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Simple Steps to Clean Your Dishwasher

Updated on March 25, 2011

Of all the appliances you have cleaned in your house, did you ever consider the dishwasher to be one in need of some attention? Although its job is to clean our dishes and utensils, the dishwasher should not be denied a specialized cleaning a few times a year.

Obviously, a dishwasher is used to clean dishes. But the appliance goes much further than that. Small particles of food left on the plates, bowls and utensils are washed away. Slightly larger particles of food are digested in the process. However these food particles, as well as the minerals and chemicals found in today’s water systems, can build up and cause dishwashers to be less effective. A few tell-tale signs that your dishwasher is in need of proper cleaning are an odor or dishes which do not come clean. Even if you have not experienced these symptoms in your own dishwasher, it would be beneficial to be proactive.

First, completely empty your dishwasher. If the dishes and utensils inside are clean, remove them. If they are dirty, run the dishwasher as you normally would. Remove the contents after they are dry and cool.

Next, gather the necessary supplies. These include:

  • White vinegar; Vinegar has been long known to be an all purpose cleaner, disinfectant and deodorizer. Here it can come to your aid with very little out-of-pocket cost and without using harsh, potentially harmful chemicals.
  • A cleaning rag
  • A dishwasher safe mug or cup
  • Tweezers
  • Screwdriver (if applicable)

Open the door of your dishwasher and inspect the rubber seal around the opening. If you have not cleaned your dishwasher in a while (if ever) this rubber seal will likely be dirty. Soak part of the cleaning rag in vinegar and wipe down the seal. This will remove mineral deposits and general dirt build-up. Also go around the edge of the door with the cloth, cleaning it thoroughly.

You Might be Surprised

The tea bag I found in the dishwasher drain.
The tea bag I found in the dishwasher drain.

Now it is time to inspect the drain and disposal inside your appliance. Our dishwasher has a simple plastic “screw” in the top to remove the drain cover and water spraying mechanism which can be unscrewed by hand. Your drain cover may require the use of a screwdriver. Consult your user manual if you are uncertain how to properly remove this cover. Once the cover is removed, you may have an uneventful inspection resulting in a clear drainage compartment. Or, if you are like me, you may find something you do not expect (see the photo to the right). If you do find an item that does not belong, remove it before replacing and securing the drain cover.

You will also want to inspect the holes of the water sprayer. While probably unlikely, there may be a buildup of mineral deposits or food particles blocking one or more of the holes. This will prevent your dishwasher from cleaning properly. If you do find such items, remove them with the tweezers very gently.

The final step is to prepare the empty dishwasher for the cleaning cycle. It is important for this step that the dishwasher be completely empty. Fill the dishwasher safe mug or cup with white vinegar and place on the top rack of the dishwasher, right side up. The vinegar will be dispersed throughout the dishwasher and clean everything from the drain (of small particles you could not remove yourself) and mineral deposits which may have built up. Close the door and run a cycle on the highest temperature heat setting available. After the cycle has finished, remove the cup and pour out the vinegar water it is holding. You now have a fresh and clean dishwasher.


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    • Impressions profile image

      Impressions 7 years ago from Chicago

      This article was not what I expected to be reading tonight, but surprisingly, it was something that I needed to read. Thanks for the simple instructions. I will feel confident in tackling this task this weekend!