How to Clean a Dishwasher


Maintaining a dishwasher is essential to ensure it runs efficiently and cleans dishes effectively. Over time, food particles, grease, and soap scum can accumulate in various parts of the appliance, leading to unpleasant odours, diminished performance, and potentially costly repairs. Regular cleaning can prevent these issues and extend the lifespan of the dishwasher.

By incorporating proper dishwasher maintenance into a regular cleaning routine, individuals can help prevent the build-up of limescale & mould and keep your machine in great condition. Clean dishwashers are more effective at sanitising dishes, conserving energy, and providing peace of mind that there will be tons of more clean dishes in your future. 

Get ready to take notes, because we’re about to share how to clean a dishwasher like a pro!

A Summary: How to Clean a Dishwasher 

Dishwasher Cleaning Guide
1. Preparing Your Dishwasher for Cleaning
Empty and Rinse Empty dishwasher, remove food residue and gunk from the drain area, and rinse to prepare for cleaning.
2. Cleaning Dishwasher Components
Filter Remove the filter, rinse under hot water, scrub with a soft brush if needed, and replace it.
Spray Arms Remove the arms, check for blockages, clean with a toothbrush or tool, rinse, and consider soaking in vinegar.
Door Seals and Dispenser Clean seals with a damp sponge and dispenser with a damp cloth. Use a mild cleaner for best results.
3. Running a Cleaning Cycle
Vinegar and Baking Soda Place a cup of vinegar on the top rack, run a heat cycle, then sprinkle baking soda and run a hot-water cycle.
Hot-Water Cycle with Cleaning Agent Use a preferred cleaning agent in the tray or bottom of the dishwasher and run on the highest temperature setting.
Additional Tips
Stainless Steel Dishwashers Avoid bleach or hydrogen peroxide on stainless steel. Use a specialized cleaner as per manufacturer’s instructions.
Rinse Aid and Dishwasher Salt Add rinse aid to its dispenser and fill the salt reservoir with dishwasher salt to soften water and aid cleaning.

Dishwasher Cleaning Guide

1. Preparing Your Dishwasher for Cleaning

Before one begins the task of cleaning a dishwasher, it should be emptied, and any food residue or gunk in the drain area must be removed.

Clearing the drain is crucial for preventing future clogs and maintaining the efficiency of the dishwasher. Any obstructions should be disposed of, and the area should be rinsed to aid the upcoming cleaning cycle.

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2. Cleaning Dishwasher Components

Regular maintenance of a dishwasher’s components is essential for optimal performance and hygiene. It involves cleaning the filter, spray arms, and door seals to prevent soap scum accumulation and odours. Knowing how to clean a smelly dishwasher is one of the most important attributes of having a clean, happy kitchen!

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

The job of the dishwasher filter is to trap food particles, so if it isn’t cleaned on a regular basis, you can already imagine the little mould colonies that will develop in the filter. To that effect, the secret behind mastering how to clean a dishwasher filter is easier than you think it is. 

  • Start by removing the filter. 
  • Next, rinse it under hot water to dislodge debris. 
  • For stubborn residue, use a soft brush—such as a toothbrush—to gently scrub clean. 
  • After rinsing, place the filter back into the dishwasher. Et voilà, the filter is clean!

Wash the Spray Arms

The spray arms distribute water during a wash cycle, but that doesn’t mean they don’t run the risk of getting clogged. 

  • To clean them, remove the arms and inspect for blockages. 
  • If necessary, use a toothbrush or a fine tool to clear the holes, and rinse them under water. 
  • If you really want to know how to deep clean a dishwasher, you should keep in mind that soaking the spray arms in vinegar helps to dissolve mineral deposits.

Wipe Down the Door Seals and Dispenser

Door seals can be a breeding ground for grime, leading to leaks and unpleasant smells. 

  • Using a damp sponge, carefully clean around the seals. 
  • For the dispenser, which tends to get riddled with soap scum, wipe it down with a damp cloth. 
  • For best results, use a mild dishwasher cleaner to remove stubborn residue and leave the components cleaner than they have ever been before.
newly cleaned racks of a dishwasher

3. Running a Cleaning Cycle

Running a cleaning cycle in a dishwasher typically involves the use of household items or cleaning agents to ensure the appliance is thoroughly cleansed. This is an essential maintenance step that takes dishwasher cleanliness to the next level.

How to Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Ever wondered how to clean a dishwasher with vinegar? Well, this homemade cleaning solution comes as a package deal with its usual partner, baking soda.

  • Start the process by placing a cup of white vinegar in an upright position on the top rack of the empty dishwasher. This natural acid aids in breaking down residues and deodorising. It’s recommended to use a heat or deep clean setting for the cycle to ensure the vinegar solution reaches all parts of the dishwasher. 
  • After the vinegar cycle, sprinkle a cup of baking soda across the bottom of the dishwasher and run a short, hot-water cycle. This additional step assists in further freshening and eliminating stubborn stains.

Performing a Hot-Water Cycle with a Cleaning Agent

If the good old vinegar and baking soda combo isn’t your cup of tea, you may find your cleaning solution preference on a store shelf. 

  • To use, place the cleaning agent in the detergent tray or directly at the bottom of the empty dishwasher. 
  • Select the highest temperature setting for the hot-water cycle to enable the cleaning agent to perform effectively. Keep in mind that certain products may recommend running an additional rinse cycle following the main cleaning cycle. 

Cleaning Stainless Steel Dishwashers 

When opting for bleach or hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning agent, it’s of utmost importance that there is no stainless steel interior, as these substances can cause damage. Dishwasher-safe bleach can be used for dishwashers with a plastic interior to help in removing any mould or mildew.

For stainless steel dishwashers, use a specialised stainless steel cleaner to avoid corrosion and maintain shine. Remember to apply it with a soft cloth and stick to the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions.

Important Note: In order to prevent dangerous chemical reactions, never mix cleaning agents, especially bleach with vinegar or other substances.

Using Rinse Aid and Dishwasher Salt for Hard Water-Stained Areas

When learning how to clean a dishwasher, it would be advisable to include the appropriate use of rinse aids and salts, particularly in areas affected by hard water. These steps contribute to better cleaning results while extending the lifespan of the dishwasher by keeping it in good working condition.

Rinse Aid

This should be added to its designated dispenser to ensure it delivers a streak-free shine to dishes. This maintenance tip is vital for preventing water spots during the dry cycle and removing limescale. It also works with your detergent to enhance cleaning

Dishwasher Salt

Dishwasher salt has the ability to soften water in areas where hard water is prevalent. This allows the detergent to work more effectively and prevents limescale build-up.

  • Locate the salt reservoir: usually at the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Fill the reservoir with dishwasher salt following the machine’s manual.
  • Check the salt levels regularly, topping up as needed.
a newly cleaned dishwasher

Kitchen Cleanliness is King 

That wraps up our guide on how to clean a dishwasher.

But why go through all the trouble yourself when you can kick your feet up & relax while you let the pros take care of your kitchen?

From oven cleaning services to revitalising the shine of the countertops, Simone’s Cleaning Services will leave a trail of cleanliness magic all over your kitchen.  

Apart from giving households a healthy scrub-down, the team of dirt busters at Simone’s are renowned for spotless commercial and office cleaning services as well.

Learn more about our revolutionary commercial and home cleaning services today!

Book an estimate today!

Ready to experience a new standard of cleanliness and professionalism for your home or business?

We don't leave it, We clean it!

Fill out your cleaning requirements