How to Clean the Dishwasher

Cleaning a Dishwasher

It’s not something one takes into consideration very often. You’d think they’d be clean being run on a regular basis, but dishwashers, after toiling away on dirty, greasy dishes and pots and pans, get dirty and start to smell themselves. If the dishwasher is dirty it won’t be doing the best cleaning job on your dishes.

The Best Way to Clean a Dishwasher:

So what exactly is the best way to clean a dirty dishwasher? First of all, if you still have the manual for the dishwasher get it out and see if it has specific instructions for your make and model. If you don’t have the manual, follow these easy steps.

Cleaning the Spray Arms:

The spinning arms is the part of the dishwasher that sprays hot water on the dishes to clean them and they can become clogged with debris. Follow these steps to clean them.

  1. First pull out the bottom rack to expose the arms. If a hole is clogged with gunk and nothing sticking out, take a toothpick and gently unclog the hole. If a hole is clogged and a piece of debris is sticking out, use a pair of tweezers to pull the it out. Take an old toothbrush and dip it in a warm water and liquid detergent solution and clean around the spray arm. Repeat this for the upper spray arm.
  2. Next spin the bottom spray arm. If it moves freely and easily there is a good chance it’s clean underneath. If it sticks even slightly, there could be old food, a piece of broken glass or dish under the cover stick in the drain. Take the cover off and check for any stuck on food or debris and carefully remove it then clean around it with a damp cloth. If you remove the cover, you should unplug the dishwasher first.
  3. If the spray arms don’t spin easily and you take the cover off to clean underneath, the arms can also be soaked in the sink with a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and warm water. Lightly scrub with a toothbrush.
  4. Put the cover and spray arm back in place.

Now that the spray arms are clean, water will flow and drain properly.

Cleaning Inside the Dishwasher:

Mix a warm water mixture with liquid dishwasher soap. (I don’t recommend you use regular dish soap because it suds-up when agitated and you might find yourself with a big soapy mess of bubbles on the floor the next time you use it.) Dip a cleaning rag in the mix and wipe all around the edges and seals of the door. Wipe down the insides and door next, removing any bits of stuck on food. Use an old toothbrush on stubborn bits if necessary.

Don’t forget to clean the gasket around the door by gently pulling it out and using a moistened toothbrush to remove any attached bits of debris.

Removing Odors/Deodorizing a Smelly Dishwasher:

To deodorize and remove odors all you need is 2 cups of white vinegar or 1 cup of baking soda, and an empty dishwasher.

When food rots it goes either acidic or alkaline and will start to smell. The vinegar works to remove odors precisely because it is an acid, baking soda works because it’s alkaline. These substances both react to the rotting food and neutralize it by bringing the pH back to neutral which stops the smell. They are both very good cleaners (I use them a lot!), not to mention safe to use.

  • Get a dishwasher safe cup and fill it with the vinegar. Place it on the top rack. Run a hot water cycle.
  • If you don’t have any vinegar in the cupboard, baking soda is just as effective. Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run a hot water cycle.
  • You can also use both- first running a cycle with the vinegar, then running another with baking soda.

Now you’re ready to rock and roll – or rinse and dry. Next time you fill your dishwasher with dirty dishes and pots and pans you’ll know that the dishwasher itself is clean and sanitary and doing the best job it can.