Dishwasher maintenance checklist: The maintenance your dishwasher needs

Increase performance and extend the life of your dishwasher with regular maintenance and cleaning.

Your ultimate dishwasher maintenance checklist

  • Find the manual, and try the door.
  • Check the racks, arms and nozzles.
  • Clean the edges and exterior, and check for leaks.
  • Unclog and clean the drain.
  • Remove any buildup with an acid such as vinegar.
Maintenance and Repairs

How do you maintain a dishwasher?

It’s a question that often comes to mind when you go shopping for a new machine and suffer from a bit of sticker shock. Most of us rely heavily on our dishwasher, a modern convenience many consider essential among the significant appliances in their homes today. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “What maintenance does a dishwasher need regularly?” Read on for the answer, and finish the whole post before you put this checklist to use.

Do dishwashers need maintenance?

Like any expensive appliance, a dishwasher performs better and lasts longer when owners put some effort into keeping it clean and well-maintained. If you’re thinking about putting a little more time and energy into maintaining your investment, planning ahead for some annual dishwasher preventive maintenance makes sense. This way, you have a better idea of what your dishwasher maintenance cycle priorities are and a system to help you keep track of what you’ve done and when. If you want your new dishwasher to function well for many years, creating a dishwasher maintenance checklist will pay off in the long run, saving you many unspent future dollars on maintenance, repairs and potential replacements while making that substantial investment worthwhile.

How often should you have your dishwasher serviced?

Remember, if you take good care of your machine, a professional dishwasher maintenance service may not be required that often to keep your machine running reliably. Most of these suggestions are things you can do on your own. Whenever you get around to starting an annual maintenance routine, a dishwasher checklist can refresh your memory of what to look for. However, before you get started, keep this in mind: If you’re tough on your machine, it won’t function as well or last as long. For this reason, always scrape and rinse your plates. Let it be your mantra.

How often do you have to clean a dishwasher filter?

According to manufacturers, advice on this can vary, so keep that manual handy. Most experts agree that cleaning the machine, including the filters, should be done at least twice a year, but always scrape and rinse your dishes thoroughly before putting them in the machine. This simple rule keeps your dishwasher’s filters from clogging, which, in turn, keeps the whole system running smoothly. If you’re shopping for a new machine, you need to consider price, energy efficiency, noise level, features and power level.But to take good care of your dishwasher, get in the habit of scraping and rinsing, followed by a regular cleaning and maintenance routine.

Find the manual, and try the door.

The manual is important, so it’s worth mentioning again. The manufacturer knows your dishwasher inside and out, so hold onto that manual and plan on referring to it regularly. If you’ve lost yours, there’s a good chance you can locate it on the manufacturer’s website (using the model name and number) and download it. If your manufacturer no longer has your machine’s manual available online, a Google search with this information can sometimes bring you luck. You could also contact the brand directly about your particular model, in the hope that someone might be willing to dig into some records for you. Either way, it’s worth a little extra effort to get the inside scoop on the ideal maintenance and care recommendations from the people who designed the machine in the first place. Once you locate the manual, read the section on maintenance to familiarize yourself with the general recommendations for your machine. 

Now you’re ready to begin, and your first step is the door. Whether your machine is new or old, start your dishwasher maintenance and cleaning routine by making sure the door works. It should open easily and create a clean seal all the way around. While you’re at it, wipe that seal down with a damp cloth, and if you see any tighter spots that look grimy, try a toothbrush and a little baking soda or vinegar. Be sure to check under the door, both inside and out. Test the automatic setting to verify the machine starts when the door clicks shut; if this doesn’t happen, you need to call a professional.

Check the racks, arms and nozzles.

Once you’ve inspected and cleaned the door and seal, your next step is to take a closer look at three essential components in your dishwasher: the racks, arms and nozzles. The racks hold the dishes in place. Typically coated with plastic, they can chip over time. Pull them out for a closer look in the light. You can paint over chipped spots with specially formulated dishwasher repair paint. If you notice any loose pieces, cut them off with a nail clipper to keep rust at bay. If you spot rust, scrape it off with steel wool. You can cap any exposed nubs on the racks with slip-on rubber tips. Sometimes manufacturers sell dishwasher repair kits, which include many of these items, though they’re also available from various online retailers. 

If the racks are in bad shape, you may want to consider replacing them. First, check with the manufacturer, and then look around online because you may find a better deal. While you still have the racks out, get in there with a headlamp to examine the sprayer arms. You want to make sure all the holes and nozzles on the sprayer arms are debris-free so that water flows through them without obstruction. You can use tiny pliers, kebab spikes, toothpicks or paper clips to dig out any grime or gunk that you spot in the holes along the arms and nozzles, but be careful not to damage the rubber gaskets. When you’re finished cleaning the arms and nozzles, scrub inside with hot white vinegar to remove any remaining mineral deposits and freshen things up before replacing the racks.

Clean the edges and exterior, and check for leaks.

You might be surprised at how much dirt and grime can accumulate on the outside surfaces of your dishwasher. Edges around doors inevitably have nooks and crannies for loose crumbs to hide. Again, a bit of vinegar or baking soda and water is usually all you need to chase away these minor invaders. While you’re at it, clean the exterior buttons and the appliance face with a soft cloth. If you spot any leaks, you’ll likely need professional help, but if you take care of your dishwasher, it should return the favor consistently.

Unclog and clean the drain.

While you have the racks out and your headlamp on, it’s a great time to unclog and clean your dishwasher’s drain. Leftover food waste and mineral deposits commonly build up here, so it’s best to clean it a couple of times a year to stop clogs before they form. Doing so also ensures that your dishwasher continues to clean your dishes effectively. If you can’t seem to get to all the obstructions by hand and think you might need to take apart the drain, be sure to unplug it before you start removing screws. As you take apart the drain assembly, carefully clean each piece with a clean cloth or brush and a little vinegar and baking soda. Keep an eye on those screws so you can reverse your steps to reassemble the drain.

Remove any buildup with an acid such as vinegar.

You may have noticed that throughout this dishwasher maintenance checklist, we’ve mentioned vinegar a few times. Along with baking soda, it’s a natural go-to source for effective, nontoxic household cleaning, and a great way to save money on all those expensive cleaning products you don’t need. We’ve also mentioned the mineral deposits, food waste and other muck that can accumulate over time and gum up the works of your machine. Here’s where we emphasize the ongoing importance of cleaning thoroughly, both inside and out. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, you can use another acid, such as lemon juice or a citrus juice mix. You can run these acids through your machine on a regular cleaning cycle to attack soap spots, rusty stains and hard-water deposits from the inside out. Just remember to avoid bleach if you have a dishwasher with a stainless-steel interior or door; otherwise, a little bleach in the cycle can help kill mold or mildew and related smells.

If you followed this checklist but still think you might need a professional’s help, you may be wondering if a home warranty covers the dishwasher. Or perhaps you want to find more tips on how to get the most out of your dishwasher or additional help with DIY dishwasher repair. If you’d like to learn more about household appliance maintenance in general, subscribe here. Once you do, be sure to download your free dishwasher maintenance checklist.


The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.
 

Related stories