How to Clean a Dishwasher?

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Gina Napsin
February 20, 2024
Home appliances
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Maintaining a clean and efficient dishwasher is crucial for ensuring your dishes come out sparkling after each cycle. A dirty dishwasher not only affects the cleanliness of your tableware but can also lead to unpleasant odors and reduced appliance longevity. In this guide, we'll dive into the essential steps and tips on how to clean a dishwasher effectively.
From removing stubborn residues to preventing clogs and odors, we'll cover it all. Say goodbye to grime and hello to a sparkling, odor-free dishwasher with our expert advice!

Understanding the Need for Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning of your dishwasher is essential to ensure it operates efficiently. Over time, remnants of food, grease, and soap scum build up inside the machine, creating a breeding ground for unpleasant odors. These accumulations can also clog the dishwasher's spray arms, filters, and drains, diminishing its cleaning capabilities.
By maintaining a consistent cleaning routine, you prevent these issues, ensuring that your dishwasher continues to function effectively, leaving your dishes spotless and free from any lingering odors.

5 Signs that Indicate a Dirty Dishwasher

A dishwasher is a valuable appliance in any kitchen, but it needs proper maintenance to function efficiently. Here are five signs that indicate a dirty dishwasher:
  • Foul Odor: A persistent unpleasant smell emanating from your dishwasher is a clear sign of accumulated food debris, grease, and residue. This odor can transfer to your dishes, making them less appealing and hygienic.
  • Cloudy or Spotted Dishes: If your dishware emerges from the dishwasher with a cloudy film or visible spots, it suggests mineral buildup and detergent residue on the interior surfaces and spray arms.
  • Inefficient Cleaning: When your dishwasher fails to clean dishes thoroughly, leaving stains or food particles behind, it's an indication of clogged spray arms or a dirty filter that obstructs water flow and detergent distribution.
  • Slow Drainage: Slow or incomplete drainage after a cycle can be a result of food particles blocking the drain or a clogged filter, leading to unhygienic standing water in the dishwasher.
  • Unpleasant Taste or Odor on Dishes: If your dishes taste or smell odd after a wash, it could be due to lingering detergent residues, bacteria, or mold growth within the dishwasher, affecting the taste and quality of your dishes. Regular dishwasher cleaning and maintenance can prevent these issues, ensuring your appliance functions.

Steps to effectively clean and upkeep your dishwasher for optimal performance

1. Materials Required for Cleaning
You will need these items to help you in cleaning and maintaining the dishwasher:
  • White vinegar or a dishwasher cleaner
  • Baking soda
  • Soft brush or toothbrush
  • Dish soap
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Toothpicks or bamboo skewers
2. Clean the Dishwasher Filter
The dishwasher filter is crucial for trapping food particles and debris during the wash cycle. To clean it, remove the bottom dishrack and carefully pull out the filter located at the bottom of the tub. Be cautious as there might be broken glass. Rinse the filter under running water and use a brush to remove any deposits from the filter screen. Wipe the filter housing clean using a cloth or sponge, then reinstall the dishwasher filter. This step ensures that water can flow freely and your dishes come out clean.
3. Clear Deposits from Spray Arm Holes
The spray arms play a role in distributing water for effective cleaning. Hard water deposits and detergent residue can accumulate in the spray arm holes, hindering their performance. Begin by removing the lower spray arm and using toothpicks or bamboo skewers to clear these blockages. Rinse the spray arm thoroughly under running water and then reinstall it. Repeat this process for the upper spray arm to ensure even water distribution and efficient dishwashing.
4. Wipe Down the Interior of the Dishwasher
It's important to clean the inside of your dishwasher to avoid the accumulation of food particles and grime. Utilize a damp microfiber cloth or sponge to wipe down the interior comprehensively, including the door, sides, and bottom. Pay close attention to corners and crevices where residue may collect.
Additionally, wipe out any detergent residue from the detergent dispenser, using a brush if needed. This step ensures a hygienic environment and enhances the overall cleanliness of your dishes.
5. Clean the Seals and Gaskets
The rubber seals and gaskets around the dishwasher door can collect residue and mold over time, potentially leading to leaks and odors. Inspect them for any buildup and clean with a mixture of water and mild dish soap. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to scrub gently, maintaining the integrity of the seals and preventing future issues.
6. Run a Cleaning Cycle
Regularly running a cleaning cycle is necessary to maintain a fresh and efficient dishwasher. Place a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher and run a wash cycle on the highest temperature setting. This helps remove mineral deposits, grease, and odors. To neutralize any remaining odors, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run a second wash cycle to neutralize any remaining odors. This step ensures that your dishwasher remains odor-free and performs at its best.
7. Clean the Drain Hose
The end of the drain hose where it connects to the garbage disposal or sink drain can accumulate grease and debris. To clean it, disconnect the end of the hose and clear out any blockages. Reconnect the drain hose securely to prevent leaks. This step ensures proper drainage, preventing water backup and maintaining the efficiency of your dishwasher.
8. Clean the Outer Door Panel
To complete the cleaning process, wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth. Pay special attention to buttons, handles, and any other surfaces prone to accumulating dirt or fingerprints. If you have a stainless steel dishwasher, use a stainless steel cleaner to polish the door and maintain its appearance. Regular cleaning of the outer door panel keeps your dishwasher looking and functioning at its best.
It is advisable to repeat this cleaning routine monthly to prevent the buildup of grime, ensure optimal dishwasher performance, and prolong the lifespan of your appliance.

Annual Professional Maintenance and Cleaning

Keep your dishwasher in top shape by scheduling appliance maintenance services and appliance repair if needed. This step will also help avoid unexpected breakdowns, and your dishwasher will last longer when it’s professionally maintained.
While performing dishwasher maintenance, the Home Alliance technician will:
  • Inspect the electronic control board and sensors.
  • Examine and clean the circulation pump and drain pump.
  • Test the detergent and rinse the aid dispenser.
  • Check the control panel.
  • Test the heating element.
  • Check and clean dishwasher door gaskets.
Yearly professional cleaning and maintenance will also help your dishwasher last longer.
Keep your home appliances in top shape and lasting longer by scheduling yearly appliance maintenance services. The technician will service all of your appliances in one convenient visit.
Trust Home Alliance to help keep your appliance and your entire home in top shape.


  • Why is it important to clean the dishwasher regularly?
Regular dishwasher cleaning prevents odors, maintains efficiency, and ensures hygienic dishwashing, extending the appliance's lifespan and improving dish cleanliness.
  • How often should I clean my dishwasher?
Clean your dishwasher monthly to prevent residue buildup and maintain optimal performance and hygiene.
  • Is it okay to use bleach to clean my dishwasher?
Yes, it's generally safe to use bleach for cleaning. Use it sparingly and follow manufacturer guidelines to avoid damage.
  • Is it necessary to use specialized cleaners for dishwashers?
Specialized cleaners aren't necessary; white vinegar and baking soda can effectively clean and deodorize dishwashers.
  • What should I do if my dishwasher still smells after cleaning?
Inspect the drain hose for blockages, clean it, and ensure it's properly connected to prevent lingering smells.