Dishwasher with door open to reveal three layers of drawers, dishes and silverware
The Ins and Outs of Cleaning Your Dishwasher – And Why You Should Do So Regularly

Guilty. I just cleaned my dishwasher yesterday, but the last time was over six months ago. And the time before that? I don’t want to even say it had been so long.

As I was scrubbing built up gunk from the filter with an old toothbrush, it became apparent why it’s recommended to clean your dishwasher once a month. All that build up can decrease efficiency and cause odors – or worse, enable bacterial growth. And once it collects, it’s more of a chore to remove. 

Depending on how much you use your dishwasher, you may be able to go longer between cleanings – but with heavy use, you might need to clean it more frequently. The good news is dishwasher cleaning is a fairly simple, straightforward process and once you know what you’re doing, it goes quickly.

Our step-by-step guide to keep your dishwasher in great shape:

1. Gather your supplies. The best cleaner is plain old distilled white vinegar. Buy a jug, and keep it on hand for myriad tasks around the house. Do not use bleach, which can damage the stainless steel parts and lining of your dishwasher. Grab a rag or sponge, and if there are some hard to reach places, an old toothbrush could come in handy.

2. Remove the bottom rack, and wipe the interior of the dishwasher clean. Following the manufacturers directions for my brand of dishwasher, I use a non-abrasive stainless steel cleaner spay and a soft rag to gently clean the surface walls, but check the manual for your specific model and make sure whatever you use is safe for your dishwasher. Oftentimes, a wet rag is sufficient to wipe the interior clean.

3. Remove the filter from the dishwasher, and clean any debris from the trap. Soak the filter in a solution of ⅓ vinegar and ⅔ hot water to loosen any gunk, then wipe or scrub clean if needed, rinsing it with warm water.

4. Sometimes, the spray arms can get clogged with food or hard water build up. If this happens, you may be able to remove the spray arms and soak them in vinegar to clear the blockage. Rinse with warm water, then return them to their positions.

5. Pour a cup of vinegar into the drain of the dishwasher, and a few cups of very hot water to flush it through.

6. Return all the parts to their original place in the dishwasher. Run a cycle, opening the dishwasher door to air dry once complete. Repeat cleaning monthly, or as needed.

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