How to clean and maintain your dishwasher

How to clean and maintain your dishwasher

dishwasher maintenance


Your dishwasher offers incredible convenience. As you clean up the kitchen each day, you can place your rinsed dishes in the machine, close the dishwasher door and let your appliance get your dishes sparkling clean with significantly less effort from you. 

Your dishwasher likely gets a lot of use, as many households use it every day. To help your dishwasher stand up to this heavy use, you should make sure you clean and maintain your appliance regularly. This maintenance will clear away mineral buildup from hard water and remaining food particles. This can help prevent clogs from forming and is an easy DIY strategy for keeping your dishwasher working optimally. 

We’ll walk you through what you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your dishwasher.


The importance of maintaining your dishwasher

A dishwasher is a relatively expensive appliance, but the convenience it offers appeals to many. Regardless, failing to take proper care of your dishwasher can result in an unsanitary environment. For example, if food particles and mineral buildup prevent water from draining properly, this can result in mold growing at the bottom of the dishwasher, resulting in the dishes getting washed in a whirlpool of moldy water filled with food bits. 

Neglecting to clean and maintain your dishwasher can also lead to other issues with the spray arm or with the soap dispenser part of the dishwashing cycle. This can result in you pulling dishes out of the washer that were never actually cleaned. 

Below are a few tested means of dishwasher cleaning. However, always refer to the owner’s manual before taking anything apart.


How to clean your dishwasher


We’ll walk you through the process of cleaning your dishwasher so that you can avoid nasty buildups and make sure your appliance is always ready for use. To prepare for this process, here are supplies and cleaning products you’ll need:

  • A damp cloth
  • White vinegar
  • An old toothbrush, pin or something similarly small to clean the spray arm
  • A dishwasher-proof bowl

Wipe out all food and debris

During the first step, take your damp cloth and wipe down the interior of the machine to remove any food debris or gunk. Even when people rinse their dishes prior to placing them in the dishwasher, it’s common for small bits of food to still stick to the dishes. These small crumbs then get washed off during the dishwashing process and can end up getting lodged in the dishwasher filter and other important parts.

Wiping down the dishwasher also helps remove any minerals left behind from hard water. Completing this step on a regular basis will help reduce or eliminate the necessary work of removing the buildup later on.

Remove and clean the filter

Next, turn your attention to the dishwasher filter and the bottom drain of the dishwasher. This allows the water to drain out of the appliance after each cycle. Maintaining a free and clear passage for the draining water reduces mold buildup and keeps the machine in working order.

Remove the filter and wipe it down with a damp cloth. This will help dislodge any food caught in the filter and further prevent mineral buildup. Ideally, you should go through this step after each use, but doing it at least once a week will still benefit the functionality of your dishwasher. 

Place a bowl of vinegar in the dishwasher and run it

Now, fill your dishwasher-safe bowl with vinegar, place it on the top rack and run the dishwasher on the hot water cycle. Make sure you have an empty dishwasher for this process, including the bottom rack. This process will help give the entire interior of the appliance a good wash. Vinegar and hot water help get rid of mold and bacteria that might have started to grow in the appliance.

This step doesn’t have to be done as often as a wipe down, but it should be completed several times per year to keep the dishwasher in peak condition.

Remove all racks/holders and soak them in a vinegar solution

After you’ve run the dishwasher with the vinegar and hot water, remove the racks and holders within the appliance and place them separately in a container with a vinegar solution. Let them soak in this solution.

Clean the spinning arms in the dishwasher

If you look closely at the spinning arm inside the washer, you’ll see numerous tiny holes. These holes play a critical role in the process, as they spray the water that will rinse the dishes, removing soap and grime. However, given their small size, it’s easy to see how these holes can get clogged by mineral buildup from the water.

Something small, like a pin, a small wire brush, pipe cleaner or toothpick can help dislodge small clogs. An old toothbrush can then help you give this part a good scrub and get rid of any buildup starting to form. The more often you go through this process, the less time the minerals will have had to accumulate.

Replace all components

Once you’ve finished cleaning the different parts of the dishwasher, it’s time to put the machine back together. Remove the racks and holders from the vinegar solution and put each piece where it belongs. Your dishwasher should now look and smell significantly cleaner, as you have cleared away potential sources of musty odors. 

Wipe down the outside

Your dishwasher interior now looks fantastic, and its parts will help the machine operate optimally and keep your dishes clean and ready for use. 

To top off your hard work, be sure to give the exterior of the dishwasher a good clean. Many colors and materials, especially stainless steel, show fingerprints easily. Wiping them away a few times a week will help the exterior match the sparkling-clean interior.


Dishwasher maintenance tips

In addition to paying close attention to cleaning your dishwasher, you also want to stay on top of maintaining the appliance. Maintenance tasks ensure that all the parts are well-cared for so that they last longer and perform better.

Clean dishes before placing them in the dishwasher

Food buildup is one of the biggest issues facing dishwashers. Some people mistakenly assume that because the dishwasher will wash their dishes for them, that also means it can manage bits of food stuck to plates, bowls and cutlery. Unfortunately, bits of food will just end up sitting on top of the filter.

The best way to avoid this is to make sure your dishes have been thoroughly rinsed before placing them in the dishwasher. Rinse off any bits of food you see, regardless of how small they are. 

Keep the dishwasher drain clean

After the dishwasher runs, give the drain a quick cleaning to pick up any bits of food or any early mineral buildup. This part of the cleaning process also plays a critical role in the maintenance of the machine. Allowing the development of clogs will impact the ability of the machine to drain, clean dishes and function properly. 

Clean the door gasket

You don’t want to have water leak out of the sides, past the door seal, while the appliance is in use. Therefore, give the outer gasket and seal a regular wipe down to prevent any buildup along this outer edge. While you complete this task, also look closely at the seal to make sure no rips or other damage has formed that would impact the use of the dishwasher. 

Deep clean monthly

To keep your dishwasher in peak condition, run through the thorough cleaning process discussed every month. This will help keep the dishwasher working well and prevent mineral and food buildup.


Protect your dishwasher from costly repairs with Cinch

Regular maintenance and cleaning plays a critical role in keeping your dishwasher running. To give your appliances even further protection, consider a home warranty from Cinch Home Services. Our Appliances Plan can help cover the cost of repairing or replacing major appliances due to normal wear and tear, such as your dishwasher.

You can trust that if something goes wrong, you can request service 24/7 and not have to worry about going over budget. Give yourself the peace of mind that comes from knowing the appliances throughout your home are protected. Get a free quote now and see how easy it is to get started.

Keep your dishwasher working well so that your dishes stay clean and you avoid unnecessary repair bills. Learn how you can here.

Your home protection is ready and waiting!