5 Ways to Deep Clean a Dishwasher

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Cleaning your dishwasher is a task that is often neglected in our busy lives. Keeping your dishwasher clean can help it perform better, last longer, and prevent unpleasant smells. Our easy guide will help you get your dishwasher back into sparkling clean shape in no time!

You will need:

  • Dishwasher cleaner
  • Cloths or rags
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • An old toothbrush
  • A large bowl or a sink to soak dishwasher parts
  • A toothpick or skewer

1. Run a cycle with a commercial dishwasher cleaner

A good starting place for maintaining a clean dishwasher is to run a cycle using a commercial dishwasher cleaner. Start out by having an empty dishwasher. Ensure there are no chunks of food inside and that the drain and filter are clear.

There are a number of different products available on the market, but most require you to place a bottle of liquid upside down on the top rack and run the dishwasher empty on a high-temperature cycle. 

Note that this is a good solution for a mildly or moderately dirty dishwasher, but if your dishwasher has a lot of built-up food and grime, then a more in-depth cleaning may be needed. Continue reading our guide to find out how to give a more in-depth clean. 

2. Clean the removable parts

The first step to a deep clean is to take out all the removable parts in your dishwasher so they can be thoroughly cleaned. 

Dish racks and utensils holder

Remove the dish racks and the utensils holder and wipe them down using a wet cloth and warm soapy water. If they have caked-on grime, you may need to soak them. You can soak them in your kitchen sink, or if that is not big enough to hold the dish racks, you can try soaking them in your bathtub. 

Filter

  • Unlock the dishwasher filter, then remove it.
  • Look inside the dishwasher’s filter base for any possible food or debris.
  • Hand-wash the filter in hot, soapy water. If there are food particles caught on, gently scrub the filter with an old toothbrush.
  • Under warm running water, thoroughly rinse the filter.
  • Place the filter back where it was. Before starting the dishwasher again, make sure the filter is locked if it has a locking mechanism.

Spray arms

The spray arms are an often-neglected part of the dishwasher to clean, but they can lead to bad smells and inefficient cleaning if they are blocked. 

  • Remove the spray arms and wash them with warm soapy water and a cloth.
  • Inspect the holes to see if any of the water jets are blocked. 
  • Use a toothpick or skewer to clear any blockages within the jet holes. 
  • If you notice any mildew inside the dishwasher spray arms, you can soak them in a vinegar and water solution to ensure you have removed any smells. 

3. Clean using baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are the gold standards of natural cleaning solutions. They are cheap, effective, and non-toxic.

Manual cleaning

After removing and cleaning the removable parts of your dishwasher, it is time to clean the rest of the interior. Using a rag or cloth soaked in vinegar, wipe down the sides, top, and bottom of the interior, paying extra attention to any stubborn stains. You can use a toothbrush soaked in vinegar to clean the railings that hold the dish racks. 

Make sure there are no large, sharp objects in the drain area that could clog it, harm the pump, or scratch your dishes. After removing any loose material, use the old toothbrush dipped in vinegar to pay special care to cleaning the area around the drain.

Run a cycle with vinegar

After you have manually cleaned the inside of your dishwasher with a rag or cloth, you can put back the removable parts and run a cycle with vinegar in order to complete the cleaning. Here’s how to do it:

  • On the top rack of your vacant dishwasher, place a small dishwasher-safe basin and fill it with white vinegar.
  • Shut your dishwasher and complete a full cycle of washing using the hottest setting.
  • Open the dishwasher before it gets to the drying part of the cycle and allow it to air dry.

Run a cycle with baking soda

In order to clean the interior and eliminate odors, you can also put one cup of baking soda on the floor of an empty dishwasher and run a brief cycle on the highest setting. Skip the drying cycle and let the dishwasher air dry, just as you did when cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar.

Note that the vinegar and baking soda should never be used together in the same wash cycle – use one first and then the other. 

4. Bleach wash

If your dishwasher has been plagued by mold and/or mildew, adding a final bleach wash to the cleaning procedure should solve the problem. Add one cup of bleach to the bottom of the dishwasher and run the entire wash cycle to perform a bleach wash.

Note: If the interior of your dishwasher is stainless steel, DO NOT do this step. Stainless steel can become permanently stained and damaged by bleach.

5. Clean the exterior and the door

The final step to deep cleaning your dishwasher is to ensure that the outside matches the inside. 

Clean the exterior

Wipe down the outside of the dishwasher using a cloth dipped in warm, soapy water. Pay special attention to the handle and around the buttons where grime may accumulate. Polish with a microfiber cloth to avoid streaks.

Clean the door

Make sure you are not missing the area around the edge of the dishwasher’s door.  Use an old, soft toothbrush and a solution of three cups of hot water and one-half cup of vinegar to gently wipe the rubber gasket that seals the door.

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