How to Clean a Dishwasher (my 411) – I grew up in one of those households where it was the kids’ responsibility to wash the dishes after dinner. Oh, how I hated washing those dishes! There was almost always an argument over whose turn it was, or who would wash and who would dry. I begged and pleaded for a dishwasher, which I was convinced would solve all of my teenage problems. So, when I moved into my very first place – back when I was still too young to even purchase alcohol – I invested in a dishwasher. It wasn’t too long after that purchase till I discovered that a dishwasher has its own source of problems.
My problems started about a year after I got my first machine. One day, the dishwasher just stopped working. I was overloaded with projects at the time and didn’t want to get into trying to fix an appliance that I had no experience with. So, I called a repair man (something I rarely do). It took him all of 5 minutes to diagnose the problem – a stuck chicken bone.
I am still not sure exactly how that bone got in my dishwasher, as I have always been a thorough scraper. But, after the initial heat of embarrassment left my face, he went on to inform me that I really must clean my filter occasionally. To which I am sure I looked at him like a clueless dimwit. So, he showed me the filter, and explained how and why it needed to be cleaned.
What!?!? You mean I need to clean something that was made to do the cleaning? This concept seemed like a cruel joke to me, at the time. Why on earth would I need to clean the inside of a machine that cleans that area itself? If you read my experience with my first front load washer, then you know that new technology seems to always have its downsides.
How To Clean a Dishwasher – and Why You Should…
So, how do we go about cleaning our dishwashers? Well, it is actually an easy process that takes just a few minutes to do. But, you should do it at least monthly. Why? Ok, here is the deal. Dishwashers function in much the same way as a washing machine does. It pumps a certain amount of water into the tub. Then it circulates that water over and over to clean the dishes.
See, I used to think that the dishwasher was continually spraying fresh clean water onto the dishes. But, no. That’s not how it works. So, all of that water settles to the bottom of the machine where the filter and drain are located. Then, when it drains out all the dirty water, the filter prevents any large particles from going down the drain. Over time, that filter becomes covered in old food particles, grease and gunk, especially when your husband puts thing in there that he shouldn’t – like your pampered chef.
Now, think about this. If your filter and drain area are full of old food particle and gunk that can’t escape down the drain, it will just sit there waiting to be recirculated back onto your dishes. And while it is waiting for the next load, it is accumulating bacterial growth. A good indication that you are in need of a cleaning is when you begin to notice that your dishes aren’t rinsing completely. But, let’s not wait that long.
How To Clean a Dishwasher – Step by Step…
Cleaning your dishwashers is a really easy DIY. Let’s just start by washing down the door edges and the seals. This will help keep your seal in good condition and it removes debris that can attract bugs, especially roaches. (FYI – roaches are attracted to areas where they have a source of water, food and warmth. A dishwasher will become a resort for them if they ever discover it).
Next, I like to wipe out the interior surface to remove any unseen food particles that may be stuck to the sides. Just like it sticks to the inside of your glasses, it can stick to the inside of your machine. You normally won’t see it, but if left behind, it will end up back at the bottom of your appliance. So, remove the dish trays and wipe down all the interior surfaces.
Finally, we get to the filter. Located at the bottom of every dishwasher is a screen cover that houses the filter. On some machines you may need to remove the sprayer arm first. The good news is, all of these parts just unscrew and lift off. So, remove that if it is in the way.
Next, unscrew the filter by turning it counter clockwise. You may see arrows or some other type of indication of alignment. On mine, I have two blue arrows – one on the filter and one on the bottom of the dishwasher. I line those arrows up and lift. Once you get the filter out, clean it with warm water and dish soap.
Now, some people stop at this point. But, I like to go one step farther. If the back part of the bottom screen can be lifted on your machine, you should take it off at this time. If it doesn’t come off, you can still preform this next step. That is, I inspect the drain area around the filter and beneath the screen to make sure there are no large pieces – like chicken bones.
Then, I clean the area of all of that old leftover dirty water and gunk. Sometimes, I just use my sink sprayer to hose it out (luckily mine will reach). Sometimes, I just have to get in there with some paper towels and a sponge. But, I make sure that there is nothing left to redeposit on my dishes.
As the final step, I run a cleaning cycle. First, put everything back the way that it was – filter, screen, and spray arm. Then turn the dishwasher on hot for a short cycle and use either a cup of vinegar or a store bought dishwasher cleaning product, like Afresh.
While the wash cycle is running you can use that time to clean the exterior. I normally get a few of those dreaded drip lines down the front of my machine, and have to buff them out occasionally. You can see how to clean away stainless steel water stains and smudges here.
I know that cleaning a dishwasher is not going to be your most favorite thing to do, but it is really important to do it regularly. What type of a schedule you use for cleaning your dishwasher will depend on how often you use it and how dirty your dishes are when placed in the machine. You can start at once a month and if you notice a lot of gunk each time, then you should increase your frequency. It’s not fun, but it is better than having dirty dishes. 🙂
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