How To

How to clean your dishwasher at home

By Luke Carlino

Updated: July 14th, 2023

Ever wondered why you should clean the thing that cleans for you?

As you use your dishwasher, grease, bits of food, grease, and undissolved detergent can build up, creating an unpleasant smell. Knowing how to clean a smelly dishwasher will help you avoid any gunk creating dirty dishes when you are trying to clean them. You may start to notice spots or a film on your glass and dinnerware, meaning your dishwasher isn’t thoroughly doing its job. That’s why it’s important to know to clean your dishwasher.

There are other issues that can be the result of a dirty dishwasher as well. Grime build-up can damage the filter and pump, which can lead to costly repairs. You want your dishwasher to last as long as possible to avoid a replacement and to ensure that is the case, proper cleaning maintenance is required.

Getting rid of that bad smell

There are plenty of theories on how to clean a dishwasher, but here a few simple yet effective ways to start off with:

  • You may want to test various dishwasher detergents to keep your dishwasher clean and stink-free as what works for some may not work for others.
  • Running the ‘rinse only’ cycle while leaving the door open slightly to let the airflow circulate. Bad smells are often caused by leftover food, and as these build-up over time, your dishwasher begins to resemble a bin.
  • Wipe the excess food from your plates, silverware, and bowls before you load them into the dishwasher. It may be a little more timely, and you may curse the fact that there is a level of cleaning you need to do before the machine that is supposed to do the cleaning gets to work, but you’ll be glad in the long-run.
A collection of dishes
Source: Brooke Lark

How to clean a dishwasher naturally

Once you get into the habit of removing bits of food before each dishwashing cycle, it’s good to perform a similar action once the cleaning has finished. This can include the removal of the bottom rack to ensure you clean out any food that can often fall into the well at the bottom of your machine. Just remove it with a paper towel or sponge, and you’ll be able to avoid build-up and bad smells.

From here, get yourself a damp sponge or cloth, and use it to wipe away any residue that may have splashed up during the washer cycle. You may also find that some grime has settled onto the interior surface of the dishwasher door or its edges. While performing this step, make sure you check the door handle and dishwasher controls.

How to clean the dishwasher filter

It is very important to remember that if the filter of your dishwasher is not clean, then nothing that you put inside of it will be either. This means it is vitally important to know how to clean a dishwasher filter because if you don’t, you’ll see annoying little spots of grime on all future loads, and that will become very frustrating.



  1. Unlock the filter section, which is often found below the bottom spray arm, and remove the filter itself. (You may have a model that has the filter in a different position, but that information should be easy to locate in your machine’s instruction manual.)
  2. Simply rinse the filter under hot running water.
  3. Scrub the mesh screen with something soft like an old toothbrush. (You’ll want to make sure that you also clean the plastic frame to ensure that grease and food particles that have built-up is removed.)
  4. When you have finished cleaning the filter, lock it back into place, and you are good to go.

If it has been a while and you have lost the owner’s manual for your machine, you should be able to find a digital version via the manufacturer’s website.

Giving your dishwasher a deep clean

Now and then, it’s a good idea to give your dishwasher a serious deep clean, say once every six months. To do this, you have the choice of using a dishwasher cleaning tablet or going a little bit more DIY route and learning how to clean dishwasher with vinegar.

Using vinegar to clean the dishwasher

A vinegar mixture can be a very effective way to fight grime and mineral build-up while removing any trapped particles and detergent residue. To do this, place a glass measuring cup that contains two cups of distilled white vinegar somewhere on the top rack of your machine and run a normal cycle. Make sure you don’t have any detergent or dishes in the dishwasher when you do this, only the vinegar.

Using dishwashing cleaning tablets

If you want to avoid the homemade option and go for something a little more thorough, cleaning tablets that contain surfactants can be very effective at dissolving food bits and greasy residue. If deciding to go with this option, it’s crucial to ensure you read the instructions carefully before determining which cleaning tablets you purchase as some are not able to be in the same cycle as dishes and detergent.

Woman rinsing a plate
Source: Tina Dawson

Cleaning the outside of your dishwasher

Let’s remember that it’s not just the inside of your dishwasher that can get a little dirty, the outside needs some cleaning love as well. You’ll likely notice fingerprint build-up, which can make the surface of your dishwasher look dull, especially if you happen to have a stainless steel appliance.

As most dishwashers are stainless steel, you can get a cleaner specifically for this material, which will shine up your dishwasher door and have it looking brand new again. These are great as they will often leave a streak-free shine, and also contain ingredients that will repel dirt and smudges, making your exterior easier to clean next time. If you are heading down this road, it’s a good idea to steer clear of abrasive cleaners or metal pads as they will scratch your dishwasher door which is never an easy fix.

Frequently asked questions

How often should you clean your dishwasher?

The various dishwasher cleaning tasks can be broken down as follows:

Daily cleaning:

  • Scraping significant bits of food into the bin
  • Leaving the door slightly ajar to extend the life of your door seals while circulating air
  • Ensuring you use a good quality dishwasher detergent

Weekly cleaning:

  • Clean the seals with a damp cloth
  • Clean the filter with the steps described above

Monthly cleaning:

  • Clean the exterior
  • Fill the rinse aid dispenser
  • Ensure you run your dishwasher regularly, so deposits do not harden and block your pipes

Six-monthly cleaning:

  • Perform a deep clean
  • Run the empty dishwasher on its hottest cycle
  • Clean with the DIY vinegar method mentioned above
  • Check the spray arms and jets by removing them and poking with a toothpick to clear any obstructions

How much vinegar do I put in my dishwasher to clean it?

It is recommended to use a glass measuring cup that you have filled with two cups of distilled white vinegar (use two separate cups if necessary). Ensure that it is placed on the top rack and only use a normal cycle with no detergent or dishes in the dishwasher.

How do I get my dishwasher to clean better?

If it’s not cleaning well, there’s a good chance that you haven’t kept up with regular maintenance. To avoid the cost of replacing it with a new dishwasher, you need to make sure that you keep on top of cleaning it out (including the filter) and using the cleaning rinse cycle.

When you put in the work to keep your dishwasher clean, you will see the results in the cleanest dishes your machine is capable of. Always remember that you can experiment with different cleaning solutions, liquids, and tablets to see which will work best with your machine. But, for the most part, sticking to a cleaning schedule for the device itself will bring the best results out of every cycle.

Don’t have the time to clean?

If you are experiencing issues with your dishwasher and its ability to drain, find people to help with draining your dishwasher. Alternatively, if you require dishwasher repair, you’ll be able to get someone out in no time to solve the problem.

Want to learn a little bit more? Check out some of these other great how-to guides to ensure you have the cleanest home on your street:


Luke Carlino

Luke Carlino is a freelance copywriter, social media manager and content creator based in Melbourne. He works for a range of clients across a plethora of industries and is also an accomplished musician with solo and band works online.

Enjoyed reading this? Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *