How to Clean Black Spots in a Dishwasher

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Black spots in the dishwasher could mean a clogged filter.
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Dishwashers conveniently take care of dirty dishes with minimal fuss and without having to get your hands wet. There may be times, though, when the convenience is overshadowed by the presence of black specks in the dishwasher that, in turn, can leave the dishes looking spotty. Chances are the trap needs to be cleaned out, a DIY job that should remedy the situation.

Clean Existing Black Spots in the Dishwasher

Unplug and empty the dishwasher completely, remove the racks and set them aside. Spray the interior with a non-toxic commercial spray-on cleaner over visible spots and specks and allow it to set undisturbed so that the chemical can loosen the black spots for ease of cleaning.

Consult the product packaging for directions on how long you should let it set. Wipe away the chemical with a dry and clean cloth; if the spots and flecks remain, try using a soft-bristled scrub brush for more friction. This should remove the spots.

Black Grit in Dishwasher Filter

Cleaning existing black spots from inside your dishwasher is a futile effort if you do not also clean the source of these black spots: the dishwasher filter. The filter traps particles and grease and prevents them from re-circulating in your dishwasher and clogging the drain pipe.

Even if you pre-rinse dishes in your sink, tiny particles, such as coffee grounds, have a tendency to collect over time; and when the filter is clogged, a back flow pushes the particles outward and onto your dishes and into the washer's interior. The result is your dishwasher leaving black spots on dishes. Fortunately, it's easy to remove and clean a dishwasher filter and ensure spotless dishes once again.

Removing the Dishwasher Filter

To understand how to remove your dishwasher filter, consult the manual that came with your particular brand and model of dishwasher. If none is available, perform an online search at the company's website. Dishwasher filters are located on the bottom of the basin, directly underneath the spray arms or off to the side. Most dishwasher models have filters that either pull out easily or are held in place with screws.

Use a Phillips head screwdriver to loosen the screw or screws that anchor the spinner to the bottom of the washer's basin -- it's the flat part that resembles a helicopter blade. Pull up and remove the spinner and you should see a flat grille screen. This is the cover for the solids filter. Either use the screwdriver to remove the cover or locate a locking push-tab to pop the cover off and lift out the filters.

Cleaning the Filter to Remove Debris

Look into the filter's trap and you'll more than likely see the culprit: caked-on food particles that are clogging the rinse holes in the filter, obstructing water flow. Dump as many of those particles as possible into the trash can. According to Maytag, the best way to clean dishwasher filters is to simply rinse them under warm water. You can gently rub liquid dish soap into the filters to break up heavy grease, but do not use any stiff scrub brushes.

Replace the filters, cover, spinner and racks then run the washer empty so that the water pressure can push the remaining particles down the drain. It's best to use your machine's hottest water cycle.

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Kirk Maltbee

Kirk Maltbee is a freelance writer based in southwestern Virginia. A former licensed massage therapist, Maltbee has also spent considerable time as both an ACE- and NASM-certified personal fitness trainer. When not writing, he tackles home improvement projects.