5 Important Reasons for Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Paradise Appliance
July 7, 2022
Dishwasher Repair

It may seem contradictory to need to clean a dishwasher. After all, doesn’t it clean itself every time you do a load of dishes?

Well, actually, every time you run a cycle, food waste, detergent residue, grease, grime, water mineral deposits, and sometimes foreign objects like glass build up inside the dishwasher.

Your dishwasher has more places than you might think where debris and residue can get stuck and cause problems, such as the filter, door gasket, or pump.

But don’t worry, cleaning the dishwasher isn’t that difficult. While we recommend a deep clean, you could just run a cycle with a cup of distilled white vinegar in it.

Here are five reasons to clean the dishwasher, four ways to clean it, and seven things to do to keep it clean.

Prevent or clear a blockage

If you don’t deep clean your dishwasher, eventually, the filter, pump, or drain hose will become clogged. A blockage can cause leaks, dishes to come out still dirty, and the dishwasher itself can be damaged. Ultimately, the dishwasher will fail, and a technician may be required to fix it.

Improve dishwasher performance (get cleaner dishes)

Food residue and other debris affect the dishwasher’s performance. If you don’t clean the dishwasher, you’ll find spots and film on your glassware. Food debris that doesn’t drain also ends up on your dishes.

Prevent and remove dishwasher odors

Food debris also causes mold, mildew, and bacteria to form, which, with the damp dishwasher environment, causes unpleasant odors. The odors waft out when you open the dishwasher and can also make its way onto the supposedly clean dishes at the end of a cycle.

Stop components from deteriorating

Not cleaning your dishwasher allows food residue and other debris to build up, which can damage the dishwasher’s filter, pump, and drain hose. Cleaning the dishwasher also usually results in finding foreign objects, like broken glass, which can also damage the pump, filter, or drain hose.

Hygiene. Your dishwasher could make you sick

Neglecting to clean the dishwasher allows mold, mildew, and bacteria to build up, usually in the door gasket. Blockages can also increase the risk of getting sick from the dishwasher. In extreme cases, the dishwasher can cause respiratory infections and breathing problems.

4 ways to clean the dishwasher

A dishwasher cleaning product

A range of dishwasher cleaner products are sold in grocery stores or online, which are specially designed to clean your dishwasher.

Also, a dishwasher cleaner specific to your brand of dishwasher is probably available. If you search your dishwasher manufacturer’s website, you will often find a product that the brand recommends.

Cleaning instructions can be found with the product or on the product website.

Distilled white vinegar

Vinegar is a great alternative cleaning product; it breaks down grease and grime, sanitizes, and removes unpleasant odors.

We recommend using vinegar to clean the dishwasher by hand and running a cycle with vinegar to remove debris from the pump and drainage system.

  • Mix one part vinegar and one part water into a spray bottle.
  • Remove the dish trays and spray arms from the dishwasher.
  • Remove the dishwasher filter (if your model has one).
  • Spray the dishwasher interior and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  • In the sink, clean the dish racks and spray arms with a damp sponge and the vinegar mixture.
  • Clean the dishwasher tub with a damp sponge. Don’t forget the door gasket.
  • Return the components to the dishwasher.
  • Put half a cup of vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher.
  • Run a long, hot cycle.

Some manufacturers advise against cleaning the dishwasher with vinegar as it may damage some components. However, as long as you don’t clean with vinegar more than once a month, it’s unlikely to cause any damage. If you think vinegar might damage the dishwasher, don’t use it.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is best to use if, after cleaning with vinegar or a store-bought cleaning product, an odor still remains.

  • Sprinkle baking soda throughout the dishwasher.
  • Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  • Run a short, hot wash cycle (just the baking soda, no other dishes).

After the cycle is complete, the dishwasher should smell better with a brightened, stain-free interior.

Liquid Bleach

Generally, bleach is not recommended to clean your dishwasher, as it can damage the dishwasher and is harmful if touched or ingested. However, if the dishwasher has a particularly bad mold and mildew problem, or an odor or debris that you can’t seem to get rid of, bleach could be used. Just make sure you run a long, hot cycle after cleaning with bleach.

  • Mix one part bleach and one part water into a spray bottle.
  • Remove dish racks, spray arms, and the filter.
  • Spray the dishwasher and clean with a damp sponge. Don’t forget to clean the door gasket.
  • Clean the dish racks, spray arms, and the filter with the bleach mixture or dish soap. Rinse after cleaning.
  • Return the spray arms, filter, and dish racks to the dishwasher.
  • Put a cup of bleach on the top dish rack of the dishwasher.
  • Run a long, hot cycle with just the bleach in the dishwasher.
  • Run a long, hot cycle without anything in the dishwasher to make sure all the bleach has been removed.

Bleach will damage stainless steel, so don’t use it if your dishwasher has stainless steel components. Also, never use bleach with vinegar, as it creates a potentially lethal chlorine gas.

How to keep the dishwasher clean

  • Use a quality dishwasher detergent and rinse aid.
  • Remove any food debris that you see in the dishwasher. Leaving it there causes odors to develop and can clog the dishwasher.
  • Leave the door open at the end of a cycle to help prevent stale odors. (Take care if you have young children or pets.)
  • Rinse dishes and discard leftover food before putting them in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t scrub the dishes clean, as dishwasher detergents require some grime and food residue to work properly.
  • Empty the filter regularly.
  • Clean the dishwasher once per month.

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