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How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Woman Cleaning Dishwasher
Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Dishwashers are one of those everyday appliances we take for granted—and too often neglect. Dishwashers need regular cleaning, but it doesn’t have to be a huge or bothersome job.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we barely want to clean our dishes in the first place, so it’s natural we want to clean the thing that gets our dishes clean even less. That’s just human nature. But if we don’t keep our dishwashers clean, we can’t expect them to do an excellent job of cleaning the things that we put into them.

It’s not a fun job, but it needn’t be the tremendous pain we think it is. And as is often the case with cleaning anything, the more often we take care of it, the less work it takes.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?

You might argue that dishwashers clean themselves every time you use them, and they kind of do. You don’t need to get into your dishwasher with detergent and a sponge every time you use it.

But, you should give your dishwasher, filter, and drainage system a proper cleaning once per month. That might sound like a pain, but if you don’t clean these things often enough you’ll find that your dishes aren’t as clean as they once were—and that’s the whole point of having a dishwasher.

Some Tips for Cleaning a Dishwasher

Because a dishwasher is filled with dirty dishes, sometimes little bits of food linger in the bottom. That’s what filters are for, which brings us to the first of a handful of tips we have to offer.

  • Clean the drain and filter: If you remove the lower dish rack from your dishwasher, you will see a drain and filter. It’s here that you are likely to find any bits and pieces of food that were collected during the washing cycle. Clear all of this out and give everything a good wash before reinstalling it. You don’t want any of that stuff being recirculated during cleaning cycles.
  • Clean your dishwasher with Kool-Aid: No, we’re not joking. Putting lemonade Kool-Aid powder into the place you would typically put cleaning powder or tablets and then running a full cycle with the dishwasher empty can be a great way to keep it looking like new. It’ll make it smell nice, too.
  • Add citrus peels to a wash: We really promise we’re not joking. The peels will deodorize your dishwasher, making it smell all citrus-like. That’s certainly an improvement over the wet dog smell some dishwashers suffer from.
  • Use vinegar to clean out grease: If grease is a problem and you find dishes have a thin film on them after being cleaned, put a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher and run a hot water cycle. Then marvel at how all that grease is no more.

Tip: That vinegar you use to degrease a dishwasher? You can also use it to get water spots off your glasses. Put a bowl with white vinegar on the bottom shelf, load up the top shelf with clean, but water-spotted glassware, and run a normal cycle.


We don’t think anyone would say that they enjoy cleaning their dishwasher, bit nobody enjoys having to hand wash dirty dishes because they aren’t adequately cleaned, either. By giving your dishwasher some much-needed love, you should be able to keep it working as well as it did on the day you installed it.

Oliver Haslam Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam is a professional freelance writer with nearly ten years of experience. His work has been published on Macworld, PCMag, 1Password's blog, and other websites. He writes about all things Apple. Read Full Bio »

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