Cleaning

4 Tricks for a Perfectly Cleaned Dishwasher (Because it Won't Clean Itself)

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August  8, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

“Why do my coffee mugs have all these specks in them?!” I asked myself a week ago.

Let’s be honest. I knew the reason why—the dishwasher was in desperate need of a deep clean—but I was in denial because I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning out old, slimy food remains. (Does anyone, really?) However, unless I wanted to spend the rest of my days re-washing every spotty dish coming out of the dishwasher, I realized I’d just have to suck it up.

If your dishwasher looks like mine, it's probably time Photo by Camryn Rabideau

Here’s the process I used to clean every inch of my dishwasher, as well as some pictures that I'm hoping will motivate you to clean your own (just don't judge me!).


1. Get into the cracks

To get started, open up your dishwasher and pull out the bottom rack. This is usually pretty clean since it gets blasted along with your load of dishes. If it’s looking dirty, you can let it soak in the sink (or the bathtub since it’s bulky). You may also want to soak and wipe off the utensil basket.

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Top Comment:
“But Wait, it is both easier and longer to do it this way! Take the filter and filter strainer thingie out, put them into something that can handle the height, and fill it with water and a hefty splash of AMMONIA. Ammonia is the only thing I have found to deal with the (gag, Urk, stick, yucky) mess on the filters - everything else doesn't deal with the sticky and gives me the heebie jeebies.. give it an hour, or better yet overnight, then rinse, scrub - it will not be sticky oily and awful. The rubber gasket around the door can be taken off and washed - paper towels to tackle under the door, lots of them. This is not a good time to be all environmentally conscious and use cloth rags, as then you need to clean them and then you get to clean your washing machine. I hate that job even more. vinegar wash after you think you are done is a great finisher ....3 day job. Day 1. wash dishes and empty dishwasher. take a nap, take out filters and soak overnight in Ammonia. Day 2. rinse off ammonia and scrub filters. clean rubber gaskets and under the door with paper towels. Gag. Run Dishwasher with vinegar. Day 3. tell yourself you are awesome. make a cup of good coffee. Sigh. refill dishwasher with all the dishes waiting waiting. run Dishwasher. Before you go to bed, empty it. Day 4. Walk into kitchen and admire your sparkling clean empty dishwasher. go take another nap. then make another cup of good coffee..”
— ecoteri
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The first step to a sparkling clean dishwasher is to wipe out all the cracks and crevices. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels or a clean rag
  • Soapy water
The crevices are where gunk goes to hide Photo by Camryn Rabideau

Gunk tends to get stuck along the edges of the dishwasher, so you’ll want to use a damp paper towel or rag to gently wipe down along the rubber seams and the door hinge. We recommend you wear gloves for this task, as there can be sharp edges—something I learned the hard way.

Don’t forget to wipe under the float and around the soap dispenser, if needed. If you find any moldy spots, don’t panic—just scrub them away thoroughly, and we’ll disinfect the dishwasher in a later step.


2. De-Gunk the Filter

That wasn’t so bad, right? Unfortunately, the next part is kinda gross—cleaning out your dishwasher’s filter. Most experts say you should be cleaning this filter, which gets clogged with food waste, at least once a month, but mine hadn’t been cleaned since I moved into my apartment...well, several months ago…and maybe not even then.

What you need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • An old toothbrush or small cleaning brush
  • Soapy water
  • Toothpicks
  • An ironclad will

Because every dishwasher is different, you’ll want to look up how to remove it on your model. My Frigidaire required me to pop off the spraying arm, then twist the filter to pull it out. If you’re not sure how yours comes apart, consult the manual.

Once you get the filter out, you’ll probably be greeted by a mass of old food—gag. Mine even had pet hair in it (I wash my pets’ food bowls in the dishwasher). Rinse off the biggest particles with water, and if needed, soak in soapy water for 30 minutes to loosen things up.

In an ideal world, no filter should look like this Photo by Camryn Rabideau

While the filter is soaking, use a toothpick to clean out the holes in the spraying arms, removing any food particles that may have gotten stuck in there.

Now comes the really gross part. Using the toothbrush or cleaning brush, scrub out all the filter’s cracks and crevices. Rinse it with water when you’re done, then let the filter air dry before putting it back in place.


3. Sanitize and Deodorize with Vinegar

The worst is over! This next step is pretty hands-off, which is always nice. To sanitize the insides of your dishwasher and get rid of lingering odors, you can use vinegar—an all-natural cleaning superstar.

Vinegar is an all-natural cleaning superstar Photo by Camryn Rabideau

To wit, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • A dishwasher-safe bowl

Replace the bottom rack and utensil holder, then fill up the bowl with white vinegar. Place the bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher, then run a hot cycle without any dishwashing detergent. The vinegar will work its magic, leaving the inside of your appliance clean and deodorized.


4. Make the Outside Sparkle

While the cycle is running, you can clean up the exterior of the appliance. If it has a stainless steel finish like mine, you can use two common pantry ingredients to complete this task:

  • White vinegar
  • Olive oil (yes, really)
  • A microfiber cloth

First, you’ll want to spray a generous amount of vinegar onto your dishwasher—if you don’t have a spray bottle, you can also just pour the liquid onto the cloth. Identify the grain of the metal (just like wood, stainless steel has lines running in one direction), then wipe with the grain. This will remove dirt and grime.

To polish the appliance, you’ll want to do the exact same steps with a small amount of olive oil. It sounds weird, I know, but this was what got rid of the lingering stains and scuffs on my dishwasher! Just be aware that your dog may come over and try to lick it off.

Dogs and dishwashers both love a lick of olive oil Photo by Camryn Rabideau

If you have a plastic exterior, your job is even easier! Just take a sponge drenched with soapy water and wipe down the appliance and its control panel. Use a microfiber cloth to dry it off and prevent water spots.

And just like that, your dishwasher is clean again! I’m happy to report that my coffee mugs are coming out cleaner than ever, and I’ve learned a very hard lesson about not washing the dishwasher filter for years on end. I mean months, of course.


Do you have any tips and tricks for keeping your dishwasher sparkling and odor-free?
Tell us in the comments.
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4 Comments

ecoteri August 12, 2019
But Wait, it is both easier and longer to do it this way! Take the filter and filter strainer thingie out, put them into something that can handle the height, and fill it with water and a hefty splash of AMMONIA. Ammonia is the only thing I have found to deal with the (gag, Urk, stick, yucky) mess on the filters - everything else doesn't deal with the sticky and gives me the heebie jeebies..
give it an hour, or better yet overnight, then rinse, scrub - it will not be sticky oily and awful. The rubber gasket around the door can be taken off and washed - paper towels to tackle under the door, lots of them.
This is not a good time to be all environmentally conscious and use cloth rags, as then you need to clean them and then you get to clean your washing machine. I hate that job even more.
vinegar wash after you think you are done is a great finisher


....3 day job. Day 1. wash dishes and empty dishwasher. take a nap, take out filters and soak overnight in Ammonia.
Day 2. rinse off ammonia and scrub filters. clean rubber gaskets and under the door with paper towels. Gag. Run Dishwasher with vinegar.
Day 3. tell yourself you are awesome. make a cup of good coffee. Sigh. refill dishwasher with all the dishes waiting waiting. run Dishwasher. Before you go to bed, empty it.
Day 4. Walk into kitchen and admire your sparkling clean empty dishwasher. go take another nap. then make another cup of good coffee..
 
Mary August 11, 2019
Or you can invest in a Miele which looks as sparkling inside as the day I bought it. All stainless interior, no utensil basket (top rack where you line up the utensils), no float. Going on 14 years and it's the best appliance I ever owned. Occasionally wipe the gaskets - once a year - and that's it.
 
Lois B. August 11, 2019
No olive oil for cleaning! No olive oil on a wooden cutting board wither! It turns rancid! Use mineral oil on a cutting board. Lemon oil can be used for polishing furniture.
 
susan C. September 7, 2019
Gotta be careful with oils. They can get sticky too.