Dishwashers are a modern convenience that many of us can’t imagine living without. But did you know that your dishwasher needs cleaning too? Over time, food particles, soap scum, and hard water deposits can build up, affecting your dishwasher’s performance and lifespan. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a dishwasher in five easy steps, updated for 2023.

How to Clean a Dishwasher in 5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Clear Debris from Your Dishwasher

Why it’s important: Leftover food particles and debris can clog your dishwasher’s drain, leading to poor performance and unpleasant odors.

How to do it: Start by removing the bottom rack of your dishwasher. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe away any visible debris at the bottom of the tub. Inspect each spray arm for clogs or buildup; clear any obstructions with a toothpick.

Real-life example: Jane, a busy mom of three, noticed her dishwasher wasn’t cleaning as effectively. Upon inspection, she found food particles clogging the spray arms. After clearing the debris, her dishwasher’s performance improved significantly.

Common mistake to avoid: Don’t ignore the corners and edges of your dishwasher. These areas can harbor debris that can affect your dishwasher’s performance.

Step 2: Run Hot Water with Vinegar through Your Dishwasher

Why it’s important: Vinegar is an excellent natural cleaner that can remove hard water stains and mineral buildup inside your dishwasher.

How to do it: Place one cup of distilled white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container and place it on the top rack. Run your dishwasher on its hottest setting but without dishes.

Real-life example: John, a bachelor living in a hard water area, noticed white stains inside his dishwasher. After running a hot water cycle with vinegar, the stains disappeared.

Common mistake to avoid: Don’t use too much vinegar as it can damage the rubber parts of your dishwasher.

Step 3: Scrub Spray Arms & Filter

Why it’s important: The spray arms and filter play a crucial role in your dishwasher’s operation. Keeping them clean ensures your dishwasher runs efficiently.

How to do it: Remove the spray arms and filter from your dishwasher. Rinse them under hot water and use a toothbrush to scrub away any stubborn residue.

Real-life example: Sarah, a restaurant owner, ensures her staff clean the dishwasher’s spray arms and filter daily. This practice has extended the life of their commercial dishwasher and improved its performance.

Common mistake to avoid: Don’t ignore the filter. A dirty filter can lead to poor cleaning results and can damage your dishwasher.

Step 4: Rinse Aids Cleaning

Why it’s important: Rinse aids help prevent spots on glasses and dishes. However, they need occasional cleaning to work effectively.

How to do it: Remove the rinse aid dispenser from the dishwasher door. Soak the dispenser cap in warm soapy water overnight, then use a bottle brush to clean the cracks.

Real-life example: After noticing spots on her glasses, Emily cleaned her rinse aid dispenser. The result was spotless, shiny glasses after every wash.

Common mistake to avoid: Don’t forget to refill the rinse aid dispenser after cleaning.

Step 5: Regular Maintenance

Why it’s important: Regular maintenance can extend the life of your dishwasher and prevent costly repairs.

How to do it: Scrape large food particles off dishes before loading. Wash the inside of the dishwasher door seals every few months. Run hot water through your machine weekly.

Real-life example: By following a regular maintenance schedule, David has kept his 10-year-old dishwasher running like new.

Common mistake to avoid: Don’t neglect regular maintenance. It’s the key to a long-lasting, efficient dishwasher.


Cleaning a dishwasher requires only a few steps that can be easily integrated into your regular kitchen cleaning routine. These easy steps will help you maintain your dishwasher’s performance efficiently for years to come. Following these guidelines guarantees not only a clean and disinfected appliance but also saving money in the long run by avoiding unneeded service calls from improper use or insufficient care.

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