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How to clean your dishwasher

Your dishwasher does the hard work of cleaning dishes for you after every meal … but did you ever wonder whether your dishwasher itself needs a cleaning? You might have if you’ve ever seen mold growing or detected an unpleasant odor when you opened the door of this hard-working appliance.

Or maybe you thought the dishwasher was essentially cleaning itself while doing a load of dirty dishes. Just think of it this way: Your shower keeps you clean, but it still needs a washing on the regular. Find out why — and how — to clean this important kitchen appliance. Fortunately, it’s an easy task!

dishwasher clean dishwasher

Why clean your dishwasher

Think about what goes into your dishwasher with the dishes: Grease, food waste, germs and soap, which creates buildup over time. These particles and substances can get clogged in the drain, coat surfaces and cause the unit to work less efficiently or even cause drainage issues with your kitchen plumbing. Those who live in homes or areas with hard water also may find that minerals, limescale and the like can coat the surfaces in the appliance over time.

What parts to clean

A full cleaning of your dishwasher should include the following areas:

● Drain
● Racks
● Interior surfaces
● Door

soap tablets clean dishwasherSupplies you’ll need:

Rubber gloves, a dishwasher-safe container (such as reusable food storage), white vinegar (or unsweetened lemonade), baking soda and if mold is present, bleach.

Follow these instructions to complete this easy chore:


Step 1: Remove the bottom rack

Once you carefully detach the bottom rack of the appliance, you’ll have access to the drain. Clear out any debris or buildup. Replace the bottom rack.

Step 2: Eyeball the interior

Examine the interior surfaces of your dishwasher for evidence of mold growth. Mold can be the cause unpleasant odors and even cause respiratory problems, especially for those with asthma or compromised immune systems.

Step 3: Run a vinegar rinse

Place one cup of white vinegar into the container and place it on the top rack of the appliance. Run a hot water cycle and allow the vinegar to loosen all the grime coated on the interior surfaces. You can also use a packet of unsweetened lemonade instead of vinegar.

Step 4: Follow with a baking soda rinse

Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the floor of your unit. This time, run a short hot-water cycle. You should have a sparkling clean dishwasher after this step.

Step 5: Finish with a bleach cycle, if needed

If you found mold anywhere in your appliance, fill the dishwasher basin with bleach and run another cycle to kill the spores. Do NOT use bleach if you have a stainless steel interior.

Step 6: Wipe down your washer

Now that the interior of your unit is cleaned, why not wipe the exterior surfaces too? Give your door and controls a wash with a mild cleaner and buff them with a soft cloth.

baking soda clean dishwasherWhen to wash to maintain a clean dishwasher

If your dishwasher appears to be running inefficiently or you notice buildup on the racks or interior, it’s time to give it a wash. However, once a month is a great idea for regular maintenance and extending the life of your appliance. Time it with another monthly task, such as doing a purge and deep clean of your refrigerator.

If you still have a smelly dishwasher after cleaning it, have a professional take a look at the appliance and your plumbing. The plumbing experts at John C. Flood serve homes in D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia. We also can make repairs and install new dishwashers if you need a replacement.

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