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How to Clean a Dishwasher 101

How often should we clean our dishwasher? We probably don't clean it nearly often enough. Those of us that wash our dishes on a daily basis probably think that our dishwasher is getting cleaned along with our dirty utensils. The answer is no, your utensils are getting less and less clean as your dishwasher gets more and more dirty.

Now that we have a bit of dishwasher germ anxiety, let's fix this problem! On a good note, it’s actually pretty easy to get it clean with minimal effort.

Let's get started…

Clean The Spray Arm

This step is after all utensil and dish racks have been removed. When checking the spray arm, you want to first remove the arm. This usually just requires you to unscrew it off with your hands. Then look to make sure there isn't any food particles or debri, blocking the flow of water.

If you notice any of the spray holes are blocked with dirt, grime or any buildup, use a toothpick, sewing needle, or anything to where you can clear the small holes out without causing damage. This will ensure that you are getting a solid water flow.

Spray down with an All-purpose cleaner and then wipe down with a microfiber cloth.

Clean the Filter

Start by removing the filter from the bottom of the dishwasher. Each dishwasher will be a bit different, so look at your manual if needed.

The filter is where food particles get caught. So, if it’s been a while since you last cleaned your filter like most of us, you’ll likely find quite a bit of built up. It's actually recommended that the filter is removed and cleaned weekly. Let's start with now and see how bad it really is first.

This part is fairly simple.

Hot water and soap is usually all you need to clean a filter. Just make sure that you rinse all of the soap out of it.

If your filter is really dirty, try using an All-Purpose cleaner. Let the spray sit for 5-10 minutes and then just use a toothbrush to scrub away any left over debri. Sometimes even soaking the filters in hot water is helpful as well.

Clean the Drain

This requires you to remove the drain cover. A lot of times the filter is attached to the drain cover, so you may have already done this! There are different types of models. Some you just lift up, twist, or others you may need to locate a latch to release it. If you aren't sure, just research the manual and or Youtube is a helpful resource and usually has videos on just about everything!

Pre warning, underneath the drain cover will most likely be pretty nasty.

Rinse off the drain cover as much as you can with hot water, and then you can use an old toothbrush or bristle brush with a bit is soap to get rid of any left over yuckiness.

As for the drain itself, mix one cup of slightly warm distilled white vinegar with a scoop of baking soda. Let sit for 10-20 minutes then rinse with about 6-7 cups of hot water to remove any clogs or debris. You can also use Finish Dishwasher Hygienic Cleaner as well. For the Finish cleaner, you just open, load in the dishwasher rack and turn on an empty cycle. This helps with smells and cleaning. Let sit for 10-20 minutes then rinse with about 6-7 cups of hot water to remove any clogs or debris.

Check the rubber seal

At this point, you've probably noticed a bit of build up around the rubber seal on the inside of the dishwasher door. Spray All-Purpose all around the seal and use a small cleaning brush or toothbrush to scrub off all that build up.

When you are finished, wet a microfiber cloth with warm water and wipe the seal down to remove the debri we just loosened up.

This will help make sure that your dishwasher maintains a tight seal so there is no leaks.

Cleaning with solution

There are multiple do's and don'ts when it comes to deep cleaning your dishwasher. Before trying any of these ways, make sure that your dishwasher is empty.


Place a dishwasher-safe bowl filled with one cup of distilled white vinegar on the top rack and run a pots-and-pans or heavy (hot) cycle without detergent or dishes.

Commercial Dishwasher Cleaner:

Check the instructions before using any commercial dishwasher cleaner. Most require an empty dishwasher, but some can be used in the same cycle with dishes and detergent for even more convenient cleaning.


No, bleach and bleach-containing cleaners are not recommended, especially if the dishwasher has a stainless steel interior. Some dishwasher detergents contain bleach, but that's to help with stain removal from cups and plates. Make sure to never use bleach with vinegar. This combination can actually create potentially lethal chlorine gas.

Finishing with Baking Soda

For extra freshening, after running the vinegar cycle, sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of your empty dishwasher and run a short or quick cycle.

The baking soda will help remove stains and will leave the inside of the dishwasher nice and clean.


If, after going through all these steps, your dishwasher still has an unpleasant odor, or still has some staining, refill your vinegar bowl with 1 cup of vinegar or sprinkle 2 cups of baking soda on the bottom of your dishwasher and run on the hottest cycle.

Note: Choose either vinegar or baking soda for deodorizing. Don’t use them both together as they cancel each other out.

That's it! Now the rest is just upkeep. Try checking the cleanliness of your dishwasher on a weekly or at most bi-weekly schedule. This will just help the longevity of your appliance!

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