The Best Way to Clean a Dishwasher

Keeping a dishwasher clean is important for aesthetics, for health and to keep the dishwasher in good operating condition. Cleaning the filters and wiping down the exterior of the dishwasher should be done as part of your daily routine, while more in depth procedures can be performed on an as-needed basis.

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Clean the Dishwasher Filters

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Most dishwashers have a filter or filters that should be removed and cleaned daily. This helps the dishwasher operate more efficiently by preventing clogs, and also prevents the buildup of food particles that encourage bacteria growth. The dishwasher filter should be removed, solid food scraped off and rinsed under warm water to dislodge small particles.

Clean the Gaskets and Door Seals

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When the dishwasher door is shut, the gasket and door seal areas don't get rinsed off by the water circulating during the dishwasher's normal operations. Any food particles that get stuck there stay stuck and eventually decompose into an unappealing black sludge. Begin by dipping an old toothbrush into hot soapy water and using it to scrub the gasket and surrounding areas, including the bottom of the door and the hinges. If you have neglected doing this for a while, some of the particles may be hardened and crusted over. A soft abrasive cleanser can be used to loosen dried on grime. After all the sludge has been removed, go over the gasket and surrounding area thoroughly with a clean sponge.

Eliminate Mineral Deposits and Stains

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Mineral deposits can clog small holes in the dishwasher, preventing water from flowing freely. Depending on the severity of the problem, you can use one of the following methods to dissolve the deposits and get water flowing freely again.

  1. Put a dishwasher-safe cup or container filled with 8 ounces of white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run the empty dishwasher through a cycle on the hottest setting available. The vinegar will mix with the water and dissolve mild mineral deposits. It will also clean and shine the interior of your dishwasher. If the dishwasher has a musty smell, add a cup of baking soda to the bottom of the dishwasher as well as using the vinegar.
  2. If the vinegar method doesn't remove all of the deposits, you can use a package of lemonade mix or a scoop of Tang to clean the dishwasher. These drink mixes include a mild citric acid solution which will dissolve hard water stains and mineral deposits. Place the mix in the soap dispenser, and run an empty dishwasher through the hottest cycle available.
  3. If neither of those home remedies work, you can purchase more potent mineral dissolvers at the grocery or hardware store. Be sure to follow the package directions carefully.

Polish the Exterior of the Dishwasher

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When you're done with the inside of the dishwasher, polish the outside of the dishwasher so it shines as brightly as the interior. Depending on what type of surface your dishwasher has, use a standard household spray cleaner or a special stainless steel cleaner.