How to Clean a Dishwasher (in 4 Steps)

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It’s important to give your home appliances a regular clean. One of the most overlooked appliances when it comes to cleaning is the household dishwasher.

A lot of people assume it cleans itself, especially if it is used regularly. But there are parts of the dishwasher that need to be manually cleaned from time to time, and you should regularly run your dishwasher through a wash cycle when it is empty to keep it clean.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to clean your dishwasher.

Step One – Clean out the Spray Arms

The best place to start is to clean out the spray arms in your dishwasher. This is because food particles can get trapped in them and mold can build up. When this happens, your dishwasher won’t wash your dishes properly.

Here’s how to clean the spray arms:

  1. Remove all the spray arms from your dishwasher – depending on the specific make and model of your dishwasher, you will have anywhere from one spray arm to three spray arms on the top, middle, and bottom. They should just pop out, as they aren’t usually screwed in.
  2. Once removed, clean them out by rinsing them out with running water. Then check if there are any food particles stuck in the holes in them, and if so, remove it. If you have a flexible brush, you can clean the spray arms with that to ensure you get all the grime and mold out of the insides of them.
  3. Once cleaned, you can put them back into your dishwasher.

Step Two – Clean the Dishwasher Filter

The next step is to clean out the dishwasher filter. When your dishwasher drains at the end of a cycle, the filter picks up any loose debris so that the drain doesn’t block up. A lot of people don’t regularly clean them out, as they aren’t always visible when loading and unloading the dishwasher, so people forget about doing it.

Here’s how to clean out your dishwasher filter:

  1. Take the bottom rack fully out of the dishwasher, and put it aside out of the way.
  2. Remove the upper filter by twisting it gently counterclockwise while pulling it up.
  3. Remove the lower part of the filter by lifting it slightly and then gently pull it outward until it comes out.
  4. Once the filter is removed, you can give it a good clean with soapy, hot water. You might need to use a brush if it is heavily coated in mold and grime.
  5. Once it is clean, you can put it back into the dishwasher the same way you took it apart.

Step Three – Run It Through a Wash Cycle

The next step is to run your dishwasher through a wash cycle while the dishwasher is empty. Doing this will clean out any mold and grime that has accumulated inside your dishwasher and remove any bad smells.

All you need to do is:

  1. Fill your dishwasher’s detergent dispenser with your normal dish powder or use a cleaning tablet. If you want to use a more natural cleaning option, you can place 2 cups of white vinegar into a bowl and then place it in the top rack of your dishwasher.
  2. Place a second dishwasher tablet or a few tablespoons of dish powder on the bottom of the dishwasher.
  3. Turn the power to your dishwasher on, and then turn it on a heavy-duty wash cycle, with the temperature on the hottest option available.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, you can open the dishwasher door and give the seals a good clean with a household cleaning product.
  5. Leave it to dry out for a couple of hours before using your dishwasher again.

Step Four – Clean the Drain

An optional fourth step is to clean the dishwasher drain out, as sometimes food particles and other nasty stuff can get blocked in it and cause a bad odor to occur.

When cleaning your dishwasher drain out, you should also clean your sink drain and garbage disposal, as they are usually all interconnected.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Start by clearing out the garbage disposal if you have one. Sometimes your dishwasher empties out through the same drain as your disposal unit, so it’s good to flush it out regularly.
  2. Give the air gap a good clean if you have one. You can do this by simply removing the cap and then cleaning away any debris you can see.
  3. Mix up a solution of baking soda and vinegar (about ½ a cup of both), and pour it down the drain. After about 10-15 minutes, pour hot water to flush the solution out and to clear away any leftover debris.

Tips to Keep Your Dishwasher Clean

Here are a few tips to keep your dishwasher clean.

  • Take your dishwasher’s filters, spray arms, and the drain out every few weeks and give them a good clean as we outlined above. This will stop any build-up of mold and grime from occurring.
  • When using your dishwasher, don’t overstock your dishwasher. When a dishwasher is too full, the dishes won’t wash properly, as there won’t be enough dishwashing powder.
  • Before putting dishes into the dishwasher, make sure that all of the big food particles have been removed. This will stop your dishwasher drain from blocking up.
  • Every few weeks, run your dishwasher through a wash cycle when the dishwasher is empty (follow our instructions above). This will ensure your dishwasher stays clean and no bad odors occur.
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