A guide to cleaning your dishwasher

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your dishwasher is a self-cleaning appliance. How can it possibly be dirty when it’s the one keeping all your dishes sparkling clean? The reality is that your dishwasher gets infinitesimally less clean with every cycle you run it through, and if you leave it for long enough it may start affecting how clean your dishes end up.

Many of us will have never cleaned out our dishwasher, with the possible exception of that one time you bought and used one of those little flasks of rinse-aid. With that in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the multi-step process of cleaning your dishwasher, so that you can personally ensure your dishes end up as clean as they can be. But first:

Is it important to keep your dishwasher clean?

Yes. To put it bluntly, it’s the job of your dishwasher to, surprise surprise, wash your dishes. It makes them clean. However, it might have a hard time doing that if it’s not clean itself, and if it’s dirty enough it might even make your dishes dirtier than they were when you first put them in!

Consider a vacuum cleaner – you have to clean out the filter every now and then to ensure the vacuum’s efficiency right? It’s the same deal with a dishwasher – the filter gets clogged by food-related bits and pieces, and if you don’t clean it out relatively regularly your dishwasher won’t be able to clean anything. Got it? Great.

Something to note though: before you do any of the following, make sure you run your dishwasher, or wait until just after it’s finished a cycle. It’s important to clean your dishwasher when it is at its cleanest. Don’t create extra work for yourself by trying to clean a dirty dishwasher.

Step 1: check the nooks and crannies

The first thing you should do is give the interior of your dishwasher a thorough once-over. Remove the racks, cutlery boxes and spinning arms, and check them for food scraps or any sort of scummy build-up. Try using a toothbrush or similar implement, but you should be careful to not scratch or damage the finish on any parts of your dishwasher.

Be sure to give the spinning arms some extra detention – use a toothpick to make sure the holes that run along the lengths of the arms are completely clear and unclogged. After that you should have a look at the filter and give it a thorough clean, along with a lengthy soak in hot soapy water. The filter is where the majority of the build-up will be, whether it’s visible or not. With the filter removed you should be able to have a look at the drain, and remove any build-up or blockages.

After you’ve sorted out the filter and the drain, have a look at the area where the bottom of the door seals onto the body of the dishwasher. This thin little area doesn’t actually get touched by much water during any given cycle, and can be prone to build-ups of dirt and grime which subsequently cause the rubber seal to degrade over time. Again, a toothbrush and some hot soapy water will do the trick here but if that’s not doing the trick try using some white vinegar.

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Step 2: run a vinegar cycle

Now that you’ve done the fine detailing in regards to cleaning out the inside of your dishwasher, it’s time for the big-picture work, which starts with a vinegar rinse in order to get rid of any scale build-ups or hard water deposits. Simply run a quick cycle with two cups of vinegar thrown in, and stop the machine mid-wash so that the vinegar has a chance to work its magic. Give it anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour, depending on how bad the build-ups are, and then simply let it finish the cycle.

If your dishwasher’s looking a little dull or faded on the inside, you can do an optional second rinse with baking soda instead of vinegar. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of your dishwasher and run it on a short, hot cycle. This will freshen-up your dishwasher, brightening the potentially faded interior and removing any stubborn stains.

Step 3: pretty up the interface

Once you can rest safe in the knowledge that your dishwasher’s insides are as clean as possible, all you’ve got left to do is a quick spot of (completely optional) external beautification.

Soak a washcloth in warm soapy water and give the entire external face a thorough wipe down, being sure to get rid of any food stains or finger prints. It’s important to note that this isn’t just an aesthetic measure – think about how often dirty hands touch the outside of your dishwasher’s door, and then think about how often you clean the outside of that same door. It’s probably a good idea to give it a wash ASAP.

Now you have a clean dishwasher

Have you completed those three steps? Well then congratulations! You’ve now got yourself a spotless, sparkling clean dishwasher which can now wash dishes with the best of them. Now that you’ve mastered this not-particularly-tasking routine, we recommend you carry it out every month or so, so that your dishwasher remains in tip-top shape. Good luck with all your dishwasher-cleaning endeavours!

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