If you’re wondering how to clean a dishwasher, the answer to that question will be answered in a detailed manner here. Thus, this guide is for everyone who owns either a countertop, portable or built-in dishwasher.
The point is that cleaning your dishwasher is simple yet complex at the same time. It’s not a one-time-only job. Instead, there are things you should do on a regular basis, others on a monthly basis, and then a few things that you can leave off once per year.
How to Clean a Dishwasher: The Primary Steps
First and foremost, you might want to opt for a probiotic dishwasher cleaner to make your life just a little easier. Don’t worry, you won’t have to buy this kind of thing often, but it’s nice to have around in case of a more than necessary cleanup.
Clean the Dishwasher Door
Start by doing the simplest of tasks, namely cleaning the dishwasher door. By wiping the exterior with warm, sudsy water, you’ll be able to take away all the smudges and fingerprints that have made their nest there.
Avoid harsh cleansers or too-tough scouring pads that might scratch the dishwasher’s finish. After you’re done cleaning, get a soft cloth and wipe away the remaining water. If there are still a few fingerprints left, wipe them away with rubbing alcohol on a soft, dry cloth.
Now let’s focus on the inside. Open the dishwasher door, dip a small toothbrush in hot, soapy water, and scrub around the door. Dig into the grooves of the rubber seal, hinges, and other crevices. If there’s a lot of buildups, you can try scrubbing gently with an abrasive cleanser.
The resulting grime should be wiped away with a sponge dipped in hot soapy water. Afterward, wipe away any remaining cleaning solution with a clean, wet sponge. That’s it, you’re done with the door. Let’s move on to other bits of the dishwasher.
Clean the Dishwasher Tub
Just before starting to clean the interior, make sure to grab a handful of paper towels to dispose of the debris found around the drain.
Now would be a good time to use the dishwasher cleaner solution that you’ve purchased if there is a significant amount of debris coming out of there. Oftentimes, this debris tends to leave behind bacteria, so it’s imperative to sanitize the area.
If you’re dealing with lots of limescale, then we recommend checking out our detailed guide on how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar. Alternatively, you can use the same tutorial, only replace vinegar with a packet of unsweetened lemonade mix or baking soda. Either way, you should run a complete cycle using the hottest possible water setting.
Clean the Parts and Accessories
Take out the racks and utensil holders and give them a nice scrub with a sponge and toothbrush if necessary. Once done, don’t put them back just yet, as you also need to take care of the spray arm. Scrub the spray arm with a soft brush or toothbrush to remove clogs and ensure it maintains its efficacy. Now let’s move on to the truly important bits.
How to Clean the Filter
The filter is usually located at the bottom of the dishwasher unit, under the bottom rack, closer to one of the corners. Ideally, you’ll look through the user manual to identify the exact positioning of the filter in your particular dishwasher.
If you have a removable filter, your life will be all that easier, as you only need to twist it to remove it. Then rinse it under hot running water to remove food particles and other debris. Afterward, take care of the area in the dishwasher’s bottom underneath the filter, and remove all the impurities inside with a damp cloth, sponge, or toothbrush.
Once done, screw the filter back into place. And please do note that it’s very important to read the instructions from the manual, as filters can also differ greatly from one dishwasher model to another. We can’t stress this enough, but you really can’t afford to mishandle a filter since replacing it can be quite hard, especially if you have an older dishwasher model.
This part is a little tricky, and you might want to get a dedicated rust remover for your dishwasher. Alternatively, you could always opt for citric acid instead of a rust remover if you want a more natural cleaning solution.
Whichever one of these solutions you end up choosing, place a little inside the detergent dispenser cup and sprinkle some of the bottom of the dishwasher as well. You’ll want to run a regular washing cycle without any detergent or dishes inside of it.
The thing with rust is that depending on where it is coming from, you might need to repeat this process a couple of times afterward. For example, if the rust is coming from your private well, then you’ll need to repeat this process indefinitely until you can afford a good water filter.
Hard Water and Mineral Buildup
As previously stated, you should really check out our tutorial on how to clean a dishwasher using vinegar. It’s one of the best tried and tested natural methods of cleaning a dishwasher, especially one that has been ravaged by limescale deposits.
Alternatively, you could use one of these and achieve the same effect. But we are more likely inclined to recommend the vinegar method since it is more natural. However, you might want to avoid using too much vinegar and other acidic solutions if the dishwasher interior contains too much plastic.
How to Clean a Dishwasher By Time Period
There are certain tasks that we recommend performing from time to time to keep your dishwasher running smoothly and to minimize future cleaning efforts.
Daily: Remove Food Bits
You need to form a habit of removing food bits after every wash cycle. Yeah, nobody likes it, but it’s a must if you want to make the overall cleaning process less cumbersome when the time comes.
Simply pull out the bottom rack and get a paper towel to grab and throw away any food that might have fallen inside the dishwasher tub. You have no idea how much time you’ll be saving. Plus that you’ll avoid those nasty smells that can accumulate because of rotting food.
Weekly: Wipe Away the Door Grime and Clean the Filter
Just like we described earlier in the article, you need to clean the door both inside and out. And because the crevices are hard to reach, you’ll be better off doing so every week, so you won’t have to deal with an overload of grime and stuck-on food in the future.
You should also clean the filter while you’re at it since food bits and grime also tend to deposit sooner rather than later. As previously stated, it would be wise to read the user manual about how you should proceed when cleaning the filter. But, in most cases, letting hot water run on it for a while and then scrubbing the mesh screen and plastic with a toothbrush usually does the job. Once it’s just like new, lock it back into place.
Monthly: Time For a Deep Clean
Whether you like it or not, a deep clean is required once every month. Yes, it’s not exactly easy, but then again leaving it off for a few months will make it all the more difficult.
For a deep clean, we recommend using either a dishwasher cleaner solution or a home-made one such as a solution made of half water and half white vinegar. Either of these options will give it a deep clean as necessary. Just place the solution at the bottom of the dishwasher tub and start a regular wash cycle with the hottest possible water temperature.
Just make sure to read the instructions carefully if you’re using cleaning tablets or cleaning powder, as those can have certain chemical reactions depending on what type of detergent you’re usually using (given the fact that there’s some detergent left inside that you’re not aware of).
Occasionally: Polish the Exterior
Getting rid of fingerprints using a sponge dipped in hot water and soap will indeed get rid of streaks and fingerprints, as we have mentioned above. However, if you want to polish the stainless steel door’s exterior, you’re going to have to perform one more action.
Get a stainless steel cleaner and follow the instructions on the label to see the best approach. It will leave your door looking spotless and it will also help prevent the buildup of streaks and fingerprints in the near future.
Natural Alternatives to Clean a Dishwasher
Again, for our readers who are hesitant on using potentially harmful ingredients to clean their dishwasher, there are natural alternatives that you can try:
- White vinegar is fantastic for cleaning the dishwasher tub. Just place a cup in the middle of the top rack and fill it with vinegar. Then run a regular dishwasher cycle on the highest heat setting and wipe the grime away once everything’s done. You can also try this with lemon juice to remove water spots.
- Rubbing alcohol has a great effect when it comes to cleaning the dishwasher’s exterior. Just add rubbing alcohol to a clean microfiber cloth and start wiping. You’ll quickly see fingerprints go away using this method. And, of course, you can also use white vinegar as long as your dishwasher doesn’t have plastic buttons. We recommend avoiding such acidic items on plastics in general.
- Baking soda does a phenomenal job as a natural cleaning agent as well. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher tub before running a hot washing cycle.
What About Mold and Mildew?
Surely, there has to be a natural solution for removing mold and mildew, right? And, indeed, you can get rid of mold and mildew by using white vinegar in most cases, just as instructed above.
However, there are certain scenarios where the vinegar will be far from enough. In such cases, you’ll sadly have to rely on bleach. Just add a bowl filled with half a cup of bleach at the bottom of the dishwasher and start a regular wash cycle unless the interior tub is made of stainless steel. If that’s the case, then stick to repeating a wash cycle with white vinegar until the mold or mildew is completely gone.
Tricks to Keep Your Dishwasher Clean for Longer
To avoid having to deal with extra grime and dirt, we recommend following these tricks:
- Run the garbage disposal before starting the dishwasher to ensure that the drain is clean and clear.
- Start the dishwasher only when it’s full to conserve energy and avoid building up residue faster than necessary.
- If you do need to clean only half a load of dishes in an emergency, consider using the half load cycle option. You’ll at least avoid a part of the unnecessary detergent buildup.
- Don’t pre-rinse too much. Dishwasher detergent requires some grease and residue to be present to do its job. If there are no such pollutants, the detergent will only form a foam, and all that the resulting foam does is build up and stick to the interior tub’s surface.
- Use the self-cleaning sanitize cycle if your dishwasher has it. By doing so, you’ll be able to perform the deep clean process only once every 6 months or so instead of having to worry about it every other month.
If you’ve ever wondered how to clean a dishwasher, you now have all the necessary information to accomplish this task flawlessly. As long as you follow the exact steps in our tutorial, you’ll be able to keep your dishwasher going for years and years to come.
Nevertheless, if your dishwasher keeps performing poorly even after you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, it might be time for a repair. Check out our detailed guide on how dishwashers work and how to troubleshoot basic dishwasher problems. If you have any other questions or suggestions, feel free to leave us a comment down below.