How to Clean Dishwasher – Sanitize & Disinfect a Dishwasher

Last Updated on 06/04/2021 by Leona

Cleaning a dishwasher is an effective procedure that helps the dishwasher to operate productively. It also helps in increasing the lifespan of a dishwasher. Food leftovers, soap scum and fats make firm deposits that affect the cleaning performance negatively. Also, the dishwasher interior looks dirty and smells bad. I’ll explain easy steps on how to clean a dishwasher and how you can get rid of this filthy buildup.

how to clean dishwasher


In addition, cleaning a dishwasher regularly prevents the drainage from plaguing. The food particles make home in the corners, especially by the drainage. As a result, the water does not release properly and un-dissolved detergent leaves a cloudy film on glassware and kitchenware. In the end, you will find smelly water at the bottom after you are done unloading the dishes.

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Therefore, it is essential to keep your dishwasher clean to prevent it from clogging and getting unpleasant odor on the dishes. In case you might be asking yourself if you should keep your head inside the dishwasher for cleaning in your free time – NO! A dishwasher needs a thorough cleaning once a month. Other than that, if find your dishwasher stinky, fusty and unclean – probably it’s time to put on your cleaning gloves and rub your machine.


What You Should Use to Clean a Dishwasher?

There are multiple dishwasher cleaning tablets in the market that claim to clean the machine spotlessly. However, I found white vinegar and baking soda more effective as compared to tablets. Yes, it is easier to clean with cleaning tablets but a bit of scrubbing effort brings out better results.

On the other hand, if you want to clean rust marks and hard stains, use lemon juice. Lemon is the best ingredient to wipeout tough gunks and freshen up the interior.

dishwasher cleaner


Best Way to Clean a Dishwasher – Step by Step Guide:

Although the advanced dishwashers have a self-cleaning feature but they still required human touch at least once a month for thorough cleaning. Is your dishwasher not cleaning dishes well? Follow the cleaning steps below to keep your dishwashing machine running smoothly and smelling fresh;

Cleaning Dishwasher with Vinegar:

Step-1: Clean the Exterior

Wipeout fingerprints and other marks on the dishwasher door. If the exterior is made of plastic, simply use hot soapy water and a clean cloth to wash it. On the other hand, if the dishwasher’s exterior is made of stainless steel, glass cleaner will effectively remove marks, dirt and stains.

Note: do not spray the glass cleaner directly on the dishwasher because it can damage the electric controls. Thus, spray it on the paper towel then apply it on the dishwasher exterior. Do not use any bleach, harsh scrubbing wipes and strong chemicals.

Step-2: Remove Racks

Remove the racks to clear the tub for thorough cleaning. Make sure to read the manual guide before removing the racks, not all the racks are removable in every dishwasher model. After that, take a clean cloth to clear the area between the door seal and tub – this is the place where food particles and soap scum gathers. Wash all the racks with soapy water and keep them aside.

Note: Add white vinegar (1/4th cup) to the soapy mixture, white vinegar is extremely effective in removing hard stains. Additionally, it also helps in dissolving mineral deposits and sanitizes the dishwasher.

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Step-3: Inspect Drain and Clean Filters

Have a brief look at the bottom of the dishwasher around the drainage and clear it. Don’t be surprised if you find some popcorns, peas or small bones – it is normal. Inspect nicely and clear all the areas around the drain with a soapy vinegar mixture. After that, remove filters and clean them using an old toothbrush, rinse them with pressured water.

Once you are done with cleaning the drainage entrance and filters, pressure wash water spray holes. Here, you can use a toothpick to clear the holes if there is anything stuck inside. Dishwasher’s performance relies on these spray arms – clean and clear holes release water with pressure and it washes the dishes better.

A clogged filter can cause a dishwasher to leak. Read common causes of a Dishwasher Leaking and detailed article on how to fix them.

Step-4: Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar

As I have mentioned above, white vinegar helps to remove hard stains effectively. Place bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack and run a hot water normal wash cycle. Wipe out the leftover liquid from the interiors once the cycle is completed.

Note: Place a bowl full of lemon juice instead of white vinegar if the dishwasher interior has hard water stains. Lemon fights the hard water stains efficiently and freshens the interiors.


Step-5: Clean with Baking Soda

Sprinkle half a cup of baking soda at the bottom of the dishwasher and runs another wash cycle. Baking soda deodorizes the interior and washes away any leftover gunk. Certainly, your dishwasher will look neat and smell fresh.

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Clean Dishwasher with Dishwasher Cleaner

In case you want to clean your dishwasher using a dishwasher cleaner, follow all the above-mentioned steps instead of the last two. There is no need to use vinegar and baking soda when you are using a cleaning tablet.

I would still recommend to clear the exterior, drainage entrance and filters by hand for better results. After that, place a cleaner tablet in the dishwasher tray if you are cleaning the dishwasher without dishes. Run a normal wash cycle and let the tablet clean and sanitize the interior. You can add two tablets if there is more build-up.

On the other hand, if you are cleaning the dishwasher with dishes inside, place the cleaning tablet at the bottom rack and use the normal dishwasher tablet in the detergent tray. The following dishwasher cleaning tablets provided the best results among the rest;


Tips to Clean Dishwasher Effectively

Follow the steps below before starting to clean the dishwasher, these will soften the build-up gunk and reduce the effort;

  • Clear out the dishwasher tub by hand as much as you can, do not completely rely on cleaning tablets or vinegar
  • Set the dishwasher heater at high temperature – hot water softens the stuck-on stains
  • Run a hot water rinse cycle if the dishwasher has not been used for more than a week
  • Do not use any hard scrub to clear out rust or dried food stains


Frequently Asked Questions: (FAQs)

What is the best way to clean the inside of a dishwasher?

It is advised to clean the inside of a dishwasher with either white vinegar or lemon juice. First clear all the leftover junk using a paper towel, place a bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack and run a hot water wash cycle. Vinegar fights the hard stains and cleans the interior efficiently. Vinegar also absorbs odor and brings out freshness.


How do I clean and disinfect my dishwasher?

To clean and disinfect a dishwasher, pour some white vinegar in a bowl and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher. After that, run a hot water wash cycle. Once the cycle has stopped, wipe any leftover liquid with a paper towel.


Can you clean a dishwasher with bleach?

I would not recommend cleaning a dishwasher with bleach. Bleach has strong after effects and it reduces the lifespan of any material. Although it is known as one of the good cleaning ingredients but it damages the stainless steel.


How often should you clean your dishwasher?

Clean your dishwasher once a month is good enough. Also, make sure to inspect drain and filters to prevent any blockage. I would suggest you wipe the dishwasher’s exterior and controls on daily basis. Cleaning the dishwasher once a month prevents a build-up of residues and it maintains the performance.


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