Because automatic dishwashers are constantly moving hot soapy water through their insides as they clean dishes, we may not realize that they, too, need a dedicated cleaning once in awhile. Like other appliances that get frequent use, you want your dishwasher to perform well and last as long as possible, and a monthly cleaning will help ensure this. Routine cleaning can be done with a soft-bristled brush and ordinary materials you have around the house: distilled white vinegar , and baking soda.
More detailed cleaning requires only a few more items.
Routine Monthly Cleaning
Following this simple procedure on a monthly basis will keep your dishwasher cleaning effectively and may eliminate the need for more aggressive cleaning:
- Pull out the bottom rack and examine the drainage strainer on the bottom of the dishwasher's interior. Remove any food, paper labels, or small items that might be clogging the holes. Use a soft-bristled brush dipped in vinegar to scrub away anything that is really stuck. Replace the bottom rack.
- Fill a glass or plastic container with one cup of distilled white vinegar and place the open container on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run a regular wash cycle. You can skip the drying cycle to save energy costs.
- When the first cycle is finished, sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the inside floor of the dishwasher. Run a short, hot water rinse cycle (skip the drying cycle) and then open the dishwasher door to allow the interior to air dry. The vinegar will strip away any grease build-up and the baking soda will remove lingering odors.
Never mix the vinegar and baking soda in the same cleaning cycle. They'll start to foam and you'll have quite a mess to clean up.
Thoroughly Cleaning the Inside
If you have followed a monthly cleaning routine, a thorough cleaning is only needed once or twice per year. It is particularly important to do a thorough cleaning if you begin to notice problems with dirty dishes or spotted glassware after running a cycle.
You may need to do a thorough cleaning more often if you live in an area with excessively hard water.
This method calls for:
- Distilled white vinegar
- Baking soda
- Some sturdy flexible wire
- Old toothbrush
- Clean sponge
Follow these directions to complete a more thorough cleaning:
- Start with an empty dishwasher. If possible, remove both the upper and lower racks to have better access to the water spray arms. Each spray arm has small holes that distribute water throughout the dishwasher, and these holes can become clogged with minerals from hard water or even bits of food. If the holes are clogged, the water may not be reaching the surfaces of your dishes and leaving them soiled. Insert the tip of the wire into each hole to remove any debris.
- Inspect the strainer on the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher. If possible, remove the strainer—you may be shocked at what is trapped underneath. Remove any trapped elements. Dip the old toothbrush in some vinegar and give every nook and cranny a good scrub.
- The toothbrush is also perfect for removing any debris that might be caught in the grid of the utensil holder and for removing any build-up in the detergent dispenser.
- Dip a clean sponge in white vinegar and wipe down the rubber seals around the interior opening and the edges of the door.
- Replace the racks and put two cups of distilled white vinegar in an open container on the top rack. Run a regular hot water wash cycle to complete the cleaning.
Cleaning the Outside
How you clean the outside of your dishwasher depends on the style and finish. If it has buttons or dials on the front, take time to clean around them every month. Use an old toothbrush and a liquid hand-washing detergent to remove any build-up that might cause them to malfunction. For models that have controls built into the top of the door, wipe them down monthly or as needed.
If the exterior door is made of plastic or painted metal, use a mild liquid dishwashing detergent and a soft cloth or sponge to remove any splatters on the face and handle of the dishwasher. Finish by rinsing the dishwasher with a cloth dipped in plain water and buff dry with a soft cloth.
For a stainless steel door, it is best to use a stainless steel cleaning product and a microfiber cloth. Follow the product instructions and always wipe in one direction, in the same direction as the grain of the metal. Another option is to wipe the front of the dishwasher with a solution of mild dishwashing soap mixed with water, followed by a drop of olive oil or baby oil on a microfiber cloth to remove any streaks.
Homemade Dishwashing Mixture
You may get good results if you substitute commercial dishwasher powder with a homemade formula when washing dishes. This method may also prevent mineral build-up since it uses baking soda.
When running a load of dishes, first put a few drops of ordinary grease-cutting dish soap in the soap dispenser of your dishwasher, then fill the dispenser 2/3 full with powdered baking soda. Fill the remaining space in the dispenser with table salt.
Now run the dishwasher on its normal cycle. In many cases, the results will be just as good as with a commercial dishwasher product, but at a fraction of the cost. And the baking soda may eliminate mineral deposits and reduce the need for regular cleaning of the inside of the dishwasher.