How to Clean a Dirty Dishwasher

Maintaining a clean dishwasher is essential for ensuring its longevity and optimal performance. Over time, dishwashers can accumulate grime, food particles, and limescale, which can lead to unpleasant odors, reduced efficiency, and even potential breakdowns. In this article, we will guide you through the process of cleaning your dishwasher, step by step, to help keep it in pristine condition.

A dirty dishwasher not only affects the cleanliness of your dishes but can also impact the overall hygiene of your kitchen. Cleaning your dishwasher regularly is important to eliminate odors, prevent clogs, and ensure sparkling clean dishes with every cycle. Let’s explore the necessary steps to clean a dirty dishwasher effectively.

Preparing to Clean Your Dishwasher

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s essential to gather the necessary supplies. You will need rubber gloves, a soft cloth or sponge, mild dish soap, white vinegar, baking soda, and a toothbrush or small cleaning brush. Additionally, ensure you have a safe working environment by turning off the dishwasher and disconnecting it from the power source.

Cleaning the Exterior of the Dishwasher

Begin by wiping down the control panel of your dishwasher using a soft cloth dampened with mild dish soap and warm water. Pay attention to any buttons or knobs and ensure they are thoroughly cleaned. Next, clean the exterior of the dishwasher door and handles using the same solution. This step helps remove any fingerprints, grease, or grime that might have accumulated over time.

Cleaning the Interior of the Dishwasher

To clean the interior of the dishwasher, start by removing the filter, usually located at the bottom of the dishwasher. Rinse the filter under warm water to remove any debris and use a toothbrush or small cleaning brush to gently scrub away stubborn residue. Once cleaned, reinsert the filter back into its place.

Next, inspect the spray arms for any clogs or blockages. Detach the spray arms, if possible, and rinse them under warm water. Use a toothpick or a similar object to dislodge any trapped food particles. Once clean, reattach the spray arms securely.

To clean the dishwasher racks, remove them from the dishwasher and scrub them with a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap. Pay attention to the crevices and corners to ensure all debris is removed. Rinse the racks thoroughly and place them back inside the dishwasher.

Lastly, it’s time to clean the interior walls and bottom of the dishwasher. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe away any residue or buildup. For stubborn stains or limescale deposits, create a paste using baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the affected areas and let it sit for a few minutes before gently scrubbing with a sponge or toothbrush. Rinse the interior thoroughly to remove any remaining residue.

Addressing Specific Issues

If your dishwasher has hard water stains on the interior surfaces, you can tackle them by using white vinegar. Place a cup of vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher and run a hot water cycle. Vinegar helps dissolve mineral deposits and leaves your dishwasher looking clean and shiny.

To eliminate unpleasant odors from your dishwasher, you can use a simple solution of white vinegar and baking soda. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and pour a cup of vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container. Place the container on the top rack and run a hot water cycle. This combination will neutralize odors and freshen up your dishwasher.

Limescale buildup is another common issue in dishwashers. To remove limescale deposits, you can use citric acid or lemon juice. Fill a dishwasher-safe container with citric acid or squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the affected areas. Run a hot water cycle to dissolve the limescale and leave your dishwasher spotless.

Maintaining a Clean Dishwasher

Regular maintenance is key to keeping your dishwasher clean and functioning optimally. Make it a habit to clean the filter at least once a month by removing any debris or residue. Additionally, running a cycle with white vinegar or lemon juice once every few months helps prevent mineral buildup and keeps your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Consider using dishwasher cleaner tablets designed specifically for removing grease, limescale, and residue. These tablets are easy to use and provide a thorough cleaning to ensure your dishwasher remains in top condition.

Tips for Efficient Dishwasher Usage

To make the most of your dishwasher and ensure efficient cleaning, follow these tips:

  1. Scrape off excess food from your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. This prevents food particles from clogging the dishwasher and ensures better cleaning results.
  2. Load dishes properly, placing them at an angle to allow water and detergent to reach all surfaces. Avoid overcrowding, as it can hinder proper water circulation.
  3. Use an appropriate dishwasher detergent based on your water hardness and the type of dishes you’re washing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

If you encounter issues with your dishwasher, here are some common problems and their solutions:

  1. If your dishwasher is not cleaning dishes properly, check for clogs in the spray arms and ensure the water inlet valve is functioning correctly. Additionally, make sure you’re using the right dishwasher detergent and loading dishes properly.
  2. If your dishwasher is not draining, inspect the drain hose for any clogs or kinks. Clean the air gap, if applicable, and check the drain pump for obstructions. Consult the dishwasher’s manual or seek professional help if the problem persists.
  3. If your dishwasher is making strange noises, it may indicate a problem with the motor, pump, or spray arms. Inspect these components for any obstructions or signs of damage. Consider calling a technician for further assistance if needed.

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

Cleaning your dishwasher once a month is generally recommended. However, if you notice any signs of buildup, such as odors or stains, it’s best to clean it sooner.

Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

It is not recommended to use bleach for cleaning your dishwasher as it can damage the rubber components. Stick to mild dish soap, vinegar, baking soda, or citric acid for safe and effective cleaning.

Is it necessary to remove the filter for cleaning?

Yes, removing and cleaning the dishwasher filter is an essential step to ensure proper functionality and prevent clogs. Refer to your dishwasher’s manual for specific instructions on filter removal and cleaning.

What can I do to prevent limescale buildup in my dishwasher?

To prevent limescale buildup, you can run a hot water cycle with white vinegar or citric acid once every few months. Additionally, using dishwasher cleaner tablets designed for limescale removal can help.

My dishwasher still has an unpleasant odor after cleaning. What should I do?

If you’re experiencing persistent odors even after cleaning, try running an empty cycle with a dishwasher cleaner tablet or sprinkle baking soda at the bottom and run a hot water cycle. If the problem persists, it’s best to consult a professional.


A clean dishwasher not only ensures hygienic and spotless dishes but also prolongs the lifespan of your appliance. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively clean your dishwasher, address specific issues, and maintain its efficiency. Remember to prioritize regular maintenance and caring for your dishwasher to enjoy its benefits for years to come.

Cleaning a dirty dishwasher is a simple yet crucial task that can have a significant impact on the cleanliness of your dishes and the overall performance of your appliance. By following the steps and tips provided in this article, you can easily tackle a dirty dishwasher and restore its optimal functionality.

Remember, a clean dishwasher not only ensures hygienic dishes but also helps in maintaining its efficiency and longevity. Regular maintenance, proper loading techniques, and using the right cleaning agents are key to keeping your dishwasher in top shape. Enjoy sparkling clean dishes with the help of a well-maintained dishwasher!

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