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Tips to Keep Your Dishwasher Clean

 |  Blog, General Home Care, Plumbing

Keeping a dishwasher clean is crucial, which seems odd since the job of the appliance is to clean dishes and utensils. However, keeping the inside of a dishwasher clean is an important part of maintenance. If you don’t keep debris clear, your dishes stay dirty.

If you’ve never cleaned your dishwasher, it’s time. The following tips will help with dishwasher maintenance, keeping it free of bacteria and working at its best.

Clean Dishwasher: From the Inside Out
Top rack of dishwasher full of glasswareThe outside of the dishwasher – don’t worry about it, as much. It’s the inside where all the action happens. With the dishwasher empty and using a dishtowel or paper towels, focus your attention on the dishwasher’s drain.

Wipe around the drain, removing any leftover food debris. You will also have to look out for filmy deposits left there by the tap water and dishwasher detergent. Clean thoroughly around the drain and then move toward the corners of the appliance. Clean the entire surface of the inner “tub,” removing grime.

The first easy step is to clean the basket/racks and the utensil holder. Remove each and place in the sink. Following the hot water rinse, any leftover fragments should be easy to remove. This can be done fairly regularly; bonus – they can be put back wet and dry off in the dishwasher.

Clean Dishwasher: Spray Arm
The spray arm is often the reason for a dishwasher’s poor performance. It becomes clogged with food particles, or with the sediment or mineral deposits that put the “hard” in hard water.



With a little bit of effort, and a screwdriver, the spray arm can be removed and the holes in it cleaned out. If you’re not comfortable removing the spray arm, you may attempt to clean the holes while the arm is still attached.

Thread a thin wire, the type used for hanging pictures, through the holes. This should loosen whatever is causing the clog.

Follow that up by pouring white vinegar over the spray arm; getting it into the holes. Let the vinegar sit for a short while before turning on the dishwasher and rinsing with the hottest water temperature.

Clean Dishwasher: The Filter
The dishwasher filter may have a few surprises for you especially if it’s doing its job.

The filter catches leftover food particles from dishes that weren’t rinsed before placing in the dishwasher. It’s always good to rinse the dirtiest dishes to avoid this problem.

The filter can be removed without much effort. However, different models require various tools, and the placement/location of the filter also varies. Some models allow for the filter to be lifted out by hand, while others require the housing of the filter to be unscrewed before it can be cleaned.

Follow the manufacturer’s manual. If the manual has gone missing, remember that you can almost always find it online for downloading.

Remove the filter to clean. If there are food deposits inside, dump them out and rinse the filter out with warm soapy water. Follow up with a white vinegar rinse. If the filter has stubborn particles, baked on by the heating element, then boil water and pour over the filter to loosen and then remove.

Clean Dishwasher: Natural Refreshers
Most dishwashers don’t keep lingering bad smells, but some do, particularly if there are cracks in the body, it’s an older machine or sometimes, if water pressure is too low.

Other than replacing the machine, there are odor alternatives that will make you happy to walk into the kitchen again:

  • Vinegar. This is a natural acidic cleaner¹. Pour a little – about 5 ounces – into a bowl and place it on the top rack of an empty dishwasher. Run a full cycle at the hottest water setting to disinfect the appliance. When the cycle has run its course, it’s okay to leave any vinegar in there. The next full cycle will take care of anything left. Lastly, use stronger cleansing vinegar, not what you might cook with.
  • Lemonade crystals. The smell of vinegar dissipates, but if your family is averse to the odor, then exchange the vinegar for an unsweetened lemonade packet². Empty the packet in the soap dispenser and run a full hot cycle. Wipe down the inside afterwards to remove any lingering lemonade residue.
  • Baking Soda. The old standby continues to amaze. Empty a cup of baking soda³ into the dishwasher. As with the vinegar, run a full wash cycle on the hottest water temperature setting. Wipe down the inside afterwards in case any residue remains.

Clean Dishwasher: Outside Bling
Cleaning the outside of the dishwasher is more about aesthetics than maintenance. Still, for an orderly kitchen, it is also important.

Dishwasher doors are prone to fingerprints, and a soft cloth, dipped in warm sudsy water, will wash them away. You will want to avoid harsh chemicals and scratchy cloths that damage the outer surface of the dishwasher. In fact, if you’re uncomfortable using just soapy water, you can make a homemade solution. Blend ¼ cup of baking soda to one quart of warm water.

An old toothbrush is good for getting into crevices around the inside of the door. Dip the toothbrush into the soapy or soda solution and diligently scrub. What’s left behind can be wiped away with a damp cloth.

All of this helps keep the dishwasher running in tip-top shape. Do the following every couple of months unless you notice things build up more quickly. For other plumbing concerns that aren’t as easy to deal with, give us a call at 480-422-5949 and ask us a few questions.

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1. http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2012/02/02/3407024.htm
2. https://consumerist.com/2011/01/07/clean-your-dishwasher-with-kool-aid/
3. http://www.allyou.com/budget-home/live-green-save/baking-soda