How to clean a dishwasher: expert step by step guide
Is your dishwasher starting to smell? Or are your glasses and plates coming out a bit filmy? Both are clear signs your dishwasher needs a clean. Our expert has the best tips on exactly what to do – and how often – to keep your dishwasher clean and odour-free
Even if you have a big, family-sized dishwasher, we bet you run it once a day – at least! And if you're using it this much, it doesn't take long for bits of food, grease, undissolved detergent and water minerals to build up in your machine, causing it to smell not so nice, run less efficiently and even sometimes clogging up the filter or the spray arms.
That's why it's really wise to regularly take a few simple steps to keep your dishwasher clean, says cleaning expert Sarah Dempsey from MyJobQuote, who's been advising homeowners and tradespeople on domestic cleaning for over 25 years.
How often should you clean your dishwasher?
Sarah advises that you split your dishwasher cleaning into the following quick daily, weekly and monthly tasks:
- Daily: Checking for food bits
- Weekly: Wiping the dishwasher door and cleaning the filter
- Monthly: Running a deep-clean cycle
Follow our step by step guide below for Sarah's expert tips on the best way to do each task to keep your dishwasher sparkling clean and smelling super-fresh.
- If your washing machine is starting to smell then have a look at our step-to-step guide on how to clean a washing machine.
How to clean a dishwasher: expert step by step guide to what to do daily, weekly and monthly
1. To do daily: check for food bits
What you'll need:
What to do:
Pull out the bottom rack and check for food scraps. With the bottom rack of the dishwasher pulled out, look behind it and scan the dishwasher floor for any bits of food that may become stuck in the filter well, screen or heating element. If you see any, use kitchen roll or a cloth (or your fingers, if you're not too squeamish!) to remove them.
2. To do weekly: wipe down the dishwasher door and clean the filter
What you'll need:
- Microfibre cloth (multi-packs can work out cheaper)
- Old, soft toothbrush
What to do:
- Open the door and use a damp microfibre cloth to clean it, wiping the interior surface and around the edges and then wiping the controls area and the handle. Then gently scrub any dirt or gunk from the rubber seal around the door using an old toothbrush and some warm, soapy water.
- Locate and remove the filter. Dishwasher filters are usually located beneath the bottom spray arm – if you're unsure how to remove it, check your dishwasher's user manual or take a look at the manufacturer's website. Once the filter's removed, rinse it under hot water and use a soft toothbrush to scrub both the plastic frame and mesh screen. Then rinse it again to ensure it's completely clean. Replace it in the dishwasher, making sure it's locked securely into place.
3. To do monthly: run a deep-clean cycle
What you'll need:
- Distilled white vinegar (look for larger-size bottles for better value for money)
- 250ml dishwasher-safe cup (like these cups)
- Baking soda/bicarbonate of soda (look for a cleaning-specific pack)
- A pre-prepared dishwasher cleaner such as Dr Beckmann Dishwasher Cleaner or Finish Dishwasher Deep Cleaner with Lemon
What to do:
- Fill the cup with distilled vinegar and place it on the top shelf of the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher on a pots-and-pans cycle without any dishes or detergent.
- Sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher after the cycle is complete. This will give your dishwasher an even fresher smell.
- Put the pre-prepared dishwasher cleaner into your dishwasher, according to the pack instructions. Run the dishwasher on the suggested cycle. Open the door after the cycle finishes, to let the components finish drying in the fresh air.
Is it OK to use vinegar to clean a dishwasher? Doesn't vinegar ruin a dishwasher?
We asked Sarah Dempsey, to clarify any misconceptions around using vinegar to clean a dishwasher. She said:
"Distilled white vinegar is actually great for helping to loosen stubborn, dried-on food pieces of food and get rid of odours," says laundry and cleaning expert Sarah Dempsey. "But using white vinegar to clean your dishwasher extremely frequently probably isn't wise, as the acid can cause some wear on the components or the rubber seal . Using it once a month should be fine but, if you'd rather remain cautious, choose a specialised dishwasher cleaning solution instead."
About our expert
Sarah Dempsey has worked in the cleaning industry for over 25 years. Sarah specialises in domestic cleaning and laundry. She also works closely with MyJobQuote to provide expert cleaning knowledge to homeowners, tradespeople and news outlets.
About the authorChloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree and she developed a strong interest in child development during her studies.
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.
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