Project Guide

How to Clean a Dishwasher

Clean the Removable Dishwasher Parts
Cleaning a dishwasher

To clean a dishwasher with vinegar you must soak the removable parts to remove caked on food. 

  • Remove the utensil holder and racks of your dishwasher.
  • Fill your sink halfway with warm water and add about two cups vinegar. 
  • Place the parts in the sink. 
  • Allow pieces to soak for 20 minutes then rinse and reinstall in your dishwasher.
Clean the Dishwasher Interior
Cleaning a dishwasher

Clear out debris from the inside of the dishwasher:

  • Inspect the spinning arms and check that holes aren't blocked - clear with toothpicks if necessary.
  • Use paper towels or a rag to wipe up any food and debris from the base of the tub. 
  • Clean around the inside of door with a toothbrush dipped in hot soapy water or the vinegar solution. Gently peel back the gasket if necessary.
  • Use a sponge or rag to scrub the walls and door with the vinegar solution.

Clean the dishwasher filter:

While many newer dishwashers come with self-cleaning filters, if your model has a manual filter, the piece should be removed monthly for cleaning. Your dishwasher's owner's manual will have more information on how to clean the filter for your model, but the process in generally the same.

  • Twist the upper filter to the unlocked position. Pull up gently to remove it from the base. 
  • If your model has a lower filter, lift to remove.
  • Examine the filter base inside the dishwasher for any food particles that might be caught there. Wipe the area with a damp microfiber towel to clean.
  • Wash the filter by hand in warm, soapy water. Gently scrub with a small, soft-bristle brush if there are stuck-on food particles.
  • Rinse thoroughly under warm running water.
  • Reinstall both filters. Be sure to lock the upper filter back into place before running the dishwasher.


Clear the dishwasher drain:

  • In a large glass bowl, slightly warm 1 cup of white vinegar in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the vinegar then pour the mixture into the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Allow the mixture to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Carefully pour a pot of water just off the boil down the dishwasher drain. This should push out any clogged debris.

Run the dishwasher with a cleaning agent:

  • Place a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of the empty dishwasher. 
  • Set the dishwasher for the highest water temperature setting and run it for a full cycle. 
  • This will loosen and remaining food and grease and get rid of any odors.

Tip: If you also have a garbage disposal installed, be sure it is clean and running well. Dishwasher clogs and draining problems can sometimes be traced to a clogged or dirty garbage disposal.

Clean the Dishwasher Exterior
Cleaning a dishwasher

Don’t forget to clean the outside panel:

  • Use a sponge and warm, soapy water and dry with a towel. 
  • For stainless steel dishwashers you can use a glass cleaner or a formulated stainless steel cleaner.

From built-in dishwashers to portable dishwashers, learning how to clean a dishwasher will result in cleaner dishes and an appliance that will last much longer.