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How to Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

How to Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

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Yes, you do need to and no, it isn’t hard—if you know what you’re doing.

It turns out that the miracle machine that rinses away all your leftover debris and pops out sparkling tableware and cutlery isn’t like an oven, e.g. it won’t clean itself. “Most people think because it has the name ‘washer’ in the title, it is inherently self-cleaning,” says Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and host of YouTube channel Clean My Space. “But like any damp, dark environment, you’re going to get mold and mildew building up over time. There’s residue from soap and food that bacteria feed off of, lime deposits from hard water, and odors.”

So yeah, you do occasionally need to give it a little TLC—but very little, and that’s a small price to pay for hanging up your rubber gloves for life. Assuming you use your dishwasher three times a week or less often, and rinse well before sticking anything in it, you can get away with deep-cleaning it only twice a year. Food residue on plates or utensils after a cycle are a tip-off that you may need to clean immediately. “It’s one of those things people think is a huge task but actually just takes a few minutes,” Maker says. Here is her step-by-step guide:

  1. Empty the dishwasher. While the racks don’t tend to get dirty, cutlery baskets can trap things from time to time, so remove yours and wash it with dish soap and water in the sink.
  2. Remove the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher per the manufacturer’s instructions. This is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t require a plumbing license, but you’ll probably need to remove the bottom rack.
  3. The filter is like a dryer’s lint trap: It stops large particles from getting into your pipes. In that capacity, it can get pretty grody. After a smoothie kick, Maker recalls removing hers and finding “a collection of chia seeds that had become gummy and bloated. It was like the scene out of a horror movie.” Soak that thing in a sink full of hot, soapy water, then scrub it with an old toothbrush, rinse, and let it dry.
  4. Use paper towels to blot up moisture from the filter base in the bottom of the dishwasher, then spray and wipe it with all-purpose cleaner.
  5. Another area prone to funkiness is the inner 2-3 inches of the interior dishwasher door where the frame meets the counter (it’s hidden when the door is closed). Crust tends to build up there. Spray this liberally with all-purpose cleaner and let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping it down, along with the rubber gasket that seals the door and prevents water leakage, and the instrument panel, another forgotten spot.
  6. Manufacturers have begun selling cleaning tablets, but you can achieve the same effect with baking soda, says Maker. Put either in the detergent slot and run through a sanitize or hot water cycle. (Some Pinterest fans may have seen a tip for sprinkling dry Country Time Lemonade mix in the bottom of a dishwasher before running it; the citric acid can help dissolve gunk, says Maker).
  7. The super high heat will kill off odor-causing bacteria but a way to help prevent mold and other nastiness from coming back is to leave the door open between washes.

How to Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

Be honest. When was the last time you cleaned your dishwasher? And I’m not talking about running a washing cycle with an empty chamber, I’m talking about a deep cleaning of filters, cartridges and crates. I’m guessing that quite a bit of time has passed since your last cleaning. Well, tiny bits of food, grease and dishwasher soap scum can cling together and form deposits in all the nooks and crannies of your dishwasher. After a time, they can not only make your dishwasher look and smell bad, but decrease its efficiency as well.

Here at Cleancult, we’re big fans of cleaning our different home appliances and keeping them working in top shape! So, for the benefit of everyone and their machines, today we bring you an easy, effective and swift way of cleaning your dishwasher using only vinegar, baking soda, and a toothbrush. So gather your cleaning supplies, because it’s time to give new life to your dishwasher.

According to cleaning experts, you should clean your dishwasher at least once a month to keep it working properly and in top condition. Follow these few easy steps and give your dishwasher the cleaning it deserves.

1 cup of vinegar (both white or apple cider vinegar will do the trick)

  1. Examine the drain - The first thing you want to do is to pull out the bottom rack of your machine and examine the drain are to make sure there are no hard chunks of material that may clog the drain, cause damage to the pump or scratch your dishes. You’ll be surprised at what you find lying there! Dishwasher repairmen commonly find bones, crab shells, bits of glass, and even small pieces of gravel!
  1. Wash the filter - Remove the filter and wash away any excess or gunky remains you may find. Place in warm soapy water for about 10 minutes and then rinse.
  1. Run a wash cycle with vinegar - Fill a dishwasher-safe cup with plain white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher. The vinegar is very effective in terms of washing away the loose, greasy grime, sanitizing, and helping to remove the musty odors from your dishwasher. Then using the hottest water setting possible, run the dishwasher through a cycle. The machine should be empty, apart from the vinegar-filled cup.
  1. Run a wash cycle with Baking Soda - After the vinegar cycle finishes, sprinkle the cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher and run it through a short cycle, again in the hottest water setting possible. The baking soda helps in further deodorizing your dishwasher and in removing any stains.
  1. Done! - Get rid of any hard-to-remove stains with the toothbrush, replace the filter, and you should have a squeaky-clean dishwasher.

A word of caution, though! Even though some sites recommend running an additional cycle with a cup of bleach in your dishwasher, we advice against this. Even though bleach may leave your dishwasher looking whiter than ever (if it is indeed white), it may also harm the stainless steel parts of it and eventually shorten its lifespan, therefore making it a counterproductive measure.

It doesn’t matter which kind of detergent you usually to wash your dishes, either dishwasher gel or dishwasher detergent pods, regularly cleaning your dishwasher not only helps to achieve a better and more effective cleaning, but may even extend the life of your machine. If you do so, you will also find that fewer repairs are needed and will actually help you save money!

How to Clean a Dishwasher Easily &mdash And How Often You Need to Do So

FYI: If your dishwasher isn't clean, your dishes won't be either.

In theory, your dishwasher should be constantly cleaning itself &mdash but sadly, it isn't. Over time, bits of food, grease, undissolved detergent, and water minerals build up on the dishwasher's filter and interior walls. Along with an unpleasant smell and look, this gunk can actually leave spots and film on your glassware, dinnerware, and flatware. In short, that means if you don't clean your dishwasher correctly, your appliance can't fully do its job. Plus, if you let the food and grime build up, it can seriously damage the dishwasher's filter and pump, ultimately resulting in costly repairs.

At the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, we've done the research to find the most effective way to clean your dishwasher, along with testing different dishwasher detergents and cleaners. Along the way, we've discovered the best tricks to keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free.

As with most things, prevention is better than cure. Using a quality dishwasher detergent and rinse aid does a lot to help reduce the unsightly spots that can develop on the interior of your dishwasher. Also, if you live in an area with hard water, using a whole-home water softener or adding regeneration salt to your dishwasher's water softening system will help prevent spotting on your glassware, and prevents mineral build-up in your dishwasher. Leaving the door open at the end of a cycle can help prevent mold or mildew from developing, and prevent that stale odor.

Firstly, you will need.

A cleaning spray. I used Method.

  • Start off by using the pink stuff cleanser and your electric cleansing brush to go around the edges of the dishwasher and scrub off any stuck on grime. Remember to clean inside the seals too.
  • Next remove the drawers and trays and give those a scrub too.
  • If you have a cutlery rack, remove it and clean it with hot soapy water.
  • Remove the filter (check your dishwasher's instruction manual) and clean this with hot soapy water.
  • Use a cloth and hot water and the spray to clean over all the areas you have scrubbed to remove any pink stuff residue. Clean the inside sides and inside the seals as well as the removable trays. If the dishwasher is integrated make sure that you wipe over the control panel.
  • Pop the everything back inside and put a cup of vinegar in the dishwasher and set it to the hottest setting and let it run.
  • Clean the outside of the dishwasher, including the control panel if it is on the outside.
  • When the dishwasher has finished running, remove the glass and refill the salt and the rinse aid.

You are now ready to go with a wonderfully clean dishwasher!

If you work better visually I have embedded my video below so you can watch me clean mine first hand.

Did you find this post about how to deep clean your dishwasher useful? Share it with your friends or Pin it for later.

How To Get It Clean

First, it's important to note that most brands recommend doing a deep clean periodically to keep your appliance working properly. Luckily, this deep clean can be achieved with just a few products and steps. Here's what you'll need to get started.

  • Microfiber Cloth or Paper Towels
  • Soft Cleaning Brush
  • Dish Soap
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Dishwasher Cleaning Tabs like Affresh dishwasher

If you're dealing with old food and gunk in your dishwasher, it's always a good idea to wear rubber gloves so you’re not touching it. Start by removing the racks and checking the bottom of the dishwasher for leftover food particles then use a towel to wipe them up — these are usually the main culprit for smells.

Next, remove the dishwasher filter. This can typically be found under the bottom rack in the base of your dishwasher. Rinse as much of the gunk off as possible with hot water and use a soft bristle brush to gently scrub away any lingering mess. If needed, a little bit of dish soap can help — just be sure to rinse away any residue completely. Once dry, place it back inside the dishwasher.

Using a microfiber cloth and hot very diluted, soapy water, wipe down the interior of the dishwasher. For stuck on grime on the edges of the dishwasher and around the gaskets, use a soft bristle brush to scrub it off and wipe it down with the microfiber cloth.

Once you've placed the racks back inside, run the dishwasher with a cleaning tablet. It’s the easy way to remove any mineral build-up inside and give it a general refresh.

Can I Clean My Dishwasher With Bleach?

Yes, you can, but it can be a little more tricky than using vinegar and baking soda .

If your dishwasher has a stainless steel interior, you should avoid using bleach on it or within it.

After cleaning out the filter, following the same steps as mentioned above with the vinegar, but substitute the vinegar for bleach .

If using this method, carefully remove the bowl of bleach and run another HOT rinse cycle to ensure no bleach remains.

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Clean and refresh your go-to kitchen appliance with these easy steps.

At least once a year, you should cleanse and revive your dishwashing machine with a thorough cleaning to get rid of icky grime, build-up, and mold. Use these steps and homemade cleaning solution from Michael Dimopoulos, a Thumbtack House Cleaner and the founder of Lazy Susans Cleaning, to give your dishwasher a deep cleaning.

  1. First, remove dishes, the filter, and any other solids from the dishwasher. Wipe down and clean the filter.
  2. In a spray bottle, combine vinegar, water, and 10 drops of citrus oil to make the necessary cleaning solution. The mixture should be about 70 percent white vinegar and 30 percent water.
  3. Spray the entire dishwasher with the vinegar solution making sure you cover all the trays, compartments, moveable parts, and walls inside. Let this mixture sit for 15 minutes, and then wash using a hot cycle.
  4. 4. Once the cycle has finished, cover the bottom of the dishwasher with a generous amount of baking soda and let this sit overnight. In the morning, wash it again on a hot cycle.

If your dishwasher is in need of even more TLC or you notice mold, use hydrogen peroxide to spray down and clean the appliance.

How to Clean a Dishwasher

Start off with a completely empty dishwasher (which is like spotting a unicorn, I know – just pile those dishes in the sink for now). Pull out the racks and take a look at the bottom of the dishwasher.

That round thing you see is the filter. It’s going to look a little different in every dishwasher, but your unit should look something like this. Remove the filter from the dishwasher (you might have to turn to dislodge it).

Get ready to be grossed out.

As my four year old says, “pea yuck.” I bet you had no idea this was even there – much less how nasty it was! Rest assured, it’s simple to clean.

Just use a little bit of dish soap and a small scrub brush to get in there and dislodge any deposits and dirt. An old toothbrush might also help get into the nooks and crannies. Give it a good rinse and *important* place it back in the dishwasher before moving on.

If you’ve read any of the other Cleaning 101 series posts, the fact that I use vinegar and baking soda to do this deep clean will be no surprise to you. They are simply the most useful cleaning ingredients out there! I also love that they are non-toxic, especially in an area where my family’s dishes will go.

Spray the entire inside of the dishwasher (including racks) with vinegar and sprinkle baking soda all over. It will fizz a little – that’s normal. Use the baking soda and a sponge/scrubber to scrub any dirty areas.

Next, place a dishwasher-safe bowl with about a cup of vinegar in the top rack.

Close it up and use the high temp wash setting on your dishwasher to run a full cycle.

And, in just a couple of hours (with very little effort), you’ll have a new and improved dishwasher! This is one of those cleaning tasks you won’t notice as much in looks as you will in efficiency your dishwasher should wash and dry better after completing this.

How to Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

For a very long time I thought that when spring cleaning came around, my dishwasher was one of those things that I didn't have to worry about. However, one year we went through three dishwashers and boy did I learn some things about how to care for a new dish washer. Now, just for the record, our first dishwasher was a dinosaur, so it was already on its way out when we bought our new house. The second and third dishwasher had manufacturing issues, so it wasn't something that a deep clean would have fixed. However, once we got a working dishwasher, I wanted to make sure that it kept working and we didn't have to go through another messy appliance fiasco. So, I read the manual cover to cover, looked online, and made sure that we did what we could to keep our appliance running smoothly. The most important thing I learned was to do a deep clean on your dishwasher to prevent food and hard water build up. So, when spring cleaning comes around, don't forget to take care of your dishwasher, so your appliance keeps running smoothly.

Check your dishwasher manual. The manual often has great tips for deep cleaning. You can often find the manual online as well.

For those of you who don't have/don't want the hassle of looking up the manual, just grab some baking soda and vinegar.

After you have run your dishwasher and emptied the clean dishes out, check the bottom of your dishwasher for any bits of food, etc. There is often a basket or mesh area designed for this. One time when I checked my mesh area, I found broken glass, definitely something you don't want in your dishwasher. So don't forget this step! In some dishwashers, it is also a good idea to check where your water comes out and make sure the holes are not clogged.

Pour in one cup of vinegar into the bottom of your dishwasher. If you want a super duper clean, add 1/4 cup baking soda to the dishwasher.

Run your dishwasher on the sanitize cycle or the hot cycle.

After the dishwasher has run, you may need to wipe down the inside if there is a lot of residue left from the deep clean. I have found that I don't usually need to do this step, as the rinse cycle usually takes care of this part. You can run the dishwasher again using dishwasher soap and no dishes to get rid of the vinegar smell if it bothers you.

After that, sit back and enjoy your sparkly, longer lasting dishwasher and super clean dishes!


Elise Grant
Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
Email the author! [email protected]

Mary Richardson
Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
Email the author! [email protected]

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Here's how to keep your dishwasher clean as a whistle.

Although it seems counterintuitive, dishwashers can get pretty darn dirty&mdasheven with all the hot water and detergent constantly running through it. Whether it's the chemicals in dishwashing soap or grease and grime buildup, your once-pristine dishwasher may be brimming with scummy residue, germs, and odors. Not only that, they can get clogged and there will be nasty, smelly water sitting in the bottom, which is gross! While we know we need to properly care for our coffee machines, clean our electric kettles, and sanitize our countertops, we rarely think to do the same for our cleaning devices. Luckily, cleaning your dishwasher is quick and easy with items you already have in the pantry: vinegar, baking soda, or bleach.

How often do I have to clean my dishwasher?

Don&rsquot worry! You don't have to spend all your free time with your head in the machine. Do a deep clean including an alkaline wash and drain trap scrub once a month. You should wipe down the panel and controls once a week. That said, if you notice that the dishwasher is smelly, moldy, or not cleaning as well as it normally does, it's time to don the rubber gloves and get in there.

How do I clean my dishwasher with vinegar?

You might be surprised by all the problems you can solve with apple cider vinegar. But for this chore, white vinegar works best. Fill a dishwasher-safe cup or bowl with white vinegar and place it on the upper rack of your machine. Run the otherwise-empty dishwasher on the hottest setting&mdashthis will allow the vinegar to absorb odors and erode grimy buildup on the walls of the machine. Vinegar is astringently acidic, which makes it a great agent for breaking down scum on most appliances (you can use it to clean your washing machine, too). Keep a spray bottle with vinegar on hand and spritz the inside of your machine frequently in between washes for prolonged sparkle.

How do I clean your dishwasher with baking soda?

Maybe you already use baking soda to remove pesticides from fruit. It's a safe and mild alkali substance that goes a long way in removing persistent residue left by food waste. Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda along the bottom of your dishwasher and rinse on a hot-water cycle. Repeat this process when you have especially stubborn stains or smells. For extra cleaning punch, create &ldquobaking soda bombs&rdquo by mixing 2 cups of baking soda with 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide in a bowl until it's a paste-like consistency. Drop spoonfuls onto parchment paper and allow to dry for a few hours. Toss them on the bottom of your dishwasher and run a hot-water cycle in an empty machine. For a fresher scent, add a few drops of an essential oil to the mix.

How do I clean a dishwasher with bleach?

Proceed with caution! While bleach is great for killing germs, mildew, and mold, it can ruin a dishwasher if the inside is made of stainless-steel or has any stainless-steel parts on the inside. If your machine has any stainless-steel parts on the inside, use one of the methods listed above. If you have determined with 100 percent certainty that your dishwasher is lined with plastic and has plastic parts (this is usually the case with less expensive models), then bleach away. Follow the same method as vinegar&mdashfill a bowl with about 1/2 cup bleach and run the machine, empty, on the hottest setting.

How do I clean a dishwasher drain trap?

With most modern dishwashers, you don&rsquot need to fully rinse the dishes before loading them into the machine. Doing so can actually make the machine less efficient, as the internal sensor will think that the dishes are clean and sanitized before they actually are&mdashcausing it to run a shorter cycle. That said, go ahead and scrape off any large pieces of food as they are candidate no. 1 for clogging the dishwasher drain trap.

Speaking of the drain trap, check it frequently to make sure there's not a bunch of gross stuff in there just waiting to stink up the place. If there is, start by removing and disassembling it. Once it's apart, use a sponge or toothbrush and dish soap to remove any stuck-on food bits or mold.