There’s nothing better than spanking clean dinnerware and sparkling wine glasses straight out of the dishwasher. But what if your dishwasher is falling down on the job and your glasses, pots, pans and dishware look streaky or have bits of residue still caked on?
It’s easy to forget that the machines that wash items such as washing machines and dishwashers also need cleaning so that they can do the best job possible. Monthly cleaning can keep your dishwasher looking like new and running well.
Before you begin cleaning your dishwasher, be sure to consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
1. Use Your Dishwasher Regularly
Experts agree that using your dishwasher often will help reduce excess buildup and keep debris from settling in the bottom of the washer. This may also reduce the amount of effort to give it a thorough cleaning.
2. Load Your Dishwasher the Smart Way
Small items such as cups, glasses, and small bowls should be placed in the top rack. Avoid overcrowding. This will obstruct the flow of water and detergent. Keep dishwasher-safe plastics away from heating elements by putting them on the top rack.
Plates, serving bowls, pots and other large items should be placed on the bottom rack. Scrape off as much leftover food as you can and use a spatula or wooden utensil to scrape off stubborn, stuck-on food when possible.
Platters, cutting boards, and other large pieces should be placed toward the sides and back so they don’t block water spray. Place items with baked-on food facedown and toward the lower spray arm. Aluminum and stainless steel can usually go in the dishwasher. Hand wash brass, bronze, wood and china gold leaf.
Forks and spoons should be placed in the basket with handles facing down. Knife handles go up for safety. Mix spoons, forks, and knives to keep them from nesting.
When unloading the dishwasher, empty the bottom rack first so that the water that collects on the surfaces of mugs and glasses in the top rack won’t spill onto the plates, pots, and dishes below.
3. Clean the Door and Seals
Dishwashers have seals around the door rim to prevent the machine from leaking. Wipe down the rubber seals and the door with a damp cloth to prevent soil and grime from building up. Then, look under the inside of the door seal to check for debris. Wipe clean.
If you haven’t cleaned this area in a long time, or never, you may need to use a bit more effort.
You’ll need a sponge, a soft toothbrush and a bowl of hot soapy water.
Open the door and dip a small toothbrush in hot, soapy water, and scrub around the door. Dig into the grooves of the rubber seal and any other crevices. Wipe up the resulting grime with a household sponge dipped in hot soapy water. Be sure to wipe the inside of the detergent dispenser as well. Wipe away any cleaning solution left behind with a clean, wet sponge.
4. Clean the Racks and Utensil Holders
Clean the dishwasher accessories and parts. Take out the racks and utensil holders. Wipe off any stuck-on food particles or other debris and clean them with vinegar or a mild detergent and a clean cloth. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off any cleanser you’ve used.
5. Inspect & Clean the Spinning Arms
Dishwashers work by spraying water out of their spinning arms onto the dishes inside. When those arms aren’t spinning properly or the holes in them are full of buildup, your dishes won’t be getting thoroughly cleaned.
You may need to remove the spray arm to clear any blockages.
It’s important to refer to your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on how to remove and clean your spray arm. It’s generally a simple procedure that doesn’t require any tools.
Wipe down the spray arm with a damp cloth. Use a toothpick or thin wire to unclog any debris or bits of food from the holes in the spinner arm. Finally, scrub any mineral deposits off the spray arm with hot, white vinegar and rinse thoroughly.
6. Clean Filter
Filters can vary greatly model to model. Always refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to clean your dishwasher’s filter.
There are two kinds of dishwasher filters: self-cleaning and manual cleaning. Older dishwashers manufactured before 2010 usually have self-cleaning filters. Filters in new models may need to be manually cleaned. To determine the type of filter you have, consult your owner’s manual or look in the bottom of the dishwasher tub, under the rotating arm. If you see a removable cylindrical piece, it’s a manual filter. A manual filter is easy to remove and clean.
To thoroughly clean the filter, you’ll need some mild dish soap and a sponge or soft toothbrush. To access the dishwasher filter, pull out the bottom rack. The filter is usually located in one of the bottom back corners of the appliance.
If your filter is removable, twist to remove it and rinse under hot running water to remove debris. Wipe the area beneath the filter inside the dishwasher with a damp cloth, sponge, or toothbrush. Once clean, put the filter back into place.
For optimum results, manual filters generally require cleaning at least once per month.
7. Unclog & Clean the Drain
At the very bottom of your dishwasher is the drain. This area is a common place where food debris, buildup, and other matter can end up and will eventually create a clog if not cleaned out. When your dishwasher drain is clogged, it will become less efficient and have a harder time cleaning.
Clean the area around the drain by collecting the biggest pieces by hand. You may need to disassemble the drain to get to some of the smaller pieces.
Always consult your owner’s manual for more complete instructions for your model of dishwasher.
Unplug the dishwasher. Take out the screws and remove the cover. Then clean out the larger pieces by hand. You can clean out smaller deposits with a brush or cloth. Put the cover back on and put the screws back in.
8. Wash for Removing Buildup
Before you start cleaning the tub, use a handful of paper towels to collect any debris from the base of the dishwasher tub. You’ll find most of the debris around the drain.
If there is no mention of the manufacturer’s recommended descaling products in your owner’s manual, you can often use white vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda to remove mineral deposits left behind from hard water.
- Place a cup of white vinegar in the middle of the top rack. Run a dishwasher cycle on high heat and wipe dry when done.
- You can also try this with lemon juice to remove water spots.
- Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher tub and run a hot washing cycle.
Never use bleach to clean the inside or outside of a stainless-steel dishwasher.