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The Home Depot

How to Clean a Dishwasher

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Cleaning > How to Clean a Dishwasher
How to Clean a Dishwasher

A dishwasher can save a lot of time in the kitchen, but the appliance itself needs a little attention periodically to keep it free from stains, buildup, and bacteria. Keeping your dishwasher clean can help it do a great job on your dishes and even minimize odors and operational problems.

Materials Skill Level Estimated Time
• All-purpose cleanser Beginner to Intermediate 30 to 60 minutes
• Sponge or rags
• Scrub brush
• White vinegar
• Citric acid crystals
• Baking soda
• Owner’s manual
• Screwdriver or drill with correct tip

Dishwasher Cleaning Process

Follow the steps below to complete a thorough cleaning and basic service on your dishwasher. Since styles vary, consult the owner’s or service manual for your model to find the location of filters and the right method for steps that require the removal of parts and reassembly. Most manuals can be found at manufacturer’s websites after a quick search with the make and model number of the dishwasher. Popular dishwasher manufacturers include: Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Bosch, GE, Frigidaire, Kenmore, and Maytag.

  1. 1. Pre-Wash the Tub

    The effort required to clean the interior of your dishwasher can be minimized by running a wash cycle with an empty tub and an appropriate product. Commercial dishwasher cleansers can clean and sanitize the tub, but several common household products do a great job as well, especially on hard water film and stains. To try a more natural approach, run a cycle with a bowl filled with one cup of white vinegar set upright on the top rack, a cup of baking soda sprinkled on the bottom of the tub, or the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser filled with citric acid. If you can’t easily get a hold of citric acid crystals, substitute with a packet of unsweetened lemon-flavored drink mix!

  2. 2. Remove the Racks

    Most lower dishwasher racks simply roll off their track and can be removed from the tub while door-mounted cutlery trays snap or slide out of position. Top racks typically have stops or clips on the track that keep them from falling out, so check your manual if necessary to find out how to free the top rack or upper spray arm (which is usually mounted to the rack).

  3. 3. Wash the Racks and Baskets

    If the pre-wash left behind any residue on the racks and accessories, remove any baskets or covers from the racks and clean all the parts with a general detergent or cleanser and a scouring sponge or brush. The racks are fairly bulky and awkward to handle, so the best place to wash them up may be outside or in a bathtub. Be careful not to damage the protective coating on the racks or any clips that are used to position or secure the parts, and rinse well to avoid introducing anything sudsy to the dishwasher.

  4. 4. Inspect and Clean the Sprayer Arms

    Wash the outside of the spray arms and check their holes for obstructions that could block water flow. Use tweezers or a pipe cleaner if needed to dislodge any gunk you find.

  5. 5. Clean the Tub

    Take a good look and clean any buildup or debris from the bottom and walls of the tub with a sponge or rag. Be sure to pay attention to water inlets, the water supply tube, and dispenser lids.

  6. 6. Wipe the Door

    Using a rag, wipe the entire perimeter of the door, which is a notorious spot for grime to accumulate. Don’t forget the bottom; spills during loading the dishwasher often end up in the crevice where the hinge side of the door meets the tub. Wipe the perimeter of the tub as well, including the gasket that seals the door.

  7. 7. Empty and Clean Filters

    If your dishwasher has baskets or filters to collect food waste, remove and empty them, then soak and scrub well with a brush before reinstalling.

  8. 8. Clean the Sump

    If your dishwasher hasn’t been cleaning or draining well, it may be due to buildup or a clog in the sump, which is the assembly that pumps wastewater out of the unit. Check your owner’s manual for the correct procedure, then remove the lower sprayer arm, water supply tube and sump cover or screen to check for obstructions or filters to clean. If your dishwasher is fitted with a food chopper or grinder, access it to inspect for damage which can lead to clogs in the drain line. This disassembly process often requires a torx head (star shaped) driver or tip for your drill, so be sure to pick up the right tool before starting to take your dishwasher apart. Use caution if there is standing water present when cleaning the sump, since sharp items like broken glass could be concealed there.

Level of Difficulty

Only a little time and elbow grease are needed to give a dishwasher a thorough cleaning, making it a great beginner-level maintenance project. It takes a bit more time and care to access the sump assembly though, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the process, use the right tools for the job, and keep track of all parts and hardware. If you don’t have a diagram to follow, take pictures or notes of the disassembly process to make it easier to put everything back together correctly when you are finished.

Find a Pro

If you don’t have the time to spruce up your dishwasher on your own, or would just rather leave the job to an expert, look for a local Pro to get the job done. An experienced Cleaning Pro can make the unit sparkle inside and out, but you may need an appliance technician or handyman to take the job a step farther to clean and inspect the dishwasher sump or perform other maintenance and repairs. No matter what type of help you need, every Pro in our network has been background checked and verified so you can be assured of top-quality service.

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