How to Clean Melted Plastic off Dishwasher Heating Element

Imagine opening your dishwasher after a cycle only to find melted plastic stuck to the heating element. It’s a frustrating situation that many homeowners have encountered. While it may seem daunting, removing melted plastic from your dishwasher’s heating element is possible with the right approach. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to effectively and safely clean your dishwasher’s heating element without causing damage.

Understanding the Challenge

What Causes Plastic to Melt onto the Heating Element?

Melted plastic on a dishwasher’s heating element usually occurs when plastic items accidentally touch the element during the drying cycle. This can happen with plastic containers, utensils, or even labels on containers that aren’t dishwasher-safe.

Potential Risks of Ignoring the Issue

Leaving melted plastic on the heating element can lead to unpleasant odors, potential damage to the heating element, and reduced dishwasher efficiency. Addressing the problem promptly can prevent these issues.

Gathering the Necessary Supplies

Tools You’ll Need

To clean the melted plastic off your dishwasher’s heating element, you’ll need:

  • Soft cloths or microfiber towels
  • Isopropyl alcohol or acetone
  • Plastic scraper or spatula
  • Heat-resistant gloves
  • Safety goggles

Safety Precautions to Keep in Mind

Before you start, remember to:

  • Turn off the dishwasher: Ensure it’s not connected to power while you work.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area: Solvents can produce fumes, so adequate ventilation is essential.
  • Wear protective gear: Gloves and goggles will protect you from any splatters or fumes.

Safety First: Powering Off and Cooling Down

Turning Off the Dishwasher and Unplugging It

Before attempting any cleaning, turn off the dishwasher using the control panel. For added safety, unplug the dishwasher from the power source to eliminate the risk of accidental activation.

Allowing Sufficient Cooling Time

After turning off the dishwasher, give it ample time to cool down. Attempting to clean the heating element while it’s still hot can result in burns or further plastic melting.

Removing Accessible Plastic Residue

Gently Peeling or Scraping Off the Plastic

If the plastic is still relatively soft and accessible, use a plastic scraper or spatula to gently peel or scrape it away from the heating element. Apply minimal pressure to avoid damaging the element.

Using Heat to Loosen the Plastic

In cases where the plastic is hardened, use heat to soften it. You can employ a hairdryer on low heat to warm up the plastic, making it easier to remove without causing harm to the element.

Applying Solvents for Stubborn Plastic

Choosing the Right Solvent

For stubborn plastic residues, consider using isopropyl alcohol or acetone. These solvents can help dissolve the plastic without damaging the heating element. However, exercise caution and use them sparingly.

Applying and Wiping off the Solvent

Apply a small amount of the chosen solvent to a soft cloth and gently rub the affected area. Once the plastic starts to loosen, use the cloth or a plastic scraper to wipe it away. Be patient and repeat the process as needed.

Avoiding Abrasive Methods

Why Abrasive Materials Can Cause Damage

While it might be tempting to use abrasive materials to remove the plastic, this can scratch or damage the heating element, affecting its performance. Avoid using metal scrapers, scouring pads, or abrasive cleaners.

Safer Alternatives to Consider

Instead of abrasives, opt for non-abrasive cleaners specifically designed for dishwashers. These cleaners are safer for the heating element and won’t compromise its efficiency.

Cleaning the Interior of the Dishwasher

Ensuring No Residue Remains

After dealing with the heating element, inspect the interior of the dishwasher for any plastic fragments or residue. Wipe down the interior with a clean cloth dampened with water or a mild dishwasher-safe cleaner.

Running a Test Cycle Empty

Run a test cycle without any dishes or plastics to ensure that all traces of melted plastic have been successfully removed. This step helps confirm that your dishwasher is now safe to use without the risk of fumes or further damage.

Inspecting and Testing

Checking for Remaining Plastic Residue

Take a close look at the heating element to ensure there’s no plastic residue left. If you spot any, repeat the appropriate cleaning method until the element is completely clean.

Running a Full Cycle with Disposable Plastics

As a preventive measure, run a cycle with disposable plastic items that are labeled as dishwasher-safe. This test will help you verify that the heating element is functioning correctly and that no mishaps occur during future use.

Regular Maintenance to Prevent Future Mishaps

Tips to Avoid Future Plastic Melting Incidents

To prevent melted plastic issues in the future:

  • Double-check items before loading the dishwasher.
  • Use dishwasher-safe plastics only.
  • Keep plastics away from the heating element.

Cleaning Best Practices

Maintain your dishwasher’s cleanliness by:

  • Regularly wiping down the interior.
  • Running maintenance cycles with dishwasher cleaners.
  • Inspecting and cleaning the heating element periodically.


Cleaning melted plastic off a dishwasher’s heating element might seem daunting, but with the right approach and safety precautions, it’s a manageable task. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure your dishwasher remains efficient and odor-free.


Can I use any solvent to remove the melted plastic?

It’s recommended to use isopropyl alcohol or acetone, as they are safe for the heating element and effective in dissolving plastic.

Is there a risk of damaging the heating element?

Yes, using abrasive materials or excessive force can damage the heating element. It’s important to be gentle and cautious.

How often should I inspect and clean the heating element?

It’s advisable to inspect and clean the heating element every few months to prevent buildup and potential melting incidents.

Can I still use the dishwasher if there’s a small plastic residue left?

It’s best to completely remove all plastic residue to ensure safe and efficient dishwasher operation.

Are there any alternative methods to remove melted plastic?

The methods outlined in this guide are the safest and most effective. Avoid experimenting with untested methods to prevent damage.

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