Yes, You Need to Clean Your Dishwasher — Here's How

White kitchen with dishwasher


Admit it, it's been a long time since you've cleaned your dishwasher. And while it seems like your dishwasher should be cleaning itself, the truth is that it definitely isn't. Over time, bits of food, grime, and soap scum accumulate in your dishwasher—which can not only leave behind an unpleasant smell, but can also cause your appliance to work less effectively. No one loves reaching into a clean dishwasher to find plates and bowls covered in film or icky residue.

When it comes to cleaning your dishwasher, you should wipe it down weekly and schedule a deeper clean at least once a month. If you're noticing a faint odor or your dishes aren't as clean as they used to be, try a vinegar wash. Here's what you need to get started.

Materials You'll Need

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Sponge
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Stainless steel cleaner
  • Warm soapy water

The good news? This task is relatively easy and you can do it while focusing on deeper kitchen cleaning jobs. Here's what you need to do to keep your dishwasher clean.

First, Clean the Drain

The first step is to reach into the drain and clean out any gunk you find. Pull out your dishwasher's bottom rack and check the drain for any food or debris that is stuck in the drain. We recommend wearing rubber gloves for this task because it can be a pretty gross job. Removing built-up food will help your dishwasher drain much quicker and reduce film left behind on dishes.

Clean the Filter

Gray kitchen sink
arbor & co

Fill your sink with hot, soapy water. Then, remove the filter at the bottom of your dishwasher. If the filter isn't clean, your dishes won't be either. Soak the filter in the sink while you're doing the following tasks.

If there are any particles stuck on the mesh or plastic pieces, use a soft toothbrush to carefully clean inside every nook.

Run a Cycle With Vinegar

To deep clean your dishwasher, place a glass filled with two cups of distilled white vinegar on your top rack. White vinegar is a serious workhorse when it comes to cleaning tasks, and it is perfect for loosening up dirt and removing lingering odors.

With the cup of vinegar, run your dishwasher on a normal hot cycle (no dishes, please!) without detergent or soap.

Then, Scrub Down the Outside

While you're waiting for the vinegar cycle to end, take this time to wipe down the outside of your dishwasher. Use an all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber rag to clean smudges and grime from the door, the handle and the buttons.

If you have a stainless steel dishwasher, a cleaner such as Weiman's is a great final step to remove streaks and repel future stains.

Run a Cycle With Baking Soda

Once the vinegar cycle has finished, remove the cup from the top rack. Now take a cup of baking soda and sprinkle it evenly over the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Repeat the cycle (again, no detergent) on the hottest water setting. The baking soda not only neutralizes the vinegar, but will also help dislodge any remaining grime and act as a deodorizer.

Or, Use Baking Soda For Deep Cleans

If your dishwasher is really, really dirty, consider using a homemade cleaner with things you already have around the house. To get started, mix two cups of baking soda with three tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide until you create a thick paste. Drop a dollop of the mixture onto parchment paper and wait about an hour for it to harden. Place it on the bottom rack and run the cycle on the hottest setting for an even more powerful clean.

Keep It Clean

Even the most beautiful kitchen sink doesn't compare to a dishwasher in terms of cleaning power. When there are hundreds of other chores to do, a dishwasher can be a truly lifesaving appliance in your home. But the best way to keep your dishwasher working well is to clean it frequently.

We recommend a deep clean at least once a month. In between cleanings, keep a rag handy to wipe down the components, and remember to check the filter for bits of food stuck inside.

Maintaining your dishwasher will not only keep it looking its best, but it will also help ensure your dishes come out clean every single time.

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