How to Achieve a Squeaky-Clean Dishwasher in 5 Easy Steps

Large wood island with stainless steel dishwasher.

Design: Jessica Nelson; Photo: Carina Skrobecki Photography

When is the last time you cleaned your dishwasher? Maybe it was last month, or last year—or maybe you can't quite remember. Perhaps you assumed that while it was cleaning your new dishes and utensils, your dishwasher was also cleaning itself. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and you should add this task to your spring cleaning checklist immediately.

Just like your other kitchen appliances, in order to function at its highest level, your dishwasher needs to be cleaned regularly. If your dishes aren't getting as clean as they once were or if you've recently noticed a strange smell emitting from your device, chances are your dishwasher is overdue for a good deep clean.

Over time, leftover food particles, detergent residue, grease, and mineral deposits build up inside your dishwasher, causing it to work less effectively. This means your dishes won't be getting as sparkly clean as they could be, and it could also create an environment for odor-causing bacteria to thrive.

Does the thought of bacteria trapped inside the appliance that's supposed to be cleaning your plates make you cringe? You're not alone. Here are 5 easy steps for cleaning your dishwasher.


  • Paper towels
  • Soapy sponge
  • Dishwasher-safe measuring cup
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Stainless steel cleaner
  • Rubber gloves (optional)

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

White and bright kitchen with stainless steel dishwasher.

Calimia Home

Step 1: Clean the Drain

Before you begin, you'll need to empty your dishwasher. Once you've put away your items, remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher and inspect the drain.

There's likely build-up of food, gunk, and other mystery items hiding in there—so, you might want to put on your gloves for this one. Take a paper towel and give the drain a few swipes, thoroughly removing anything that doesn't belong.

Clearing out the drain will help your dishwasher run more efficiently and will go a long way in preventing odors from building up.

Step 2: Focus on the Filter

Once you've cleaned the drain, it's time to move on to the dishwasher filter. Remove the filter from the bottom of your dishwasher, and rinse it with hot water while using a toothbrush to gently scrub away any grease or food found on the mesh screen. Once both the mesh and plastic parts of the filter are squeaky clean, lock it back into place.

Your filter is usually located under the bottom spray arm or in the back corner of your dishwasher. Consult your user manual if you cannot locate it.

Step 3: Wipe the Door—Inside and Out

White kitchen with open shelving and stainless steel dishwasher.

Calimia Home

Your dishwasher door likely gets a lot of traffic, and that means it picks up a lot of fingerprints and germs. To clean the inside of your dishwasher door, take a soapy sponge and wipe off any debris or grease. Do this along the top and sides of the door, as well. For the front, use paper towels and an all-purpose cleaner to wipe away any surface germs.

If you have a stainless steel dishwasher, polish away any fingerprints with a quality stainless steel cleaner to keep your dishwasher looking just as good on the outside as you'll have it looking on the inside.

Step 4: Run a Cycle with Only Vinegar

After completing steps one through three, place a dishwasher-safe measuring cup filled with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run the dishwasher on a normal hot cycle without adding any detergent or dishes.

The vinegar will break down any leftover particles or grease that your wipe-down didn't get.

Step 5: Sprinkle Baking Soda

After your vinegar cycle is complete, remove the measuring cup and sprinkle one cup of baking soda along the bottom rack. Run another normal hot cycle—again, with no dishes.

This is the icing on the cake of your deep clean, as the baking soda will act as a deodorizer and double-down on any remaining grime.

How Often Should You Clean the Dishwasher?

We recommend completing steps 1-3—cleaning your drain, filter, and wiping down the door—weekly, while you can save your vinegar and baking soda deep cleans for your monthly task list.

It might not be the most glamorous task, but once you've seen the build-up inside your dishwasher, you'll want to make a habit out of cleaning it regularly.  After all, in order have to those sparkly-clean dishes, you need a sparkly-clean dishwasher.

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