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How to Clean a Dishwasher: Ultimate Cleaning Guide

July 12, 2023

Knowing how to clean your dishwasher is essential for every homeowner. Despite its importance, the the appliance is often overlooked in the home cleaning routine.

If neglected, your dishwasher’s filter can become less efficient and even start emitting unpleasant odors. But don’t worry- we’re here with an easy guide on how to clean a dishwasher, ensuring it stays sparkling and odor-free for years of reliable service.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Cleanliness is key when it comes to maintaining the efficiency and longevity of your dishwasher. Over time, remaining bits of food can accumulate in various parts of the machine such as its filter, drain, or even in the utensil holders.

If not addressed regularly with DIY methods or a dishwasher cleaning product, these leftovers will mix with soap residue to create unpleasant odors. Not only that but it can also lead to costly repairs.

Maintaining the Dishwasher Filter

how to clean a dishwasher hygieneFailure to maintain your stainless steel dishwasher could lead you down an unfortunate path filled with dirty dishes after every wash, despite going through multiple cleaning cycles.

It’s simple – a clogged dishwasher filter, whether located on the bottom rack or under the lower spray arm depending on the model type, results in less efficient operation due to restricted water flow (check the owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to locate the filter).

In addition to that, you want to keep an eye out for potential blockages within the dishwasher drain (ie. the bottom of the dishwasher).

Leftover bits from rinsed plates, cups, cutlery, etc., might get stuck there, preventing proper drainage and causing standing water at the end of each full cycle – a perfect environment for contaminants to thrive.

When you understand how to clean a dishwasher drain, it helps turn a potential headache into a simple maintenance task. That’s why it’s so important to inspect the dish soap drains on a regular basis and remove any debris if found.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?

How often you clean your dishwasher plays a big role in its performance and lifespan. So how often does your dishwasher need to be cleaned?

Cleaning Different Parts of Your Dishwasher Regularly

how to clean dishwasher partsWe recommend cleaning your dishwasher about every 2 weeks. Additionally, you’ll want to inspect different areas of the machine where grime buildup occurs – including the bottom of the dishwasher.

Here are some other areas that you want to check and wipe regularly:

Dish Racks: Weekly inspections should be done on the top rack and bottom rack to check for food particles or other debris lodged between prongs. Wipe them down using warm soapy water along with a soft cloth or sponge.

Spray Arms: They distribute hot running water evenly across dishes during the first cycle but can get blocked due to tiny bits of leftover foods stuck-on food particles and into their holes. Monthly inspection followed by necessary cleanup will help ensure optimal functionality.

Doors: Stainless steel doors need an occasional wipe with a very damp cloth or microfiber cloth as well, especially when fingerprints start showing. You can also wipe the exterior of the dishwasher with vinegar with a microfiber cloth.

How to Clean a Dishwasher – DIY Methods

Cleaning your dishwasher is a straightforward task if you break it down into its individual components. For example, household items such as vinegar and baking soda can be a good starting point.

Clean Your Dishwasher with Vinegar

This versatile kitchen staple is renowned for its cleaning capabilities, cutting through grease and eliminating stubborn stains.

For this method, you want to fill up a dishwasher-safe bowl with two cups of white vinegar. Place this on the top rack of your dishwasher, then run a regular washing cycle without any detergent or use a drying cycle.

Baking Soda Rinse

how to clean a dishwasherA baking soda rinse can help eliminate odors from smelly dishwashers, making them smell fresh after every cleanup session.

For this method, you want to start with an empty dishwasher. From there, sprinkle one cup of baking soda across the bottom rack area, followed by a short hot-water cycle without any dishes inside.

The combination of hot water and baking soda works well at removing remaining residue and will leave behind sparkling clean results.

Tip: While you’re at it, you can also use baking soda and vinegar to clean out your garbage disposal unit.

Dishwasher Cleaning Products

Chances are, DIY options like vinegar and baking soda won’t be enough if it’s been a while since you last cleaned your dishwasher. In cases like that, you’ll want to use a commercial cleaner such as ACTIVE Dishwasher Tablets.

Septic safe, the tablets will penetrate and dissolve odor-causing residue throughout the dishwasher, including hard-to-reach areas like heating elements and pumps.

Cleaning With ACTIVE Dishwasher Tablets – Easy & Effective

how to clean a dishwasher

Add one foaming tablet to the detergent dispenser tray (make sure that the dishwasher is empty before cleaning). If it’s your first time using the cleaner or if there’s heavy residue, add a second tablet to the bottom of the dishwasher.

Once the tabs are in, run the dishwasher on a normal cycle (hot water is best). Wait for it to finish completely before opening the dishwasher’s exterior door and letting it air dry. If the dishwasher is not fully clean after the first attempt, repeat the steps again.

How often should you use the tablets? Once every two weeks (one pack comes with 24 tablets, which will last you an entire year). And the tabs can be used with all dishwashers—including those that are white and have stainless steel parts, so you won’t have to worry about them not being compatible.

Preventing Smelly Dishwashers

how to clean a dishwasherNo one enjoys a stinky dishwasher. It’s an unwelcome surprise in any kitchen, but with the right care and maintenance, it can be avoided.

Here are a few steps that you can take to prevent it.

Rinse Your Dishes Before Loading Into Empty Dishwasher

The first step to keeping your dishwasher smelling fresh is to pre-rinse dishes before loading them into the machine. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any grease left on the surface.

Leftover food debris on your dishes often become sources of unpleasant odors if they linger inside after a wash cycle.

Run Regular Cleaning Cycles

active dishwasher cleaner mainRemember, dishwashers themselves need regular cleanings too. Running dedicated cleaning cycles will help keep your appliance odor-free over time.

You can also do a quick clean of your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda. They will neutralize lingering foul scents while also helping remove soap scum and mineral deposits which may contribute to those nasty smells if left unchecked.

If the DIY methods don’t do the trick, or if you’re looking for a simple all-in-one solution, then ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner is ready to do the job for you.

A single box comes with 24 cleaning tablets – that’s 2 cleanings per month for a whole year! All you need to do is toss a tablet into the detergent dispenser and let ACTIVE do the rest.

Leave the Dishwasher Door Open

Last but not least, you want to leave the door slightly open after each load has finished. This will allow for air circulation within your stainless steel or white dishwasher.

This will help dry out any remaining moisture – thus reducing the chances of unwanted smells over time.

Don’t Neglect the Spray Arms

The arms in your dishwasher play an integral role during the cleaning cycle by spraying water onto dirty dishes.

Over time, however, food deposits may clog these holes and compromise their function, leading to poorly cleaned dishes. That’s why it’s so important to check on them regularly.

Clean the Interior of the Machine

Manual scrubbing of the interior is also a good idea – especially in areas where debris tends to accumulate, such as corners.

For example, you can use tools like a soft bristle brush dipped in hot soapy water, to tackle stubborn spots. Alternatively, you can use a toothbrush dipped in soap. From there, you can wipe the surface with a dry cloth.

Dishwasher Cleaning FAQs

What is the best way to keep your dishwasher clean?

how to clean a dishwasherACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner is the most effective way to clean a dishwasher. The citric acid based formula targets mineral buildup and grime, leaving your dishwasher spotless and fully clean.

How do you deep clean a dishwasher?

DIY methods involving hot water cycles with distilled white vinegar fill followed by warm water and a cup of baking soda can be a good starting point. You can also use a commercial dishwasher cleaner such as ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaner tablets.

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Ethan Clarke

Ethan Clarke is a seasoned expert in appliances and household waste systems. Referencing his extensive experience as an appliance repairman, Ethan shares his invaluable knowledge through detailed maintenance & troubleshooting manuals. Ethan’s insights help homeowners understand and maintain their appliances efficiently, ensuring longevity and optimal performance. He’s here to provide practical, easy-to-follow advice for all your appliance needs.

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