under warm running water, using a toothbrush to scrub the mesh. This can be replaced immediately after cleaning. Make sure to lock it in place.

(Image credit: Avenir)

3. Then, using a microfiber cloth or a damp sponge, attack the interior door of the machine, being careful of any dirt traps on the edges or at the base of the door when it is fully open. The joints will also need to be scrubbed to remove any residue. Remember to try the commands again as well.

FAQ: Can you put bleach in a dishwasher?

It is worth mentioning that you should not use bleach to clean your dishwasher. This is because bleach erodes stainless steel, which most dishwashers use, so be careful not to use cleaners that contain hydrogen peroxide either. If you want to clean a stainless steel door, use a stainless steel cleaner instead and be sure to wipe in the direction of the grain without using anything abrasive.

(Image credit: Avenir)

4. Now clean the accessories. Wipe down the baskets and spray arms with a microfiber cloth or damp sponge, focusing on any food residue that may have formed. Pay particular attention to the holes on the spray arms; if these are blocked, use a toothpick or needle to dislodge them. Once you’re happy with them, put them back in the dishwasher.

5. Now you are ready to tackle any invisible grease, dirt and scale – and here you will be using the vinegar. Not sure How to clean a dishwasher with vinegar? It’s simple. With the dishwasher still empty, run a dishwasher cleaner through it such as Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner. If you want to use household items and be more durable, use distilled white vinegar. Simply fill a dishwasher-safe bowl or mug with the vinegar, place it on the upper rack, leaving the dishwasher empty otherwise, and run its hottest cycle – usually the heavy or intensive wash. As a strong acid, vinegar is excellent for removing limescale and removing grease or soap residue. Remember not to use bleach to clean the interior as it will damage the stainless steel.

(Image credit: Avenir)

6. If you’re dealing with a particularly smelly appliance, you can also use baking soda to clean a dishwasher. As a natural alkaline, baking soda will help deodorize and remove final stains. Simply sprinkle a mug on the bottom of your dishwasher and run it on its hottest quick setting.

And voila, your dishwasher should be like new again! Remember to leave the door open after the cycle is finished to air dry the dishwasher – this will prevent mold and mildew from growing, which can lead to that musty smell. Following these steps will keep your dishwasher in peak condition, making it more efficient at cleaning your dishes, and it will also last longer.

(Image credit: Avenir)

Do the plates always come out dirty?

This can be the result of incorrect loading. You want to fill the dishwasher for the best energy efficiency, but you don’t want to overload it either. Make sure that the plates and glasses are not touching each other and that there is space for the water to drain. If you are washing large plates or pots, it is also recommended to check that the spray arm under the upper basket can rotate freely. If it gets stuck, the load will not be cleaned! You can usually raise the upper basket if you experience this problem.

Finally, watch the salt and rinse aid indicators. If the salt level is low, it can lead to cloudy glasses and ridged plates, while a lack of rinse aid will result in damp dishes.

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