How to Get Wax out of a Dishwasher

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As you've probably learned the hard way, putting candle jars in the dishwasher to clean out the last bits of wax can cause problems for your dishwasher.
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Whoops! As you've probably learned the hard way, putting candle jars in the dishwasher to clean out the last bits of wax can cause problems for your dishwasher. The heat of the dishwasher removes the wax from the candle jars or candleholders by simply melting the wax. Unfortunately, the wax spreads all over the dishwasher and all the dishes in it, and then it hardens as the wash/rinse cycle ends.

Before you panic about the cost of a new dishwasher, take a deep breath; it's totally possible to get rid of wax in a dishwasher. Depending on the amount of wax and the amount of time you can devote to cleaning the wax out of your dishwasher, you might not even have to break a sweat. Try these tips to get rid of that candle residue.

How Much Wax Is There?

First, you need to evaluate how much candle wax is in your dishwasher, as this will affect your battle tactics. Is there a thin film of wax all over the dishwasher? Big globs of wax here and there? Remove all the dishes from the dishwasher to get a good look at the situation (you'll want to deal with them separately).

Next, you have to check one more area of the dishwasher: the filter or trap. This is where large food particles get waylaid so they don't end up clogging the drain. And chances are, a lot of the wax ended up here too.

Take out the bottom rack of the dishwasher to help you get a good look at the filter. Use a flashlight if needed, and look for arrows or other instructions on the filter itself to help you remove it. Many just twist loose and then pull out. If it looks dirty or full of wax, set it aside for cleaning, but if it looks clear, you can twist it back in.

Remove Wax in Dishwasher by Hand

If there are big clumps of wax on the walls of the dishwasher, you'll want to remove those by hand before proceeding to the other steps. Otherwise, you could end up with a clog in the drainpipes, so be vigilant about getting as much out as you can.

Remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher (and the top one if possible) to give you better access. Scrape the wax off with a scrubby sponge, your fingernails or even a putty knife. Discard these pieces into the trash can. If the wax is stubborn, harden it further by applying an ice pack to it. This should make the wax hard enough for you to use some leverage with your tools.

Cleaning Out the Filter

If you found wax in the filter during your initial inspection, it could already be causing poor drainage. To clean it out, fill your sink with water that's as hot as you can tolerate. Soak the filter in the water until the wax softens, and use an old toothbrush to help clear away the debris. The filter probably has a layer of grease on it as well, so adding a dollop of liquid dish soap can help get it truly clean.

Blasting Wax With Hot Water

After you've removed excess wax — or if there was only a thin film coating the inside of the dishwasher to begin with — you can melt the wax and flush it out of the system by running the dishwasher with no dishes and on the hot wash cycle. For full effect, temporarily turn up the temperature on your hot water heater, but don't forget to set it back to its usual temperature to prevent scalding water from coming out of your shower or faucet. To be extra sure that the wax is flushed as far out of your pipes as possible, run two back-to-back hot water cycles or set one hot cycle to have an extra rinse.

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Cathy Habas enjoys distilling even the most complicated home improvement tasks into bite-sized pieces. She believes in empowering homeowners one article at a time.

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