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Yes, You Should Clean Your Dishwasher. Here’s How.

If you’re not doing basic maintenance on your dishwasher, it’s not going to do its best work.
By Published Dec. 9, 2021

Your dishwasher is busy cleaning all your dirty dishes, but it can’t clean itself. Without a little TLC, it might begin leaving spots, streaks, and food traces on your dishes, operating less efficiently, and winding up with a shorter lifespan. To keep your dishwasher in peak condition, here’s what the experts say you should do. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?

According to dishwasher manufacturers, that depends on how frequently you run your dishwasher and whether you usually scrape or rinse food off dishes before you load them. 

  • If you run your dishwasher daily (or even more than once a day), and never scrape dishes, then you might need to check the filter once per week
  • If you run it less often, and do a little rinsing and scraping, you can do it once per month. (Note: While lightly rinsing or scraping dishes before you load the dishwasher is a good idea, pre-washing them is not. New dish detergents actually need a little food residue on dishes to cling to.)

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How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Under the lower spray arm, in the bottom of your dishwasher, most models have a filter cup to catch bits of food so they won’t circulate and redeposit on your clean dishes. (There may be multiple filters in your machine, so check the instruction manual for details on your specific model.)

  1. Pull out the filter and empty it.
  2. Gently scrub it with an old toothbrush or a soft bottle brush.
  3. Rinse well.
  4. Carefully put it back in place.

How to Deep-Clean Your Dishwasher with Vinegar

About once a month, run a cleaning cycle to deep-clean the dishwasher’s interior. Minerals from your tap water, soap residue, and grease can build up over time. You can use a dishwasher-cleaning product like affresh or Finish, which are designed to scrub and descale the machine, or do a DIY clean with vinegar. Here’s how (according to KitchenAid, which manufactures dishwashers):

  1. Put 2 cups white distilled vinegar in a sturdy glass or dishwasher-safe measuring cup on the bottom rack.
  2. Run the dishwasher through a complete wash cycle, using an air-dry or an energy-saving dry option. Do not use detergent. Vinegar will mix with the wash water.

Important note: Don’t go overboard and do this cleaning cycle more than once per month: Vinegar is an acid, and too much can damage your dishwasher, even if its interior is made of stainless steel. And definitely don’t be tempted to use chlorine bleach, which will damage the machine. 

And that’s it! Your dishwasher will thank you with cleaner dishes.

Header image: Cris Cantón, Getty Images