How to Clean a Dishwasher? – Simple techniques that Really Work!

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A dishwasher that does all the cleaning needs the cleaning too. After all, it’s a machine! After a few uses, a dishwasher is susceptible to grease and grime buildup due to the leftover food deposits, and undissolved detergents.

Moreover, if you use hard water for your dishwasher, you can visibly see the rust stains and mineral buildup on its filter and interior walls. All of this not only restricts the performance of the machine but can also lead to expensive repairs.

So, proper maintenance of your dishwasher is extremely important. A dishwasher needs to be cleaned at least once a month.

Luckily, cleaning your dishwasher is unbelievably easy and most of the cleaning can be done with vinegar, bleach or baking soda. However, the process of cleaning the exterior and interior of a dishwasher is different which you’ll know after reading this article.

Through this post, we explained how to clean each part of your dishwasher, how to tackle gross smells with step-by-step cleaning instructions. We have also explained some tips to maintain your dishwasher spick and span.

Let’s dive in!

Step-by-Step Process of Cleaning a Dishwasher:

We have come up with a simple sequential cleaning routine for your dishwasher and believe us, this is the best way to keep your dishwasher neat and clean.

Step 1: Start by cleaning the Dishwasher parts

If you don’t know what to clean first, we suggest you to start with the removable parts of the dishwasher. This is the easiest way!

  • Take out the utensil holder and dishwasher racks inside your dishwasher.
  • Wipe them to remove any bits of food or dust.
  • If the food is hard-stuck on the holder and racks, soak the racks and holder in your sink with hot water and 2 cups of vinegar. Leave it for about 15 minutes and remove the racks from water and wipe them with a sponge. Keep these racks aside to dry.

Don’t worry! Vinegar is a natural cleanser and safe.

Step 2: Clean the interior of the Dishwasher

The next step is to clean the inside of your dishwasher. Both grease and grime tend to get accumulated along the walls of the machine leading to unbearable smells. You need to deep clean the interior to get rid of all this. Here’s how:

  • Empty your dishwasher first.
  • Take a dishwasher-safe bowl and put 2 cups of vinegar in it.
  • Place this bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher.
  • Run the hottest cycle without the drying cycle.
  • Next, add some baking soda on the floor of your dishwasher and run the hottest cycle with the shortest time setting.

Baking soda absorbs the smells that couldn’t be wiped out with vinegar. Also, it acts like a scrub and removes even the toughest rust stains.

Note: Don’t mix vinegar and baking soda in one washing cycle.  Vinegar causes the baking soda to foam up. So, first run the vinegar cycle and then go with the baking-soda.

The dishwasher sometimes develops mold. You can kill it in the following way:

  • Take a bowl and add one cup of bleach to it.
  • Place this bowl at the bottom of your dishwasher.
  • Run a full washing cycle except the drying cycle.

Note: If your dishwasher’s interior is made of steel, avoid using bleach to clean it. Also, do not mix bleach with vinegar or baking soda. Stainless steel when mixed with bleach causes metal corrosion and rupture.

Repeat the above interior cleaning instructions at least once in two months to add years to the dishwasher.

Step 3: Clean the dishwasher door and gasket

After cleaning the parts and the interior, the next step is to clean the dishwasher door and the gasket. Here’s how you should clean them:

  • Take a bowl and add 3 cups of water and ½ cup of vinegar. Mix it well.
  • Take a toothbrush and dip the brush’s nozzle into the bowl and rub it on the door’s interior.
  • Repeat the same process and clean the gasket.
  • If you still find the gasket to be dirty, you can purchase a cleaner that specifically cleans gaskets and use it for better results.

Clean your dishwasher gasket once a week for the best results.

Step 4: Clean the Dishwasher Filter

Every dishwasher comes with a filter that lies at the bottom of the appliance. The function of a filter is to separate the food leftovers on your dishes from the spraying water. All the leftover food and other particles get collected in the filter, so cleaning it is very important to prevent gross smells.

To access it, pull out the bottom rack of the dishwasher completely. Then, twist the filter to see if it’s removable.

If it’s not removable, it’s a self-cleaning filter. But, if it’s removable, you can clean it by following the below steps:

  • Check the base of the filter if there’s any food debris. Wipe the base area with a damp cloth to clean the debris.
  • Then, wash the filter with your hand by running it under warm water.
  • Now, put the filter back in place.

Repeat the above steps once a month or as often as required.

Step 5: Clean the Dishwasher Drain

Cleaning the drain is a very important step as it allows the water to flow in or out freely.

  • Take some white vinegar in a bowl and heat it for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Then, add two tablespoons of baking soda, stir well and add this mixture into the drain.
  • Leave it for 10 minutes.
  • Take some boiling water and carefully pour it into the drain. This process clears any debris or food stuck in the drain.

Step 6: Clean the Dishwasher Exterior

Now that all the parts and accessories of your dishwasher are cleaned, it’s time to clean the exterior. The outer surface of your dishwasher can be prone to fingerprint marks and some stains. You need to clean it to get a glossy look.

  • Take a clean soft cloth and dip it in warm soapy water.
  • Slowly wipe the exterior with this cloth till all the marks get vanished.
  • Next, take a dry towel and wipe it till the surface is dry and clean.

If the exterior of your dishwasher is made of stainless steel, use a glass cleaner to clean it.

Tips to Enhance the Performance of your Dishwasher:

To let any appliance work for long, you need to make sure you follow some guidelines. In the case of a dishwasher, here’s something you need to follow:

  • Make it a habit to clean the food debris after each wash cycle. Don’t let it accommodate.
  • Pull out the bottom rack of your machine to check for any leftovers. If you find any, clean it with a paper towel immediately. This process will prevent gross odours.
  • Before starting the washing cycle, ensure that the drain is clear by pouring some water through it.
  • Don’t pre-wash your dishes with hand unless there’s much coarse food stuck on it. The dishwasher works effectively when there’s certain grease or food residue present.

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How to tackle rust stains inside your dishwasher?

A) Depending on the type of water you use and the state of your dishwasher pipes, mineral or rust stains tend to develop inside your dishwasher. Check for a product or detergent that can remove rust stains of appliances and place it in the soap dispenser and sprinkle some of it at the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a complete washing cycle and you’ll see the difference.

2. How often do I have to clean my dishwasher?

A) You can do the deep cleaning once a month with vinegar or baking soda. You must remove and clean the filter once a week. You can wipe the exterior with soapy water once a week.

3. How to clean a Dishwasher that smells bad?

A) One of the worst things that can happen to your dishwasher when it lacks maintenance is that it stinks real bad.
To remove the odour, inspect the spray arms of the machine and brush out any leftovers. Using a toothpick, clear the blocked jets.
Using a paper towel, wipe out any food debris at the bottom of the dishwasher tub.
If the smell persists, clean the interiors regularly with soap water till the smell goes.

4. How to eliminate hard water/mineral buildup?

A) Sometimes, depending on your water source, your dishwasher can be prone to mineral buildups.
For this, place a cup of lemon juice at the top rack of your dishwasher and run a normal wash cycle. The acidic nature of lemon removes any dark spots on your dishwasher.


As helpful a dishwasher is, it demands maintenance. If maintained properly, a dishwasher can last for years serving you with its automation capabilities. So, make sure you deep clean your dishwasher at least once a month. However, some dishwashers require specific products for cleaning. Take a look at your dishwasher’s manual. The company recommends the list of products you must use for the cleaning process.

Also, comment below if our natural cleaning processes did work for you.

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