How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Keep your dishwasher as clean as your dishes
How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Sebastian Gorczowski/

Though you might think your dishwasher stays pretty clean from the detergent and hot water that runs through it, every once in a while your dishwasher needs some love. Most manufacturers recommend that you clean your dishwasher once a month to keep it running smoothly. Here’s how to keep your dishwasher, and therefore your favorite kitchen utensils, as clean as can be.

Hidden Sources of Bacteria in Your Home

The exterior of your dishwasher is a good place to start, since it can accumulate drips from passing dirty dishes. If it has a plastic exterior, all you really need to do is wipe it down with a sponge or a wet cloth and some soapy water. If your dishwasher is stainless steel, you can use a glass cleaner to restore its shiny finish, or a stainless steel cleaner if you need a deeper clean. Stay away from anything abrasive like scuff pads or scrubbing sponges that could damage your dishwasher’s finish, and make sure you use special care around the controls and electronics.

Next, you can move on to your dishwasher’s filter. Even if you pre-wash your dishes, food particles can get stuck in the filter and make it harder for the dishwasher to clean dishes effectively. In most dishwashers, you can find the filter under the bottom rack as a cylinder or a small metal screen. You may have to remove the bottom rack to get to it.

If your filter is a cylinder, remove it from the bottom of the dishwasher and wash it out under the sink. You can use an old toothbrush or a brush of similar size to get small particles out of the filter. If your filter is a metal screen, you can also remove it and wash it under hot water. Make sure either filter is replaced securely before running your dishwasher again.

Your dishwasher might have a removable spray arm. Cleaning this can ensure better performance from your dishwasher. It should just lift up off the bottom of the dishwasher, and you can clean out any of the holes that the water sprays out of.

Finally, you’ll want to sanitize and deodorize the inside of your dishwasher. This step can also help to remove mineral deposits left behind by hard water. The easiest way to do this is to run a cycle without any dishes or detergent, except for a bowl of white vinegar on the bottom rack of your dishwasher. White vinegar may not seem like the most powerful cleaning tool, but you’d be surprised at what it can do. Use the “air dry” option for this cycle. This all-natural cleaning method should get rid of any stains or smells on the interior of your dishwasher. You can also buy detergent additives that will do the same thing if you’re low on white vinegar, but follow the instructions on the packaging if you go that route. Make sure you don’t use anything abrasive like a scuff pad or a scrubbing sponge on the inside of your dishwasher either, as it could damage the interior surface.

This might seem like a lengthy process, but just a little time and effort can keep your dishwasher — and your dishes — as clean as they can be. If you want to spread the love around the rest of your home, here are some places to start you may not have thought of.