In theory, your dishwasher should be constantly cleaning itself – but sadly, it isn’t. Over time, bits of food, grease, undissolved detergent, and water minerals build up on the dishwasher’s filter and interior walls.
Along with an unpleasant odor and look, this gunk can actually leave spots and film on your glassware, dinnerware, and flatware. In short, that means if you don’t clean your dishwasher correctly, your appliance can’t fully do its job.
Plus, if you let the food and grime build up, it can seriously damage the dishwasher’s filter and pump, ultimately resulting in costly repairs.
At the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, we’ve done the research to find the most effective way to clean your dishwasher, along with testing different dishwasher detergents and cleaners.
Along the way, we’ve discovered the best tricks to keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free. If a musty odor is your biggest problem, run the Rinse Only cycle and leave the door ajar to circulate air flow.
When it comes to odor, however, start by tackling the root of the problem: leftover food that has turned your dishwasher into a second garbage disposal. To prevent unwanted smells, wipe excess food before loading plates, silverware, bowls, and other items into the dishwasher.
While you’re at it, remove paper labels or tags attached to new, unused items, too.
Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to clean a dishwasher the right way:
Daily: Remove bits of food
Get in the habit of cleaning any remaining bits of foods – beans, pasta, and so on – after each dishwashing cycle. Pull out the bottom rack to look for any leftover food that may have fallen into the well and remove it with a paper towel to prevent odors and future buildup.
Weekly: Wipe away door grime
With a damp sponge or cloth, wipe away any residue and spots that may have splashed or settled onto the interior surface of the door its door edges, handle, or dishwasher controls.
Weekly: Remove and rinse the filter.
It’s simple: If the filter isn’t clean, nothing else will be. To eliminate pesky spots on future loads, unlock and remove the filter found below the bottom spray arm and rinse it under hot running water.
With a soft toothbrush, scrub the mesh screen and plastic frame to remove any grease or particles stuck in the crevices. Once it’s just like new, lock it back into place. If you’re not sure where your machine’s filter is located, check the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website for details.
Monthly: Give it a deep clean
Whether you opt to use a dishwasher cleaning tablet or take the DIY route with a grime-fighting white vinegar mixture, it’s important to get down and dirty to remove any trapped particles, mineral buildup, and detergent residue.
For a homemade option, place a glass measuring cup filled with two cups of distilled white vinegar on the top rack and run a normal cycle without detergent or dishes.
For a more thorough clean, use cleaning tablets like these picks from Cascade and Affresh because they contain surfactants that dissolve food bits and greasy residue.
Just make sure you read the instructions before you use the cleaning tablets, since some can’t run in the same cycle as dishes and detergent.
When needed: Polish stainless steel.
Fingerprints make any surface look dull and grimy, but they really standout – in a bad way – on stainless steel appliances.
Use a stainless steel cleaner like GH Seal Stars Weiman and Affresh to shine up your dishwasher door.
Not only will they leave behind a streak-free shine, but they contain ingredients to help repel future dirt and smudges.
Whatever you do, stay away from abrasive cleaners or pads that can scratch and mar your dishwasher’s exterior.