Easy and Effective Methods How to Clean a Dishwasher

Regular maintenance and cleaning of your dishwasher is essential for ensuring sparkling results and prolonging its lifespan. By following a proper cleaning routine, you can prevent issues like foul odors, residue on dishes, and even potential damage to the appliance.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of effectively cleaning your dishwasher. You’ll also learn about the benefits of regular maintenance and the common signs that indicate your dishwasher needs cleaning. By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and techniques to keep your dishwasher in top shape, guaranteeing spotless dishes every time you run a cycle.

Signs that Your Dishwasher Needs Cleaning

When your dishwasher is due for cleaning, it may exhibit certain signs that indicate the need for maintenance. Pay attention to the following indicators to determine if it’s time to clean your dishwasher:

  1. Indicator lights and error codes:
    Many modern dishwashers are equipped with indicator lights or error codes to alert you to potential issues. If you notice any error codes related to cleanliness or performance, it could be a sign that your dishwasher needs cleaning.
  2. Foul odor:
    A persistent unpleasant smell coming from your dishwasher is a clear indication that it requires cleaning. Over time, food particles, grease, and soap scum can accumulate, leading to unpleasant odors.
  3. Residue and film on dishes:
    If you notice a film or residue on your dishes, glassware, or utensils after running a cycle, it suggests that your dishwasher is not effectively cleaning them. This residue is often caused by mineral deposits, leftover food particles, and grease buildup.

By keeping an eye out for these signs, you can identify when it’s time to clean your dishwasher and ensure optimal performance. Regular cleaning will not only eliminate these issues but also extend the lifespan of your appliance while maintaining hygienic and spotless dishes.

Preparing Your Dishwasher for Cleaning

Before you embark on the cleaning process for your dishwasher, it’s important to properly prepare the appliance. Taking the following steps will ensure an effective and safe cleaning experience:

  1. Gather necessary supplies:
    Collect all the supplies you’ll need to clean your dishwasher. This typically includes rubber gloves, a soft sponge or cloth, a toothbrush or small brush for scrubbing, mild dish soap, white vinegar, baking soda, and a clean, dry towel.
  2. Following safety precautions:
    Ensure your safety by taking necessary precautions. Start by disconnecting the dishwasher from its power source. If your dishwasher is connected to both electricity and water, consider turning off the circuit breaker and closing the water supply valve. This will prevent any accidents or water damage during the cleaning process.

By gathering the required supplies and adhering to safety measures, you’re ready to proceed with cleaning your dishwasher effectively and safely.

Cleaning the Exterior of Your Dishwasher

The exterior of your dishwasher can accumulate dirt, grime, fingerprints, and stains over time. Cleaning the exterior not only enhances the overall appearance of your appliance but also promotes cleanliness in your kitchen. Follow these steps to clean the exterior of your dishwasher:

  1. Wiping down the control panel and door:
    Start by dampening a soft cloth or sponge with warm water and mild dish soap. Gently wipe down the control panel, buttons, and the entire surface of the dishwasher door. Pay attention to areas that tend to accumulate more dirt, such as the handle and edges.
  2. Removing stains and buildup:
    For stubborn stains or buildup, prepare a paste by mixing baking soda with water until it forms a thick consistency. Apply the paste to the stained areas and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, scrub gently with a soft brush or sponge. Rinse off the paste with clean water and wipe the surface dry.
  3. Polishing the exterior:
    For stainless steel exteriors, you can use stainless steel cleaner or polish specifically designed for appliances. Apply the cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using a soft cloth. Gently buff the surface in the direction of the grain to restore its shine. For other materials, refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for appropriate cleaning products.

By regularly cleaning the exterior of your dishwasher, you’ll maintain its visual appeal and keep it looking fresh in your kitchen.

Removing Food Debris from the Filter

The filter in your dishwasher plays a crucial role in trapping food debris and preventing it from clogging the drainage system. Over time, the filter can become clogged, affecting the dishwasher’s performance. Follow these steps to remove food debris from the filter:

  1. Locating and accessing the filter:
    The filter is typically located at the bottom of the dishwasher, beneath the lower spray arm. Some dishwashers have a removable cylindrical filter, while others have a flat filter that needs to be lifted or twisted to remove. Consult your dishwasher’s manual to locate the filter and understand its removal mechanism.
  2. Removing and cleaning the filter:
    Once you’ve identified the filter, carefully remove it from its position. Rinse the filter under warm running water to remove loose food particles. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to gently scrub the filter to dislodge any stubborn debris. Avoid using abrasive materials or harsh cleaning agents that could damage the filter.
  3. Clearing debris from the filter housing:
    While the filter is removed, take the opportunity to inspect the filter housing for any accumulated debris. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe away any residue or debris from the housing.
  4. Reinstalling the filter:
    After cleaning the filter and filter housing, securely reinstall the filter back into its original position. Ensure it is properly seated and locked in place according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

By regularly cleaning the filter, you’ll prevent clogs, improve the dishwasher’s efficiency, and ensure the proper functioning of the drainage system.

Clearing Clogs in the Spray Arms

The spray arms in your dishwasher distribute water throughout the appliance, ensuring thorough cleaning of your dishes. However, over time, these spray arms can become clogged with food particles, minerals, or other debris, resulting in ineffective cleaning. Follow these steps to clear clogs in the spray arms:

  1. Identifying and removing spray arms:
    Locate the spray arms in your dishwasher. They are typically located at the bottom and top of the dishwasher. Depending on the model, the spray arms may be secured with a clip or nut. Use your dishwasher’s manual as a guide to identify the method for removing the spray arms.
  2. Clearing clogs and obstructions:
    Once you’ve removed the spray arms, visually inspect them for any visible clogs or obstructions. Use a thin, pointed object like a toothpick or a wire to dislodge any debris from the spray arm holes. Be careful not to damage or enlarge the holes during this process.
  3. Ensuring proper alignment and reinstallation:
    Before reinstalling the spray arms, check for any misalignment or blockage in the spray arm mounting areas. Ensure that the spray arms are properly aligned and securely attached to their respective positions. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reattach the spray arms and secure them in place.

By regularly clearing clogs in the spray arms, you’ll optimize water distribution and improve the dishwasher’s cleaning performance.

Cleaning the Interior of Your Dishwasher

Regularly cleaning the interior of your dishwasher is essential for maintaining its cleanliness and performance. Follow these steps to effectively clean the interior of your dishwasher:

  1. Wiping down the walls and ceiling:
    Start by wiping down the interior walls and ceiling of the dishwasher with a damp cloth or sponge. Pay attention to areas that are prone to buildup, such as the corners, edges, and around the door gasket. Use a mild dish soap if needed to remove any stubborn stains or residue.
  2. Cleaning the door gasket and hinges:
    Inspect the door gasket, which creates a seal when the dishwasher is closed. Wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any debris or food particles. Check for any signs of damage or mold growth, and if necessary, clean the gasket with a mixture of water and vinegar to prevent mold and mildew buildup. Additionally, wipe down the hinges of the dishwasher door to remove any dirt or grime.
  3. Removing mineral deposits from the tub:
    Over time, mineral deposits can accumulate in the dishwasher’s tub, particularly in areas with hard water. To remove these deposits, place a dishwasher-safe container filled with white vinegar on the top rack of the empty dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle without detergent, allowing the vinegar to break down and dissolve the mineral deposits. This will help restore the cleanliness and efficiency of the dishwasher’s interior.

By regularly cleaning the interior of your dishwasher, you’ll ensure optimal performance, prevent odors, and maintain a hygienic environment for your dishes.

Eliminating Odors from Your Dishwasher

Unpleasant odors in your dishwasher can impact the freshness of your dishes. To eliminate odors and keep your dishwasher smelling fresh, follow these steps:

  1. Using vinegar and baking soda solution:
    Start by placing a dishwasher-safe cup filled with white vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher. Then, sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle on the highest temperature setting. The vinegar and baking soda will work together to remove odors and break down any residual food particles.
  2. Running a cleaning cycle with citric acid:
    Citric acid is another effective solution for eliminating odors. You can find citric acid in the form of dishwasher cleaner or by using lemon-flavored drink mix. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the cleaner or mix one packet of lemon-flavored drink mix with water. Pour the mixture into the detergent dispenser and run a hot water cycle. The citric acid will help break down buildup and neutralize odors.
  3. Maintaining freshness with lemon or orange peels:
    After completing the cleaning process, you can maintain a fresh scent in your dishwasher by placing a few lemon or orange peels on the bottom rack. The natural citrus oils will leave a pleasant aroma during the next dishwasher cycle.

Cleaning Dishwasher Racks and Utensil Holders

The dishwasher racks and utensil holders can accumulate food particles, stains, and residue over time. To ensure that your dishes are clean and sanitary, it’s important to clean these components regularly. Follow these steps to clean your dishwasher racks and utensil holders effectively:

  1. Removing racks and utensil holders:
    Start by removing the dishwasher racks and utensil holders from the dishwasher. Depending on your dishwasher model, the racks may be removable by sliding them out or detaching them from the tracks. Utensil holders can typically be lifted out or detached as well.
  2. Soaking and scrubbing with mild detergent:
    Fill your kitchen sink or a large basin with warm water and add a small amount of mild dish detergent. Submerge the racks and utensil holders in the soapy water and let them soak for about 15-20 minutes. This will help loosen any stuck-on food particles.
  3. Scrubbing and rinsing:
    After soaking, use a soft brush or sponge to scrub the racks and utensil holders, paying attention to areas with stains or residue. For stubborn stains, you can use a paste of baking soda and water to scrub the affected areas. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.
  4. Inspecting for damage and proper functioning:
    While cleaning, inspect the racks and utensil holders for any signs of damage, such as rust or broken tines. Check that the utensil holders have all the necessary compartments and that they are functioning properly. Replace any damaged parts as needed.
  5. Drying and reinserting:
    Once cleaned and rinsed, dry the racks and utensil holders with a clean, dry towel. Ensure they are completely dry before reinserting them back into the dishwasher.

By regularly cleaning your dishwasher racks and utensil holders, you’ll maintain their cleanliness and ensure optimal performance during each wash cycle.

Maintaining a Clean Dishwasher: Tips and Best Practices

To keep your dishwasher running smoothly and ensure clean and spotless dishes, it’s important to follow these maintenance tips and best practices:

  1. Establishing a regular cleaning schedule:
    Set a regular cleaning schedule for your dishwasher. Aim to clean it at least once a month, or more frequently if you notice signs of buildup or odors. Regular cleaning prevents the accumulation of food particles, grease, and mineral deposits, ensuring optimal performance.
  2. Proper loading and unloading techniques:
    Take care when loading your dishwasher to ensure proper water circulation and cleaning. Avoid overcrowding the racks, as this can obstruct the spray arms and prevent thorough cleaning. Also, scrape off excess food particles from dishes before placing them in the dishwasher to prevent clogs and buildup.
  3. Using dishwasher-safe cleaning products:
    When cleaning your dishwasher, use cleaning products specifically designed for dishwashers. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, bleach, or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the dishwasher’s components. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations for cleaning products to maintain the longevity of your appliance.
  4. Regularly check and clean the drain:
    Periodically check and clean the dishwasher’s drain to prevent clogs. Remove any visible debris or food particles from the drain area, filter, or drain hose. A clear drain ensures proper drainage and helps avoid unpleasant odors.
  5. Monitor water quality:
    If you have hard water, mineral deposits can build up more quickly in your dishwasher. Consider using a water softener or installing a water softening system to reduce mineral buildup. Additionally, using dishwasher-safe citric acid cleaners or running a cleaning cycle with vinegar can help combat mineral deposits.

By following these tips and best practices, you’ll maintain a clean and efficient dishwasher, ensuring excellent cleaning results for your dishes every time.


Regular maintenance and cleaning of your dishwasher are vital for achieving spotless dishes and ensuring the longevity of your appliance. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, you can effectively clean every aspect of your dishwasher, from the exterior to the interior components. Remember to pay attention to signs that indicate your dishwasher needs cleaning, such as foul odors, residue on dishes, or indicator lights.

Preparing your dishwasher properly before cleaning, such as gathering necessary supplies and following safety precautions, sets the stage for a successful cleaning session. From there, you can proceed to clean the exterior, remove food debris from the filter, clear clogs in the spray arms, clean the interior, eliminate odors, and maintain dishwasher racks and utensil holders.

By adhering to the maintenance tips and best practices outlined in this guide, you can ensure a clean and efficient dishwasher. Establishing a regular cleaning schedule, practicing proper loading and unloading techniques, using dishwasher-safe cleaning products, and monitoring water quality will help you achieve optimal results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best thing to clean a dishwasher?
The best thing to clean a dishwasher is a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Vinegar helps remove odors and disinfects, while baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive to remove stains and buildup.

How do I deep clean the inside of my dishwasher?
To deep clean the inside of your dishwasher, remove any removable components like racks and filters. Then, wipe down the walls, ceiling, and door with a damp cloth or sponge and a mild dish soap. Clean the filter and spray arms, and run a cleaning cycle with vinegar or a dishwasher cleaner.

How do you clean a dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda?
Start by placing a dishwasher-safe cup filled with white vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher. Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle to allow the vinegar and baking soda to break down stains and odors.

How do I clean a smelly dishwasher?
To clean a smelly dishwasher, remove any food debris from the filter and spray arms. Run a cleaning cycle with vinegar or a dishwasher cleaner. You can also place lemon or orange peels on the bottom rack to freshen the dishwasher’s scent.

Is it OK to clean the dishwasher with baking soda?
Yes, it is safe to clean the dishwasher with baking soda. Baking soda acts as a natural cleaner and deodorizer, helping to remove stains, residue, and odors from the dishwasher’s interior.

Is vinegar better than dishwasher cleaner?
Both vinegar and dishwasher cleaners are effective in cleaning dishwashers. Vinegar is a natural and cost-effective option that helps remove odors and mineral deposits. Dishwasher cleaners, on the other hand, are specifically formulated for deep cleaning, targeting tough stains and buildup.

How do I clean my dishwasher naturally?
You can clean your dishwasher naturally by using ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, lemon, or citric acid. These natural cleaners help remove stains, eliminate odors, and keep your dishwasher fresh and clean.

How do I clean my dishwasher without vinegar?
If you prefer not to use vinegar, you can still clean your dishwasher effectively. You can use citric acid, lemon juice, or dishwasher cleaners specifically formulated for odor and stain removal.

Easy and Effective Methods How to Clean a Dishwasher