How to Clean Dishwasher – A Complete Guide

People take domestic appliances for granted. The dishwasher makes no exception either. Basically, its main function is to clean, so it should always be clean, right? Wrong! This is only a misconception. Every appliance in the world requires a little maintenance and this unit follows the same trend. Dishwashers are affected by leftover foods, soap scum, and grease. At some point, the unit will start smelling like a sewer. When your dishes also stink, you barely feel like eating. Other than that, water using domestic appliances are exposed to the risks of hard water. Almost all the tap water is hard, so you will end up with harsh calcium deposits. Sooner or later, your dishwasher, washing machine or espresso maker will be ruined.How to Clean Dishwasher

As a complete guide to Dishwasher cleaning, we include here several topics. Which one is needed for you, just click on it from below.

How to Clean Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Luckily, there is a great solution to clean a dishwasher properly. You do not have to call an expert, but just rely on some basic vinegar and baking soda. Not sure whether this is a myth or reality? Put a little baking soda on a cup, then pour some vinegar on top of it. The chemical reaction will surprise you. It will loosen, melt and clear everything in front of it, from grease and grime to calcium scale.

What do You Need to Clean Your Dishwasher?

A mixture is based on nothing but vinegar and baking soda. You can get any type of vinegar from commerce. The same goes for the baking soda. Some people may also add a little lemon juice, yet this is not always necessary. Sure, it might add to the final effect, but the real cleaning is done with the main ingredients. Since these things go into the dishwasher, you do not require any recipients.

Step by Step Instructions to Clean a Dishwasher

  1. Open the dishwasher’s door and detergent lid.
  2. Put the baking soda in the part of the compartment that does not seal. (Put it in the wrong chamber and it will not properly mix with vinegar)
  3. Put the vinegar in the chamber that does seal. (Use similar proportions in each side)
  4. Close the lid.
  5. Start the dishwasher and let it go through a cycle.

Video instructions for cleaning the dishwasher with vinegar & baking soda:

Few Tips for Better Results

  • No dishes should be kept inside for a better effect and access.
  • Once the cycle is complete, calcium scale and grime will be history.
  • The mixture kills the unpleasant smells from the drain too, since it tackles all kinds of small buildups.
  • If this is the first time you have cleaned the dishwasher in many years, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom of your unit. Leave it overnight, then perform another cleaning cycle in the morning. The unit will smell like new, while potential remains will be gone.
  • Vinegar and baking soda brands are irrelevant.
  • Perform this operation once or twice a month for proper maintenance.

How to Clean Hard Water Buildup in Your Dishwasher

A dishwasher acting strangely may often underline a series of signs. Without paying attention, you are less likely to identify the problem. Take a look at your glasses. Do they look cloudy? How about your black dishes? Are they spotted? Take a peek at the heating element of your dishwasher. If you can see a white crust on it, the problem is obvious – you got hard water. The problem is general, so you should not despair. Most tap water is hard, which means that it is rich in calcium and magnesium. Such things will ruin water using appliances in the long run and the dishwasher makes no exception at all.

Hard water will affect espresso machines, dishwashers, and other similar appliances. It will not only affect your dishes and the heating element, but it will also sacrifice the performance of your dishwasher. There are more signs that your tap water is hard. You do not have to wait until the dishwasher starts malfunctioning. Look for a filmy residue on your bath surface, mineral buildup on other appliances and a poor result after washing something with soap or detergent. For example, you might face issues while trying to rinse your skin in the shower.

Now, what are the best options against these harsh effects?

Use The Right Detergent

You probably imagine that any type of detergent can clean dishes. Wrong! Check the dishwasher owner’s manual for more information. Keep in mind that the harder your water is, the more detergent you need to use for each cycle. At the same time, the dishwasher should be calibrated according to the water hardness. It sounds complicated, but you need to test the water hardness at the local water company, then seek professional help for the calibration. This solution is not permanent because the water hardness will keep working on the appliance.

Install a Water Softener

Water softeners are extremely popular and accessible today. Many of them are small and affordable. They can be classified by more criteria. Normally, you should pick a softener according to how hard the water is. Other than that, they can also be classified according to the installation type. Some units are installed on the pipe or the faucet, so they work for the respective area only. Some others are installed on the main pipe of your home. This way, the entire home benefits from soft water. All in all, the second option asks for a professional installation.

Add a Rinse Aid

Add a rinse aid if you want to prevent the unwanted effects of hard water over dishwasher. It is imperative to know that the rinse aid will not necessarily protect the appliance. Instead, it will only work on your dishes – from glasses to plates. So, what does it do? Simple – it prevents spotting and staining, but it also adds to drying. Once again, different dishwashers come with different specifications, so take a peek in the owner’s manual. Some models will allow you to adjust them within seconds, while others require a more complicated approach. Sometimes, adding a rinse aid may not be an option.

Use Vinegar to Clean Dishwasher

Vinegar is one of the most popular solutions in cleaning and maintenance. The same rule applies to dishwasher maintenance. Vinegar does an excellent job of clearing the hard water stains in your dishwasher. It will not only clear the unwanted smells and aromas, but it will also clean both the dishes and the appliance components. For example, if you can see a whitish scale on the bottom part of the dishwasher, that is probably hardened calcium. What do you do then? Easy. Get a cup of vinegar and run a cycle. Vinegar is an inexpensive maintenance solution, so do it regularly, even if the appliance looks clean. Sure, installing a water softener is a better choice, but maybe you cannot afford one right now.

Hard water and your dishwasher are less likely to become friends. The truth is that your dishwasher is only one of the most exposed elements to the hard water. Since it can also target your clothes, skin, hair and other water-using appliances, it might be a good idea to counterattack early.

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

When it comes to domestic appliances, most people take them for granted. They expect them to work for the rest of their lives, without caring about the actual maintenance. This is a terrible misconception, especially when it comes to cleaning appliances. Have you ever asked yourself why your towel goes dirty after using it for too many times? After all, you use it on your clean body. The same rule applies to the dishwasher. It washes dishes, so it should always be clean. Wrong idea! If you exaggerate with the usage, chances are it will get clogged with grease, foods, soap, and so on. Sooner or later, it will smell like a sewer. At the same time, your dishes may not be too sanitary anyway.

Almost every dishwasher has a filter. It is detachable and comes in a cylindrical shape. It normally sits right below the tub. Sure, you may also find models with food disposers, yet those are pretty old and not so popular anymore. Check which type of model you got or consider the manufacturing year. If it is a relatively new model, chances are it has a filter. No matter what brand your dishwasher is, the filter is supposed to catch big food particles, only to prevent clogging it. The maneuverability is just as common. You normally have to turn the unit clockwise and take it off, yet small exceptions might apply here and there. This small part gathers so much rotten food and particles that it obviously requires maintenance. Not sure how to clean dishwasher filter? Read on!

Steps to Clean Dishwasher Filter

Some people choose to call a specialist because they got no clue how to clean dishwasher filter. You do not have to be a genius to do it. Instead, it only takes a little dedication and perhaps a couple of minutes.

First, make sure that the dishwasher is perfectly empty. Get the bottom rack out, then locate the actual filter. It is easy to spot. Normally, it is placed the center on the bottom.

Once you spot it, you need a damp cloth to clean the dirt and remains around it. Otherwise, those remains will fall inside when you remove the filter. Make sure that it is tidy before doing it. Some models come with closed filters. Removal is different though. Unscrew it, then remove the remains gathered inside.

Next, take these parts out and clean the filter under warm running water with a damp cloth and soap.

Go back to your dishwasher for cleaning filter area.

Finally, put back the coarse mesh and filter. Make sure the filter is locked.

After everything is done; you can also use all kinds of solutions to clear the smell. Get half a cup of salt, half a cup of baking soda, and one cup of bleach. Get this mixture into the bottom of our machine, then let it sit there overnight. Run a normal wash cycle in the morning, but with no dishes inside.

How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

Filling and emptying the dishwasher might be the last things you want to do sometimes. How come? Simple. There are moments when the dishwasher releases a fishy odor that will simply dry your hair nose. Once this smell kicks in, you are less likely to get rid of it. Instead, it keeps aggravating. After a while, you feel like throwing the dishwasher away. The first reaction is usually the same – change the detergent. With all these, the smell persists. Sooner or later, you decide to wash your dishes by hand. Most people blame this problem on the detergent or the hard water. These are only some misconceptions caused by the lack of education. When you have no clue about the causes, you are obviously far from the solutions as well.

Causes of a Smelly Dishwasher

A smelly dishwasher is often the result of your indiscipline. If you fail to properly care for your dishwasher and maintain it accordingly, chances are it will start smelling sooner or later. With time, it is perfectly normal for small particles of food to remain stuck in the dishwasher filter. Some of them may even go into the machine crevices. Just like any other food, these particles will start rotting. After all, they are stuck in a wet and dark environment. Sooner or later, the smell kicks in. At first, it does not sting. With time, it becomes horrible.

Filling and emptying the dishwasher may not be the issue, but these smells also reach to your dishes. What are the optimal solutions then?

Simplistic Methods to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

In 90% of all situations, the problem is in the dishwasher. No other part of the machine will attract so much food and leftovers. Filters are usually detachable. Many of them are cylindrical too. They are usually hidden behind the bottom rack. Take the filter out, enjoy the smell and clean it with hot water. A bottle brush is a good idea too, not to mention harsh detergents. If the filter can resist, boil it. These things will disinfect it.

The interior walls and inside of your door require thorough scrubbing too, especially if grime has already accumulated in there. Simply put, remove as many parts as you can and clean them independently. The door gasket is not to be overlooked either, not to mention the dishwasher racks.

This first phase may not always be needed. It is not always necessary, but just highly recommended. If you use other cleaning solutions and the smell persists, you still have to get there anyway. Just do it thoroughly upfront. When it comes to cleaning solutions, baking soda and vinegar will work wonders. This mixture is just as helpful for maintenance. The vinegar might have a stinging smell, but it is among the most powerful agents against unpleasant odors. Another good news is that it dissipates right away once it dries.

Opt for the shortest cycle because it is more aggressive. Also, choose the highest temperature. One additional cycle is more than enough. Just like you have probably guessed already, the dishwasher should be empty.

These two steps will most likely restore the fresh smell of your dishwasher. Ideally, you should perform these operations once a month. As for baking soda and vinegar, you can run such quick cycles once a week. They represent an excellent solution in the maintenance of your machine. Having a rotten fishy smell hit your nose when eating or cooking is probably the last thing you want to deal with, so act responsibly. Once you do it a few times, it will become part of your routine.

How To Fix Dishwasher That Won’t Clean Properly

There are more problems that may arise when running a dishwasher. For example, there are situations when the unit runs, but once the cycle is over, your dishes are not clean. There are more solutions to apply when the dishwasher does not clean. Of course, problems are quite diversified as well, not to mention their causes. Before moving on, double check the owner’s manual and make sure that you use the perfect detergent. Also, check the loading instructions and ensure that you properly arrange them. How about keeping the water temperature at the optimal level? If you respect all these things and you still face this problem – dishwasher not cleaning, chances are you have to dig deeper.

Considering the Causes

Dishwasher not cleaning is a common problem when you have insufficient water in the actual system. As a direct consequence, the outcome is terrible. Moreover, there is the risk to end up with a stuck float. Plus, if it ends up in the raised position, the appliance will obviously not get enough water for the cycle.

Sometime a dishwasher is not cleaning due to inconsequential loading dishes. If you’re not sure on how to load a dishwasher properly then check out this article.

A clogged inlet screen is yet another common cause, not to mention the faulty inlet valve. It is hard to tell what the problem is without digging into deeper details. Maybe you have to clean the actual screen or perhaps the valve needs replacement. How can you tell if your cleaner gets the right level of water? Easy! Turn it on with no dishes inside and pay attention. At some point, the filling process is ceased. Open the door and look inside. The optimal level of water is almost as high as the heating coil. How about the float valve? Does it operate accordingly? Is it stuck? If these things fail to solve the issue, reach to the screen and inlet valve.

Simple Solutions when the Dishwasher Does not Clean

Dishwasher not cleaning might be a simple problem with an even simpler DIY solution. First, clean the spray arm. This is the most common cause out there. How do you do it? Easy. Find the spray arm, take it off and clean the holes. Use some acetone and perhaps some needles. This kind of operation gives you access to the filter as well, which might need some maintenance. Removing spray arms is quick in most dishwashers – just unsnap them. Some units come with screws and perhaps some caps.

Cleaning the filter is piece of cake too. If it is removable, take it off the screen. If not, you can do it in there. When the filter is stuck and cannot be removed, a vacuum is usually your best choice. It makes no difference what vacuum you use. It can be a wet or dry model. Just clear everything. If it is removable, cleaning is even faster.

If the problem persists and the dishwasher does not clean, the issue might be in your float. It should move freely, with no problems at all. Move it up and down a little. If it does not, chances are this is your cause. Many floats are removable, so take it off and clean it yourself.

Sophisticated Solutions when the Dishwasher Does not Clean

If none of these solutions works and you still have the problem, dishwasher not cleaning may ask for more DIY enthusiasm. At this point, you have to engage into more sophisticated operations. None of them is too complicated if you are patient and willing to do everything on your own, yet they might take a while. The inlet valve is one of the problematic causes in such situations. It is removable in almost every dishwasher. Remove it, check it out and replace it if you have to.

Removing the inlet valve also gives you access to the screen. The waterline must be removed as well. It is usually fitted with one or more screws. Also, check the valve bracket to the actual frame. It should have a few screws as well. Get rid of the rubber hose for extra space, but also unplug the wires.

Now that you can access the filter screen, determine yourself whether it is plugged. Clean it yourself. Not sure how to get there? The waterline fitting must be unscrewed. As for the valve, it is connected to the bracket with a few more screws – you can usually find four of them.

Whether you clean the screen or replace the valve, reinstall everything in the reverse order. You will need a few tools too, such as a vacuum, a nut driver and pliers.

Note: Dishwasher not cleaning is extremely common these days. You do not have to despair though. You can seek professional help, but you can just as well go through these steps with no risks at all. You only need some dedication and patience.

Dishwasher Maintenance Tips for a Long Term & Flawless Use

If you are the happy owner of a dishwasher, you can only imagine how daunting it would be to manually wash a sink full of dishes at the end of the day. However, in order to enjoy this level of comfort for a long time before spending a fortune, it is imperative to rely on some dishwasher maintenance tips. Keep in mind that maintenance should begin from day one. Do not wait until the unit starts malfunctioning to start dishwasher maintenance cleaning. So, what should you pay attention to? The good news is that you do not even have to try too hard.

Hot Water Before Using the Dishwasher

This is one of the simplest dishwasher maintenance tips. It should be on your dishwasher maintenance checklist no matter what. Basically, you are supposed to turn the faucet on and let hot water run for a minute or two. Do it before starting the dishwasher. Hot water might clear some clogged remains and debris. At the same time, it means that the first cycle is likely to be hot before the temperature is balanced. It might look irrelevant, but a first jet of hot water will clear grease way easier. Plus, this idea is more useful during the wintertime, since the water needs more time to heat up.

Run Vinegar Through the Dishwasher

It is imperative to implement vinegar in dishwasher maintenance. It is one of the oldest tricks in the book. No dishes should be included during this cycle. If you use vinegar in the washing machine, the concept and purpose are alike. All you need is a cup of vinegar. If the dishwasher is larger, use two cups. Run a normal cycle then. Dishwasher maintenance vinegar will clear old food deposits, buildups and particles. This way, the dishwasher will provide better results because it is less likely to clog. Other than that, the dishwasher will smell fresh whenever you take a peek inside. Forget about that rotten aroma.

Keep the Dishwasher Trap Tidy

When not sure how to do maintenance on a dishwasher, you should know that the basic things are usually located in the less technical part of your machine. For example, the dishwasher trap should always be mentioned in the dishwasher maintenance tips. Look under the bottom sprayer. You will find a small piece that can be removed. Take it off and look under it. What can you find in there? Food remains, rotten food, pet hair – eww! If you have never cleaned this trap, it might be full, so you can get rid of it in the garbage disposal. If you do it regularly, all those things might actually be trapped, so you will require a towel to get in there and clean everything.

Inspect Hoses Before and After Running the Dishwasher

Such dishwasher maintenance tips should not be performed everyday, but about once a month. Fail to inspect the hose and you might end up with a leak or other water damage issues. You can do it when the machine is not running, since it is easy to remove. Clean all the harsh things inside it, such as food buildups. Run hot water through it as well. When running, you might take a look at it for leaks. The dishwasher hose maintenance is often overlooked, unless real issues occur.

Dishwasher Maintenance Checklist

Apart from these handy dishwasher maintenance tips, come up with a checklist and verify it regularly.

  • Rust removal
  • Surface cleaning
  • Using the right cycle
  • Scraping before washing
  • Overcrowding the dishwasher – contraindicated
  • Never double up on rinse aid
  • Cleaning dishwasher seals
  • Keeping the water temperature at the right level
  • Testing water for hardness
  • Regularly clean with vinegar and baking soda


In conclusion, cleaning your dishwasher should not be a problem. It does not require a professional company either, but just a little attention to some simple aspects. Once the cleaning is done, keep an eye on regular maintenance. There is just no better way to prevent farther problems.

  • May 12, 2018
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