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Weekend Project: Clean Your Dishwasher

An empty dishwasher, ready to be cleaned.
hiv360/Shutterstock

You might not think it’s necessary to clean your dishwasher because it regularly has soap and water coursing through it. However, your dishwasher is still getting dirty, from food bits and grease, as well as detergent build-up.

It’s beneficial to give your dishwasher a good cleaning once a month. Not only will a clean dishwasher keep your dishes cleaner, but you also prevent damage to the filter and pump. The build-up of food, grease, water minerals, and detergent can clog your machine parts and leave you with an expensive repair bill.

How to Know It’s Time to Clean Your Dishwasher

While you should clean your dishwasher once a month for optimal use, not everyone has the time for this. Plus, if you don’t use your machine daily, it might not need as much cleaning. So, when should you clean it, if not regularly? If your dishes don’t seem to be coming clean, your glasses are coming out with spots, or your machine has a funky smell, it’s time for a deep clean.

Things You Can Do More Often

Don’t wait until your dishwasher is clogged up. At the end of each day that you use your dishwasher, take a moment to pick out any food remnants left behind. Pull out the bottom rack and wipe out the bottom of the dishwasher. This will help reduce the amount of grime that builds up, and it will keep your dishwasher from getting stinky.

Wipe out the detergent holder anytime it starts to look gross. The residue will build up in this area, so keeping it clean will help keep that residue from spreading to your dishes.

Once a week, wipe down the door of your dishwasher. This will help remove spots and residue. You might also want to remove and rinse the filter once a week, depending on how often you use your dishwasher. The more you use it, the more often things need cleaning. If you only run it a couple of times a week, you can push this duty to the monthly deep cleaning.

Giving Your Dishwasher a Monthly Deep Cleaning

The steps to a clean dishwasher aren’t difficult and shouldn’t take you more than an hour. You can purchase a dishwasher cleaning tablet, but it will take more than the tablet to get out all the gunk. You can save money by doing a DIY clean with vinegar, baking soda, and a little bit of elbow grease.

Clean Out the Drain

Even if you’ve been cleaning under the bottom rack weekly, you still want to clean out the drain again for your monthly cleaning. This is a good time to pull and rinse the filter as well. If your dishwasher doesn’t have a food trap and/or filter, but instead has a food disposer with a grill covering it, you can skip this step. (Check the manual and inspect the dishwasher closely, though, because many newer disposal models include a pre-filter you still need to clean.)

Run a Cycle with White Vinegar

Once you’ve cleaned out the gunk from the bottom of your dishwasher and drain, run an empty load in your dishwasher with one cup of white vinegar on the upper rack. Be sure to use a dish that is dishwasher safe. Run it on the hot-water cycle.

Vinegar cleans to a shine, easily removes grease, and will also help remove any smells your dishwasher has from old bits of food.

Do a Baking Soda Rinse

The final step of your monthly cleaning will remove stains and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh as new. Simply sprinkle a cup of baking soda across the entire bottom of your dishwasher. Run a short cycle with hot water, with the machine empty.

Clean the Seals

Once you’ve done all of the above, the inside of the dishwasher should be nice and clean. One overlooked area is the rubber seals around the rim of the washer where the door seals against the body of the washer when you close it. Use a rag and some hot water and vinegar to wipe away any built up food bits, grease, or hard water deposits. Not only will this extend the life of the seal, but it will stop any water from leaking through the little gaps that form.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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