3 Steps to a Squeaky Clean Dishwasher

posted by Andrea | 12/21/2017

clean dishwasher

This time of year, our dishwasher is working overtime thanks to cooking and baking for the holidays, hosting holiday parties, and having Dave and Nora home for lunches over Christmas Break.

As I’ve mentioned before, emptying the dishwasher has never been one of my favorite household chores — I’m not sure why, I just really don’t like doing it! Thankfully, Dave is quite helpful and often volunteers to empty it out every evening (read about the one small change I made that completely simplified the dishwashing process at our house!)

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Since I would be very sad if my dishwasher was out of commission for even a day or two, I do my best to keep it in tip-top working order — and that includes cleaning it regularly.

Yes, I clean my dishwasher — and it’s a really simple (but fairly gross) process!

If it’s been a while since you cleaned your dishwasher (or if you didn’t even know you could clean your dishwasher), I’d suggest giving this simple 3-step process a try… you might be surprised how much better your dishwasher runs as a result!

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1: Clean out the drain and any visible grime.

This is really the only step that requires any work on your part — and I won’t lie, it can be a bit gross ๐Ÿ™‚

First, use a damp cloth to wipe all around the seal of the dishwasher (you might be surprised how much gunk can build up there, and you’ll probably need to keep rinsing out your cloth)

Next, remove the screen that covers the drain (in my experience, most dishwashers have some sort of removable screen at the bottom to preventย larger chunks of food from going down the drain.)

It should be fairly obvious where this is — and there should be some sort of instructions as to what way to turn or twist to remove it.

Once you remove it, rinse it out thoroughly in the sink — I use a bristle brush and the sprayer nozzle on my sink. It takes a bit of scrubbing to get everything really clean.

2: Run the empty dishwasher with vinegar.

Now comes the easy part… simply pour about 1 cup of white vinegar into the bottom of your dishwasher and run a full cycle completely EMPTY.

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3: Add white vinegar to the rinse cup.

After running the vinegar cycle, your dishwasher should instantly look much cleaner — if not, you might want to look into other issues for the source of the gunk and grime.

In order to keep your dishwasher cleaner for longer, simply add more white vinegar to the rinse aid cup (where you would normally put the Jet Dry). Fill it until it’s full, and try to remember to continually refill it

You can run your dishwasher as normal from here on out.

dishwasher

Repeat these steps as necessary for future dirty dishwasher needs (I usually do it once a month).ย 

These 3 simple steps have worked wonderfully for me over the years — hopefully they’ll help you keep your dishwasher in tip-top shape this holiday season!

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A Few More Dishwasher Tips:

If you’re short on time and don’t feel like dealing with the gunk and grime in the drain, just follow steps 2 and 3 and you’ll still most likely notice a big difference in the cleanliness (and even the performance) of your dishwasher.

Since the plumbing pipes to your dishwasher are almost always connected to your kitchen sink pipes, it’s a good idea to run your kitchen faucet until the water is very hot. THEN start the dishwasher. This allows hot water to flow into the dishwasher right away and will save your dishwasher the effort of heating the water up (and probably extend the life of your dishwasher).

Run the quick cycle (if you have one) to save lots of time — our quick cycle is 1 hour (versus 3 hours for the normal cycle) and our dishes are always clean!

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Oh, and if you want an extensive list of odd things you can wash in your dishwasher… read this post!

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33 comments

  1. Mary Ensley

    06/21/2018

    I am starting to wonder if the drain at the very bottom on ours is clogged even though our dishwasher is only a year old. I rinse the dishes for the most part before loading but I an finding myself cleaning out the filters and covers nearly every month and they are DISGUSTING! But as gross as it is, it’s really satisfying to clean out something so revoltingly dirty every now and then.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yuck! Do you have any plumber friends who could check it out for you? Dishwasher drains are pretty nasty!!

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  2. Rhonda

    01/09/2018

    I like it when you renew or recycle posts you’ve done in the past. My dishwasher was in bad need of the vinegar trick. Cleaned it up real nice! Some things I don’t have a regular schedule for doing, so thanks for the quick reminder.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, I thought it was about time I re-shared that post (with a bit of new information as well). Glad you have a squeaky clean dishwasher again ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Kristen

    12/23/2017

    Do you like having your dishwasher in your island? We are planning our kitchen renovation for the spring & are thinking about doing that.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, i love it… but its right across from our dink so that makes it very convenient!

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  4. Elizabeth

    12/23/2017

    Add me to the list of people who didn’t know there was a filter to clean. I did it yesterday and there was almost nothing in it. Thanks for the reminder to clean our dishwashers. I scrubbed the icky buildup then ran a load with some vinegar and now my 25 year old DW is beautifully clean again.

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  5. Amy

    12/22/2017

    Anyone have a recommendation for a GREAT cleaning and QUIET dishwasher. Ours is gone and we will be buying one in a few months. I spent $600 on a dishwasher at our old house before we moved and I thought that should have bought us a nice one…but I wasn’t impressed. Thank you in advance!!

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    Alissa Reply:

    We’ve have a whirlpool for 4 years that’s super quiet. Sometimes I have to look at the light on top to see if it’s still running, it’s that quiet!! (Its stainless steel, handle on front, buttons on top)

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  6. Virginia Leo

    02/28/2017

    Hi Andrea, Just a comment on cleaning your dishwasher. My son who owns an appliance repair company says this: Empty trapped food from the screen and put it back, then just pour a gallon of white vinegar in the bottom of your dishwasher & leave it overnight. Then in morning put one small bowl in top rack and bottom rack each about 1/2 full of white vinegar, no other dishes and run a full cycle. If you do this once a month this will eliminate most D.W. service calls and problems and extend the life of your D.W. I have been doing this for about 5 years and have had great success. Virginia

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is great — thanks for sharing!!

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  7. Lea Ann

    12/24/2015

    I have heard that about the vinegar also. It will ruin the seal on the dispenser. I don’t do it, I’m afraid to, so I just use Jet Dry. I am going to check out the screen on the bottom of the dishwasher now while I am waiting for water to boil for noodles. I am making your chicken, bacon, pesto pasta dish….its our favorite meal!!

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  8. twinsparent

    12/21/2015

    Sprinkle some baking powder at the bottom with the vinegar cycle for better results …:)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks for the tip — I’ll do that next time!

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  9. Lynda

    12/15/2015

    What type of dishwasher soap do you use…. Liquid, dry crystals or those pods?! I often get residue from the liquid but thought that might rinse easier with our hard water. Any suggestions?? Thanks!!!

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    Barb T. Reply:

    My son (an appliance repairman) once told me to never use liquid or gel detergent in a dishwasher. It gunks them up! Use powder or powder ‘blocks”.

    [Reply]

    Lynda Reply:

    Thanks Barb!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the tip Barb — I use the “blocks” so hopefully that is good!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Lynda, I use little pods or ‘bricks’ of detergent.

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    Lynda Reply:

    Thank you! I will try those!

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  10. Nikki

    12/15/2015

    WARNING!! I’ve heard about replacing the rinse aid with vinegar before and tried it! Although it works really well as an alternative it warped the cap of the rinse aid holder (I’m a renter by the way). I went back to the blog I read this from and read comments from other readers who suffered the same scenario!! I don’t know if this differs from brand to brand but I won’t ever place vinegar in the rinse aid cup ever again!
    I still use vinegar, but now place it in a cup on the top rack or if I’m in a rush pour it straight into the bottom of the dishwasher.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for letting me know!

    [Reply]

  11. Amy

    12/15/2015

    Do you know if white vinegar can be used instead of a commercial rinse agent for everyday dishwasher use? I use white vinegar instead of fabric softener in my washing machine on a regular basis…thanks!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, definitely! That’s what I always use. I personally think it keeps the dishwasher cleaner for longer!

    [Reply]

  12. Olivia

    12/15/2015

    I am HIGHLY embarrassed to admit this, but….

    I never knew there was a drain catcher thing in the bottom of my dishwasher.

    I’m mortified. And slightly scared to go home and clean my dishwasher tonight.

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    Jen T Reply:

    Be afraid. Be very afraid. And stop on the way home to buy a pair of rubber gloves.

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    Denise Hosner Reply:

    And a bottle of wine. Lol

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, I ditto the “rubber gloves” comment from Jen ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. Megan

    12/15/2015

    I need to do this! Would vinegar also work to clean a stinky washing machine? Thanks for all your fabulous tips!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I believe so — just google it to check on the “for sure” instructions ๐Ÿ™‚

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  14. Jen T

    12/15/2015

    So funny that you posted this today…I was thinking that it’s been awhile since I’ve cleaned out the “crap catcher,” as my kids call it. It totally makes me want to vomit when I do it!

    [Reply]

  15. a woman

    12/15/2015

    I did thie when it started to smell from inside :). Then I descover there are places to clean….

    [Reply]