I know for me personally, it's difficult to remember that sometimes the household cleaning tools we utilize every day need their own cleaning every once in a while. Like the dishwasher. Not only can it be easy to forget to clean or deep clean the dishwasher itself, because it's so great at keeping dishes clean and spotless, but it's also hard to know how to clean a dishwasher in the first place, with all its nooks, crannies, and intimidating-looking tubes.
But dishwashers are so important to keep clean because they're responsible for deep cleaning the utensils, plates, cups, and so much more that we use to eat. So yes, you should know how to clean your dishwasher and what to do about all its various parts, like how to clean a dishwasher filter or how to know when it's even time to clean the dishwasher. After all, it won't necessarily look stained, like a carpet or car seats.
Well, we've got you covered. While deep cleaning a dishwasher may sound like a daunting task in itself, we promise that the answers to all your questions on how to get started are relatively simple and straight-forward.
But one thing worth noting: not all dishwashers are built the same, so a technique that may work great for one person may be ineffective or even impossible for another. Always check your owner's manual before trying any of these tips, and if you have a warranty, you may also want to check to make sure a certain cleaning method won't void it.
How to Deep Clean a Dishwasher
First, empty out your dishwasher. Some of the cleaners that we recommend say you can use the cleaner with a full load, but if you want a proper and more effective deep cleanse, we recommend running it empty.
The easiest and most efficient way to deep clean a dishwasher is to buy a dishwasher cleaner. Luckily, most dishwasher cleaners are very affordable and easy to use. We recommend Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner ($7, originally $9), which helps to not only clean the surfaces and inner workings of your dishwasher but is also great at getting rid of any strong and nasty odors. It's super easy to use; one pack comes with six tablets, and all you have to do is run your dishwasher empty with one tablet. If your dishwasher is extra grimy, don't be afraid to use another one immediately after — though you shouldn't need to.
Another good dishwasher cleaner used for deep cleaning is Finish Dual Action Dishwasher Cleaner ($4), which breaks down limescale and grease buildup. This product is liquid rather than a tablet, and users have shared that this product leaves a fresh, clean smell.
How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar
If you don't want to buy a premade formula such as the ones mentioned above, an easy and affordable DIY solution is vinegar. Fill a mug or bowl about two-thirds of the way with white vinegar, then place it upright on the top rack and run a hot-water cycle. The acidic vinegar helps break down built-up grease; when you open the dishwasher again, you might even see some chunks of debris that the vinegar worked loose.
For a really deep clean, once the cycle is done, remove the dishwasher racks, utensil holder, and filter. Fill a bowl or your sink with warm water and one cup of vinegar, and soak the utensil holder and filter for 30 minutes; dip a rag in the solution, and use the wetted rag to wipe down the racks. Then rinse it all off and reassemble in the dishwasher.
As a final step, you can sprinkle baking soda at the bottom of the dishwasher and leave it there after reassembling the pieces in your machine. Your next cycle will wash the powder away, and it can help absorb any lingering vinegar smell.
How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter
Something that may be easy to forget, but is arguably the most important part to clean, is the dishwasher filter. Your owner's manual (which is likely available as a PDF online) can give you specific instructions on how to remove it, but in general, you'll have to unlock the dishwasher filter and slide it out; if there's a second filter attached, you'll want to remove that one as well.
If you haven't cleaned your dishwasher filter recently (or ever — we've been there), we recommend using gloves to pull out the filter. Then, fill your sink or a large bowl with hot water and some squirts of liquid detergent. Place the filter in the mixture, and let it soak for a couple of minutes. Once it's soaked for a little bit, use a sponge or clean toothbrush to scrub any extra remnants out of the filter.
Once you're done, you'll want to rinse your filter with hot water. Before replacing or reloading your dishwasher filter, remember to clean the opening where the filter sits. You can use hot water and soap and a sponge or cloth to reach in and clean out any extra residue.
How to Clean a Dishwasher Drain
The dishwasher drain is another part of the dishwasher that may be easy to forget but is vital to keep clean. Much like any drain, if the dishwasher drain fills up with old debris and residue, it can't properly clean and drain new cycles.
Again, your owner's manual can give you specific instructions on how to clean the drain without damaging the machine, so refer to that before taking any action. But often, you can simply remove the filter and pour one or two tablespoons each of baking soda and vinegar directly into the drain, let it sit for 15 minutes, then replace the filter and run your empty dishwasher on its highest heat cycle. The bubbling action of the two substances together help loosen any grime.