How to Clean and Maintain That Saving Grace—Your Dishwasher | America's Preferred Home Warranty Skip to main content

How to Clean and Maintain That Saving Grace—Your Dishwasher

America's Preferred Home Warranty, Dishwasher Maintenance

Your dishwasher is one of your home’s most active appliances, so keeping it in good shape is essential, especially if you want to avoid washing dishes by hand anytime soon. But with all the food, soap, and other gunk that goes through your dishwasher during a normal cycle, it’s no wonder why these appliances run into trouble.

Is your dishwasher not cleaning like it used to? Are dishwasher smells becoming a problem? America’s Preferred Home Warranty (APHW) is here to help! Our guide below can help your dishwasher stay clean, smelling great, and working better for longer.

When should you perform dishwasher maintenance?

Legendary home improvement expert, Bob Vila, recommends doing monthly dishwasher maintenance to help your dishwasher clean efficiently and prevent breakdowns. However, you should also keep an eye on your dishwasher regularly, removing any bits of food left in the bottom of your dishwasher daily, and wiping down the exterior door and door seal (also called a gasket) on a weekly basis.

How to clean your dishwasher

Thoroughly cleaning your dishwasher monthly can help extend its life cycle, meaning you’ll have fewer problems that lead to repairs or replacement.

Cleaning the inside

If you’re experiencing odor problems, it could mean there is food accumulating at the bottom of your dishwasher. To get rid of this problem, be sure to clean any remaining food left behind after each cycle with a wet paper towel or microfiber cloth. You might need to remove the bottom rack to access this space. If food buildup is a problem that you’d rather not deal with day after day, give your dishes a good wipe and a rinse before loading them into your dishwasher.

The bottom of your dishwasher isn’t the only place food can be found. To help your dishwasher stay crystal-clean, wipe down the inside of the door to remove any splatters or residue. While you’re at it, wipe down the rest of the interior, being sure to clean the interior walls, gasket, and bottom of your dishwasher as well. If you run into any trouble removing food or stains, using an old toothbrush to scrub it away should help.

Cleaning the outside

Keeping the outside of your dishwasher clean is also important for maintaining this appliance. Since harsh chemicals and scrubbing agents can damage your dishwasher, you can use a sponge or microfiber cloth soaked in warm, soapy water, a mix of ¼ cup of baking soda and one quart of warm water, or a small amount of rubbing alcohol to properly clean those pesky fingerprints and stains. Just be sure to wipe it with a dry cloth after any cleaning is finished, and never use bleach to clean your dishwasher—you want to clean your appliance without damaging it.

How to clean your dishwasher filter

Your dishwasher’s filter can hold plenty of odors, even containing tiny food particles that spread from cycle to cycle. To ensure your dishes (and your dishwasher) stay clean and fresh, we recommend cleaning your dishwasher filter every month.

In most cases, your dishwasher filter is located at the bottom of the dishwasher below the lower spray arm. Since each dishwasher is different, you’ll want to refer to your owner’s manual on how to remove it safely. Once it’s removed, simply use a soft toothbrush to remove any built-up food particles or other gunk under hot running water before giving it a good rinse. After that, just make sure to lock it back in place to avoid damaging your dishwasher on its next cycle.

How to clean your dishwasher with vinegar

After you’ve given your dishwasher a good scrubbing, it’s time to run it through a full cleaning cycle while it’s empty. For this step, you’ll want to use dishwasher cleaning liquid or tablets made specifically for this purpose. Or for an easier and less expensive approach, clean your dishwasher with vinegar.

If you choose to use liquid or tablets, just follow the instructions on the package to remove grease and food buildup. For a more natural option, you can clean your dishwasher with vinegar by putting 1 cup of vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container and setting it on your dishwasher’s top rack. Then, all you need to do is run a full cycle on the hottest setting, so the vinegar can clean and disinfect it. After the cycle finishes, wipe down the inside with a microfiber cloth or paper towel to remove any leftover vinegar.

Dishwasher not draining? Try this.

Dishwashers can clog quickly if they aren’t maintained properly. If you find water pooling in your dishwasher, check to make sure your kitchen sink’s drain is working properly. If water runs through it fine, then your drain trap could be the problem—here’s how to unclog it.

Start by removing your dishwasher’s bottom rack, then cleaning up any water left at the bottom of your dishwasher with a towel or cup. Next, you’ll want to use a microfiber cloth to remove any visible buildup from the trap. If your dishwasher still won’t drain properly, you can try unclogging the drain by pouring a mix of equal parts of baking soda and vinegar into the trap and letting it sit for 15 minutes, before pouring hot water on top of the mixture. Running a rinse cycle afterward can help clean up any vinegar and baking soda that gets left behind. If your dishwasher still doesn’t drain after trying these steps, it might be time to call a professional.

While a little maintenance goes a long way in making your dishwasher last longer, breakdowns still happen—and that’s where an APHW home warranty comes in. With an APHW home warranty, we’ll work with your preferred licensed contractor to get your dishwasher back in good condition, or help you set up a replacement. Learn more about APHW home warranties by calling 888.351.3681 or visiting APHW.COM to see what else we cover!

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