Dishwasher Maintenance


Frequency of Dishwasher Cleaning

Front of a dishwasher in a kitchen.

Many manufacturers suggest monthly deep cleaning of the dishwasher. That includes the door, gasket, and filter, which all need to be cleaned.

You shouldn't let your dishwasher go more than six months without being cleaned, even if you only use it occasionally or always prewash your dishes. However, if you really put your dishwasher through the ringer on a regular basis, you might want to clean it more often than once a month. Start making cleaning the dishwasher a monthly task if you aren't sure how often it needs to be done. You can then modify your cleaning routine based on how dirty your dishwasher actually gets every month.


The Importance of Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean

Close up of a dirty dishwasher.

Dishwasher maintenance begins with a thorough cleaning. Minerals, grease, grime, and limescale will accumulate inside your unit if you consistently put this off. It will lose effectiveness over time. Eventually reducing its efficiency In other words, you can't rely on your dishwasher to get the job done. Imagine stale plates and cloudy wine glasses. And if it doesn't perform as expected, you may end up spending money on unnecessary repairs.  

It's not pleasant when your dirty dishwasher starts to emit an unpleasant odor. If you care about the condition of your kitchen and the dishes to come, you should regularly clean your dishwasher using the methods outlined below.


Dishwasher Component Cleanup

Someone soaking and cleaning a dishwasher part.

Cleaning the dishwasher's detachable components first is a good place to start. Remove the dish rack and the utensil holder from the dishwasher. To remove leftovers, simply rinse or wipe them down.  

Put 2 cups of white vinegar into a sink half-filled with warm water for tough food buildup. Vinegar can be used as a safe and effective homemade dishwasher cleaner. Let the pieces soak for 20 minutes in the sink. Then, replace them after giving them a quick rinse.


Cleaning the Dishwasher's Interior

Someone placing a measuring cup full of vinegar into a dishwasher.

Built-up gunk inside a dishwasher can prevent it from effectively cleaning your dishes. As was previously mentioned, lingering odors may be the result of built-up grime.  

To get rid of the built-up grime and odor in a dishwasher, you can start by using vinegar. First, make sure the dishwasher is empty. Then, place a bowl safe for the top rack of the dishwasher with 1 cup of white vinegar in it. Start the dishwasher on the hottest setting. Turn off the dryer and leave the dishwasher door open to let the dishes dry naturally.

If you want to clean the inside of your dishwasher and get rid of any lingering odors, you can sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on the floor and run a short cycle on the highest setting. When using vinegar to clean a dishwasher, it's best to let the appliance air dry afterward. Dishwasher interiors can be easily and effectively cleaned with vinegar and baking soda, but you shouldn't use them together. Vinegar and baking soda are a great cleaning duo.  

Additionally, if your dishwasher is not stainless steel and does not contain stainless steel, bleach can be used to deep clean the interior and remove tough stains, mold, and mildew. Place a bowl that can withstand bleach (and the dishwasher) on the top rack and pour in 1 cup of bleach. Then finish the cycle, but don't dry the clothes.  

A helpful hint: bleach can corrode stainless steel, so avoid using it in a dishwasher made entirely of stainless steel. Cleaning with baking soda and vinegar is fine, but you shouldn't use bleach at the same time.


Door and Gasket Cleaning for the Dishwasher

Someone using a toothbrush to clean small spaces.

Empty the dishwasher and clean the door. Use an old, soft toothbrush and a solution of 3 cups of hot water and 1/2 cup of vinegar to carefully scrub the area around the rubber gasket. If your dishwasher's manual specifies that only warm water should be used for cleaning, then that's what you should do.

If the gasket still appears dirty or shows signs of mold or mildew, consult the manufacturer's guidelines to determine whether or not an all-purpose cleaner or other product can be safely used to remove the dirt and mold without damaging the gasket.


Cleaning the Filter in Your Dishwasher

A person removing the filter from the dishwasher.

Most modern dishwashers have self-cleaning filters, but if yours does not, you should take it out and clean it at least once a month. The owner's manual for your dishwasher will have specific instructions for cleaning the filter, but in general, you can remove it, rinse it out, and put it back in.

  • Gently unlock the top filter and remove it from the dishwasher. You should also eliminate your model's lower filter.
  • Examine the dishwasher's filter base to see if any food has become stuck there. To clean, use a damp microfiber towel to wipe down the area.
  • Filter cleaning requires warm, soapy water and a hand wash. If there are food particles stuck to it, scrub it gently with a small, soft-bristled brush.
  • Filters should be washed in warm, running water.
  • Reinstall the air filters. Make sure the upper filter is locked into place if your dishwasher has one before each subsequent use.  


Dishwasher Drain Cleaning Instructions

Someone cleaning the inside of the dishwasher.

A monthly deep clean should also include clearing the dishwasher drain. To begin, fill a large microwave-safe bowl with white vinegar (about 1 cup). Warm it for 15–20 seconds in the microwave so it's just lukewarm.

Remove the bowl from the microwave and add 2 tablespoons of baking soda, stirring to combine. The mixture should be poured down the dishwasher's drain. Give it ten to fifteen minutes to rest.

In the meantime, put water on to boil. Carefully pour the water down the dishwasher drain right as the boil begins to subside to help clear any debris or clogs. Proceed cautiously so as to avoid being scalded by the water.

Advice: keep your garbage disposal spotless and in good working order. Dishwasher draining and clogging issues are sometimes caused by a clogged or dirty garbage disposal.


Cleaning the Outside of Your Dishwasher

Someone cleaning the outside of the dishwasher.

Cleaning the exterior of the dishwasher is often overlooked in favor of the interior, but it is just as important. Clean the exterior panel with a cloth and some warm, soapy water. Use a worn out towel to dry it.  

Use a glass cleaner or stainless steel cleaner in a dishwasher made of stainless steel.


Fixing a Stinky Dishwasher

A person washing the dishwasher filter.

In addition to not doing their job properly, dishwashers can develop unpleasant odors. Odors like these typically originate from food particles that have become lodged in the dishwasher's drain or spray arms. Cleaning a stinky dishwasher is easy when you know what you're doing.

To begin, take a look at the spray arms and use toothpicks to unclog any clogged nozzles. Remove any leftover food or other debris from the bottom of the dishwasher by wiping it with a paper towel or a cloth. If the odor remains after you've cleaned the inside of the dishwasher, you should do so again.

Dishes will be cleaner, and your built-in or portable dishwasher will last longer, if you know how to properly maintain it. The most efficient way to maintain a clean dishwasher is to settle on a cleaning routine and stick to it religiously.  

Prepared to shop for dishwasher detergent and other cleaning materials at a nearby store Find products and see what's in stock with the Home Depot app. Wherever you need to go, we'll get you there.

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