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Built-in dishwasher with opened door in a white kitchen

How To Clean A Dishwasher

by | Jul 5, 2022 | Cleaning Tips

Most people don’t think about how important it is to clean their dishwasher until it starts leaving spots on their dishes or doesn’t seem to be washing as effectively. 

While dishwashers are designed to clean dishes, they can also become dirty over time. Food particles and grease can build up on the dishwasher filter and spray arms, causing the appliance to work less effectively. Additionally, mould and mildew can grow in the dishwasher. And trust us, nobody wants a smelly dishwasher in their kitchen!

Luckily, keeping your dishwasher clean and running smoothly is easy with just a few simple steps.



How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?

As anyone who has ever stared at a dirty dishwasher knows, it can be a little gross. But a dishwasher does need to be cleaned just like any other appliance. The short answer is — you need to clean your dishwasher at least once a month. Regular cleanings will help to keep your dishwasher in top condition.

Now, let’s get into the step-by-step process of how to clean a dishwasher.



Supplies for Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Before you start cleaning your dishwasher, it’s important to have the right supplies on hand. You’ll need the following:

  • Owner’s manual
  • Tools (screwdrivers, wrenches, and others according to the owner’s manual)
  • Sponges
  • Soft cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpicks
  • Small brush or new toothbrush
  • Dishwasher safe bowl
  • Dish soap, detergent or dishwasher cleaner
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda



How to deep clean a dishwasher


Step 1: Check your dishwasher model

Your first step is to check the manufacturer’s manual for any special instructions on cleaning your particular dishwasher model.



Step 2: Empty your dishwasher

empty dishwasher

Before you clean, you need an empty dishwasher. After you’ve run your last full cycle, remove everything inside, including the dishwasher racks.

Next, prepare your cleaning supplies. You may need more items other than the ones we’ve listed above, so feel free to add the ones you like. We recommend using an eco-friendly dishwasher detergent or gentle bleach wash for our cleaning process below.



Step 3: Take apart your dishwasher

With the manual in hand, take the appropriate tools and dismantle your dishwasher. First, disconnect the power supply. Then remove the screws from the front panel of your dishwasher. Gently pull the front panel away from the rest of the appliance.

If your dishwasher has a stainless steel interior (or tub), now is a good time to clean it with a soft cloth and dish soap. Don’t use steel wool because it will scratch and damage the coating.

Put all the screws and small parts in a container (preferably magnetic!), for safekeeping. You’ll need these intact for reassembly later.



Step 4: Clean the dishwasher door

Take off the removable parts of the dishwasher door, such as the detergent dispenser or rinse aid dispenser and the rubber seal. If possible, soak these parts in warm, soapy water for a few minutes to loosen any dirt or grime. Then, using a non-abrasive sponge, wipe down the inside and outside of the dishwasher door.

Pay special attention to the rubber seal around the door, as this is often where food and grease build-up. Once you’re done, rinse it with clean water and dry it with a paper towel. Then reattach the removable parts.



Step 5: Clean the spray arms

Dishwasher interior shows filter and spray arm

Remove the spray arm assembly by unscrewing it from the underside of the dishwasher. Rinse the arms thoroughly with hot running water. Make sure to also clean the holes in the spray arm because these can easily become clogged with stuck on food bits. You can do this with a small brush or a toothpick if the space is too narrow.



Step 6: Clean the dishwasher drain trap

The dishwasher drain trap catches food and other debris that can clog the drain. Here’s how you can clean it:

  • Find your dishwasher’s drain trap. You should be able to find it under the dishwasher’s lower spray arm.
  • Use a small brush to clean out any food or greasy residue that has built up in the trap. You might need to use some hot water to help loosen the gunk.
  • Once the trap is clean, rinse it out with the hottest water you have.



Step 7: Clean the dishwasher filter

Man hands cleans the filter in the dishwasher.

A dishwasher filter removes the particles that are too large to be filtered by the dishwasher’s drain pump. It is usually located at the bottom of the tub. You should clean the dishwasher filter regularly to ensure the proper operation of your machine. So, let’s cover how to clean a dishwasher filter. It’s easy!

To clean your dishwasher filter, you will need to remove it from its housing. You can do this by opening up your dishwasher and removing any screws or clips holding it in place. Once you have removed it, place the filter in a container of warm water with soap or detergent added to it and let it soak for at least 15 minutes.

When you’re done soaking the filter, scrub it around the edges to get rid of any grimy buildup. Then rinse it off. Now, it’s time to put the clean filter back in.



Step 8: Run a full cycle

After cleaning and reassembling the dishwasher parts, run a complete wash cycle with distilled white vinegar. You can do this by placing a dishwasher safe bowl of vinegar on the bottom rack and running the dishwasher on the hottest setting. This will help to remove any built-up detergent residue.

Once the vinegar cycle finishes, run another hot water cycle to rinse away any residue. Finally, wipe the outside of your dishwasher down with a dry cloth, and you’re good to go! 

If needed, our post on cleaning stainless steel can provide more tips on polishing the exterior of your dishwasher and other appliances.



Monthly dishwasher maintenance

man disassembling the dishwasher for maintenance

While dishwashers are typically low-maintenance appliances, there are a few things you can do monthly to help keep yours running smoothly.

  • Check the door gasket for any cracks or tears. If the gasket is damaged, it can cause leaking and decreased performance.
  • Clean out the drain trap to remove any food particles or other objects that may be blocking it.
  • Be sure to inspect the spray arms for any clogs or build-up. If the arm is blocked, water will not be able to properly circulate during the wash cycle.
  • At least once a month, run a cycle with plain white vinegar or lemon juice to help remove any built-up grease or grime. 

You may need to call a dishwasher repairman if your appliance stops working despite doing regular deep cleaning and maintenance.



Dish wasn’t so bad, right?

Just like cleaning a washing machine or fridge, a dishwasher is a complex appliance that needs regular maintenance and deep cleaning in order to function properly. However, unlike those other appliances, dishwashers are one of the most neglected pieces of equipment in a home. Maybe most people just don’t know how to clean a dishwasher or don’t have the time to do it. It’s a good thing there are professional house cleaners who can do it for you. 

About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.


About Author

Sophie Franklin

Sophie is the subject matter expert within Maid2Match. Most importantly though she is our biggest fan girl and generous in sharing what she knows.