A Cleaning Professional Explains How to Clean Your Dishwasher

It's high time you start cleaning your dishwasher—because no, it does not clean itself.

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Your dishwasher is likely one of the most utilized appliances in your house. And yet, odds are that when you clean your house, you never think about the fact that it could use a thorough washing, too. Though it might seem like your dishwasher should clean itself every time you run it, the reality is that unless you're going out of your way to clean it, it's not actually getting the care it needs. "Dishwashers feel like a self-cleaning appliance—since they're cleaning other things, we think they're cleaning themselves—but they're not," says Melissa Maker, host of YouTube channel Clean My Space.

Similar to how food gets trapped in the strainer in your sink, food also gets stuck in your dishwasher filter, and it needs to be cleared out regularly if you want clean dishes. "If your dishes aren't getting clean, it's because your filter is clogged," Maker explains.

If you've never cleaned your dishwasher before, it can feel like a daunting task. Thankfully, we've created a step-by-step guide on how to clean your dishwasher, according to the experts. Get ready to never deal with foggy glasses again!

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Step 1: Check your dishwasher filter.

Man taking out a dishwasher filter
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Not all dishwashers have removable filters. But if yours does, Maker says you can (and should) rely on that to tell you when it's time to clean your dishwasher. If you have an older appliance, just "make sure there's no significant build-up on the inside of the machine." You'll know it's time to wash your dishwasher "when it smells or when your dishes and glasses aren't coming out clean anymore."

Step 2: Use a dishwasher cleaner tablet.

Woman using a dishwasher tablet
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Cleaning your dishwasher is easier than you think. There are dishwasher cleaner tablets specifically designed to go into the detergent compartment of your machine to give it a thorough cleaning. "Your dishwasher's empty, you throw [the tablet] in there, you run the hottest cycle you can, and then you're done," says Maker. She recommends using these tablets every three months or so, "just to give the machine a good once-over."

Step 3: Use baking soda to get rid of any unpleasant odors.

Woman holding a spoon of baking soda
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Is the inside of your dishwasher giving off a funky smell? If so, there's a simple solution: baking soda. "Coat the bottom of [your dishwasher] in about 1 cup of baking soda and just leave the dishwasher door open overnight, not all the way open but just ajar," says Maker. "That will help get rid of odors."

Step 4: Run a cycle with vinegar.

Vinegar cleaning product
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"Vinegar can help break down soap scum," Maker explains. That's why she recommends running your dishwasher with just 1 cup of the acidic substance after letting the baking soda sit.

Step 5: Run your dishwasher on the hottest setting.

Woman pressing buttons to run the dishwasher
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The final step in the dishwasher-cleaning process is running a cycle with hot water. This final step "helps make all the magic happen," Maker says. Just make sure you're running this cycle when the dishwasher is completely empty!

Step 6: Use a baking soda paste to get rid of any remaining residue.

Baking soda bowl for cleaning
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"If you look at the sides of the door of the dishwasher when you open it up, that can get really dirty and caked with crust," says Maker. To get this area clean, she suggests making a paste of water and baking soda or a little bit of dish soap and baking soda, and applying it with a cleaning toothbrush. Leave it for a few minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

"When it's done, you feel like you live in the cleanest house on your street," she says. Doing this just a few times a year should do the trick!

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