How to Clean a Dishwasher


The ultimate guide to deep cleaning your dishwasher

You know what could use a little TLC? Your dishwasher! This often-overlooked appliance should be cleaned every six months.

Learn how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda in the following step-by-step guide. You’ll be amazed at the difference—your machine will look brand-new and it will run more efficiently than ever.

1. Gather your cleaning supplies

First things first: Gather up your cleaning products. You’ll need:

  • Warm water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Toothpick
  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubber gloves

2. Remove the filter, utensil holders, and racks

In order to get down into the nitty-gritty cracks and crevices of your dishwasher, you’ll need to remove the racks, utensil holders, and filter. Some filters simply twist off, but others will require tools to unscrew them. Take them out and place them in a mixture of warm water and 1 cup of white distilled vinegar. Leave them to soak for at least 30 minutes.

3. Clear out all debris

Now that you have a clear line of sight, check for any lingering debris that might be hiding within. Wipe the spray arms and the side walls, especially in the corners at the top and bottom. Check the filter and dispenser, and look inside all the tiny holes and slots where water sprays out. If you see food particles or other debris lodged in tiny crevices like these, use a toothbrush and/or toothpick to clean them out.

4. Run the dishwasher on a hot water cycle with vinegar

Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup of white vinegar and place it on the bottom of the empty dishwasher. Set the dishwasher to run on a hot water cycle. The vinegar will break down any remaining bits of food, grease, soap scum, residue, and any other leftover grime.

5. Run another short wash cycle with baking soda

When the first cycle ends, remove the bowl and sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda along the bottom of the dishwasher. Run it on a short cycle. The baking soda will remove stains and freshen the dishwasher. The result? A bright, sparkling dishwasher that smells oh-so-clean.

6. Clean the outer door

Grab a cleaner specifically formulated for your dishwasher’s surface: If it’s stainless steel, for instance, look for a cleaning product that is made for stainless steel. Some all-purpose cleaners can leave a streaky finish or even scratch steel, so be careful.

Another way to go? Create a DIY cleaner. A basic mixture of dish soap, water, and white vinegar makes a great homemade cleaner that’s safe for all dishwasher surfaces. Dip a microfiber cloth in your soapy water, squeeze out the excess, and then swipe in the direction of the surface’s grain. Rinse out your cloth, and then make a pass over the surface again for a gleaming, fingerprint-free finish. 

Make sure to wipe down the control panel and handles with your damp cloth as well.

Keeping your dishwasher clean

Now that you know how to clean a dishwasher, you’re going to see many benefits. Not only is the machine better-smelling and fresher-looking, but you’ll find it’s actually more effective. With all the residue gone, soap and water can spray through the appliance at full strength—leaving you with cleaner dishes. 

Any time your dishes start to come out of the dishwasher with gunk still stuck to them, it’s a sign that your dishwasher probably needs a deep clean. Try to deep clean the inside of the dishwasher once every six months to keep it running optimally.

Apart from that six-month deep clean, if your dishwasher has a self-cleaning sanitize cycle, you should run it on a monthly basis. The sanitize cycle runs hotter and longer than a regular dishwashing cycle and is able to kill 99.9% of bacteria and food soil that a standard wash cycle leaves behind.

If your dishwasher doesn’t have a sanitize cycle, you can stock up on Affresh. Affresh is a foaming tablet that combats residue and dishwasher detergent buildup, and it’s designed to be used with a regular full cycle.

Make sure to check your hot water temperature settings

Last but not least, we’ve got one more tip for making sure your dishwasher is working its best: Set your water heater temperature to 120°–150°F. 

If the water is not at least 120°, it’s not hot enough to clean dishes effectively. To test your temperature, use the sink nearest the dishwasher and fill a cup of water with the hottest tap water possible. Place a thermometer inside and read the temperature. If it’s lower than 120° or higher than 150°, you’ll need to adjust your water heater temperature.

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