How To Clean Dishwasher: A Quick And Simple Guide

by Kara Richards on September 30, 2018

Kitchen interior

You might not realize that one of the most popular appliances in your home needs regular maintenance to keep it healthy and running well.

The dishwasher is a popular home appliance, and most people use it daily to make it easy to keep their utensils, plates, cups, and dishes spick and span. Unfortunately, not everyone does a great job of regular maintenance, which can lead to some significant problems.

If you don’t regularly disinfect and clean out your dishwasher, you run the risk of growing bacteria and fungus that will not only start to smell but could also impact your health. In addition, without regular cleaning and maintenance, you could wear out the appliance quickly, which might lead to expensive repairs or replacements that aren’t in the budget.

Fortunately, it’s not difficult to add in a few easy actions to keep your dishwasher running well for a long time. In this guide, we’ll give you pro tips on how to clean a dishwasher using natural ingredients and foolproof methods.

We’ve included ideas you can use every time you run the machine, a once a month quick disinfecting trick, and a step-by-step guide on how to do a thorough deep cleaning. Not only will your dishwasher be clean and fresh smelling, but it will be germ-free too.

Daily Dishwasher Maintenance

Handwashing

How often you run your dishwasher will vary depending on several factors like the size of your family and how frequently you cook and eat a home. Although we’ve suggested these steps as part of your daily cleaning routine, you can get away with doing them every time you run the machine through a cycle which may be every other day or a few times per week.

Here are simple steps on how to clean a dishwasher daily.

Clear The Disposal

In most kitchen setups, your disposal is directly linked to your dishwasher drainage. If it gets clogged with food particles or stray silverware, it can make it impossible for the appliance to do its job correctly.

Before running it, check your disposal and, if needed, turn it on to clear away any debris.

Wipe The Rack

All of the grime and food particles stuck on your dishes will fall into the lower rack during a cycle. Many of them will drain out when the machine empties, but sometimes there will be larger pieces that won’t fit.

It’s important to remove these bits from the base of your dishwasher to prevent bacteria growth and unpleasant smells.

Monthly Dishwasher Maintenance

Person washing hands

If you do a good job of sanitizing your dishwasher each time you use it, you’ll only need to do a more thorough cleaning once per month. Some of the steps are the same, plus there are a few additional ones that are simple and will give you excellent results. Here’s how to clean a dishwasher monthly.

Wipe Down The Exterior

They say the kitchen is the heart of your home, so it’s likely that your dishwasher occasionally catches a splash of water or grime that can build up over time. If you have one with a plastic front, wipe it down monthly with a mixture of hot water and dish soap to remove any debris.

If you have a stainless steel model, use a cleaning solution that’s safe for the surface. Spray it on a cloth or paper towel and then wipe down the face of the machine to remove fingerprints and dirt.

In both cases, try not to saturate any electronic controls on the front of the machine so that the moisture doesn’t cause them to degrade over time.

Deep Clean The Filter

As long as you’ve been staying on top of removing any leftover food particles every time you run your dishwasher, you should only need to do a deep cleaning once per month.

Start by removing the bottom rack from your dishwasher so that you can easily access the filter.

Remove it from the machine, and if necessary, take it apart. You might need to check your user manual for instructions on how to do this, but most new models simply unscrew via a center cylinder.

Next, clean all of the components in your sink using your pressurized spray faucet or by scrubbing them with a sponge. Take care to get all of the grime off of the mesh filter before putting everything back together.

Run A Vinegar Cycle

White vinegar is a secret ingredient that helps to sanitize and deodorize your dishwasher. It will not only kill off bacteria and neutralize odors, but it can also remove built-up mineral deposits that can cause the interior to yellow or discolor over time.

To reap the benefits, fill a clean bowl with one cup of white vinegar and place it in the center of the top rack. You can also use a dishwasher-safe ceramic mug if you don’t have a bowl that fits comfortably face up on the rack.

Run a complete, normal cycle with hot water to disperse the vinegar throughout the machine and remove grease, food particles, and soap scum.

Once it’s complete, leave the door open to air dry the interior.

Dishwasher Deep Cleaning

A few times per year you’ll want to make time to give your dishwasher a little extra TLC. If you run a regular vinegar cycle, you should only have to do a deep cleaning every few months to keep it pristine.

Here’s how:

Materials

You can perform a deep cleaning on your dishwasher by using a few common household materials that are non-toxic and inexpensive. You’ll need:

  • White Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Baking Soda
  • Cleaning Cloths
  • Toothpicks
  • A clean toothbrush

The Process

It’s best to do your deep cleaning right after you’ve run your dishwasher. Empty it out, and then remove all of the racks, baskets, and trays for your utensils so that you have full access to the interior.

Start by examining the spinning arms and use a toothpick to clear debris and mineral build-up from all of the holes. This will allow hot water to flow freely and will give you complete coverage in all areas of the machine. Take care not to scratch or damage the finish on the arms.

Next, remove the filter and clean all of the components thoroughly like you do every month.

Kitchen sink

Use a towel to wipe around the drain and remove debris, and check the area underneath the bottom of the door to ensure there’s not any solid matter or mold.

Use the toothbrush and create a baking soda paste to gently scrub any trouble spots and remove stains, mold, and other gunk around the drain and then rinse it off thoroughly.

Give the dishwasher seal some attention by taking a cloth soaked in a solution of white vinegar and lemon juice and using it to wipe around the surface. You might also need to use a toothbrush to get into the tight areas. Rinse everything well once you’re done scrubbing.

Your dishwasher racks and utensil holders can also capture food particles, and you’ll want to give them a good scrubbing to remove any leftovers. Once you have them sparkling, slide everything back into the dishwasher and reassemble all the parts.

Now it’s time to run your vinegar cycle. Just like you do during your monthly maintenance, place one cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher and set it to run a full round with hot water.

While the vinegar is working its way through, you can clean the face of the machine. Make sure you use a cleaning solution that’s appropriate for the material and don’t over saturate the electronic buttons. Wipe down the entire face as well as in and around the handle paying close attention to any nooks or crannies that could collect debris or grit.

Rust And Mildew

Although many modern dishwashers are made from materials that are rust and mold resistant, you might still need to tackle these issues.

If there are rust stains on the interior of your appliance, look for a dishwasher-safe rust remover that you can spray on and wipe off to remove them.

Sometimes, dishwasher racks and baskets are wire, and if the finish begins to chip, they will start to rust. You can either replace these interior components or purchase a sealant to patch these areas at your local hardware store.

There are a few different ways you can manage mildew and mold growth, but the simplest is to run a bleach cycle in the machine. Similar to how you would do it with white vinegar, place between one half and one cup of bleach in a dishwasher-safe bowl and run a full cycle with hot water.

This will work with most machines, but it’s important to note that you should never use bleach inside your dishwasher if your interior is stainless steel. It will degrade the material and cause issues.

Also, take care never to mix bleach and vinegar. This can produce toxic fumes that cause serious health problems including:

  • Nausea
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest Pain
  • Watery Eyes
  • Pneumonia

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