How to clean a dishwasher in a few easy steps

Dishwasher smelling ripe? Here's how to to get it clean and fresh again

You’re probably reading the headline of this article thinking, “don’t dishwashers clean themselves when they clean the dishes?” Sadly, much like how a shower collects grime over time, dishwashers can also get a little gunky if not cleaned properly. With all the dirty dishes that go into it, your dishwasher can start to collect food particles, which can cake the walls and door of the machine over time. If your machine is really dirty, it can create terrible smells and slow down, or even impede, the washing process. You wouldn’t want your dishwasher potentially making your dishes dirty while attempting to get them clean. In order to keep your dishwasher running efficiently and smelling pleasant, we recommend washing it at least once a month, or whenever funky smells begin to creep in. Fortunately, the process is simple and straightforward, and it takes virtually no time at all. Anyone can do it in just a few simple steps. Here’s how to clean a dishwasher, from start to finish:

Required materials

  • A washcloth or sponge
  • Dish soap
  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • A dishwasher-safe cup
  • 1 or 2 cups of lemon juice

Step 1 — Empty the dishwasher and remove attachments

First off, there can’t be any dishes in the racks or else your dishwasher will clean the dishes and not the actual dishwasher. That said, take out anything you can easily remove, such as the blades at the bottom or the silverware rack. Rinse the gunk off any attachments before returning them to the dishwasher. Try not think about what that gunk might be — just close your eyes and get it done.

Step 2 — Check the filter and wipe down the door

If your dishwasher has a filter at the bottom, reach down and see if anything has gotten stuck, such as a container or a spoon. This is really important because if anything is blocking the drain, you’ll be left with standing, dirty water (not to mention an even bigger mess than the one you started with). Once finished, use a cloth and some dish soap to clean the edge and outside of the door, along with any other spots the water doesn’t reach when the machine is turned on.

Step 3 — Vinegar wash

Now, place 2 cups of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe cup and place it on the top rack. Next, run the dishwasher. This will safely kill germs and remove stains. Using bleach or any other chemical cleaner is dangerous because, if not rinsed properly, they can stick around and get on your dishes. Sticking with white vinegar ensures that, even if you do accidentally ingest any residual liquid, you won’t be taking in toxic chemicals. Plus, the latter is cheap and has myriad other uses around the house, both in cooking and for cleaning.

Step 4 (optional) — Lemon juice wash

White vinegar will get rid of the smell of old food, sure, but it will likely replace it with the smell of vinegar. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it will dissipate over time. However, if the vinegar smell bothers you, place a cup or two of lemon juice in the top rack and run the dishwasher again. This will make your machine smell lemony fresh. And you get that natural fragrance with no chemicals or irritants.

That’s it! That’s all you have to do to thoroughly clean your dishwasher. If you feel really dedicated to cleanliness, you can even unscrew the mechanism that moves the blades and clean underneath, but that really isn’t as necessary. Depending on how well you rinse your plates before throwing them in the dishwasher, you shouldn’t have to repeat this process very often — just when it gets too ripe for you to handle. To prolong the amount of time in between deep cleans, you can try giving dishes a good rinse in the sink — washing away the stuck-on bits of food — before placing them in the dishwasher for a more thorough clean.

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