Every dishwasher is equipped with a filter that traps food particles and grease, preventing them from re-depositing on your dishes. However, if the filter is clogged, it can’t perform its function effectively, leading to less than sparkling results. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of cleaning your dishwasher filter, ensuring your dishes come out spotless after every cycle.

Understanding Your Dishwasher Filter

Before embarking on the cleaning journey, it’s paramount to gain a thorough understanding of your dishwasher filter. This component is a crucial part of your dishwasher, acting as the first line of defense against food particles and grease that could otherwise redeposit on your dishes during the wash cycle.

How to Clean Dishwasher Filter

Most dishwashers house the filter at the bottom of the interior, right beneath the spinning sprayer. This strategic location allows the filter to catch debris as water circulates during a wash cycle. However, not all filters are created equal. Some older dishwasher models may boast a self-cleaning filter, a feature that automatically cleans the filter, eliminating the need for manual intervention.

On the other hand, most newer models require manual cleaning. This shift in design is due to the realization that self-cleaning filters, while convenient, often lead to louder dishwasher operations and potentially less effective filtering.

Depending on your dishwasher model, the filter system may consist of two parts – a cylindrical filter and a flat one. Both components play a vital role in trapping food particles and grease, and thus, both need to be cleaned to maintain optimal dishwasher performance.

Identifying a Dirty Filter

If you haven’t given your dishwasher filter a good scrub in a while, it’s high time to inspect it. Several telltale signs can indicate a filter in dire need of cleaning:

  • Funky smell: A persistent, unpleasant odor emanating from your dishwasher is a strong indicator of a dirty filter. Over time, food particles and grease trapped in the filter can start to decay, leading to this foul smell.
  • Food bits and buildup on dishes: If you notice food particles or a filmy buildup left on your dishes even after a cleaning cycle, your filter may not be performing its job effectively. A clean filter should prevent such debris from redepositing on your dishes.
  • Clogging or pooling water: After a wash cycle, your dishwasher should not have standing water. If there’s water pooling at the bottom of your dishwasher, it could signify a clogged filter that’s preventing water from draining properly.

These signs are clear indications that your dishwasher filter isn’t working properly and should be cleaned. Regular maintenance of your dishwasher filter not only ensures cleaner dishes but also prolongs the lifespan of your appliance.

Cleaning Your Dishwasher Filter: A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Locate and Remove the Filter

The first step in the process is to locate and remove the filter. Begin by pulling out the bottom rack of your dishwasher. This will provide you with clear access to the filter, which is typically located on the bottom of the dishwasher’s interior, underneath the spinning sprayer.

Locate and Remove the Filter

The filter usually consists of two parts – a cylindrical filter and a flat one. The cylindrical filter can be removed by twisting it, usually counter-clockwise, to unlock the mechanism keeping it in place. Once unlocked, lift it gently to remove it from the dishwasher floor.

The flat filter, if present, does not usually lock into place and can be easily lifted out by using the hole in the middle of the filter. This filter is located beneath the cylindrical one and can be accessed once the first filter is removed.

Step 2: Prepare a Cleaning Solution

The next step is to prepare a cleaning solution. For this, you will need hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. It is recommended to use a high-quality detergent that contains a degreaser to make the cleaning process easier and more effective.

Prepare a Cleaning Solution

Fill a sink or a large bowl with hot water and add the dishwashing liquid. Stir the solution to ensure the soap is well-distributed.

Step 3: Soak and Scrub the Filter

Now, it’s time to soak and scrub the filter. Place the filter(s) in the cleaning solution and allow them to soak for about 10-15 minutes. This soaking time helps to loosen the debris and makes the scrubbing process easier.

Soak and Scrub the Filter

After soaking, use a sponge, an old toothbrush, or a soft-bristled nylon brush to scrub away any trapped debris in the filter. Pay special attention to the crevices and corners where food particles and grease may accumulate.

Step 4: Rinse Well

Once you have thoroughly scrubbed the filter, the next step is to rinse it well. Hold the filter under running hot water. Make sure to rinse all the soap off and remove any loosened debris.

Rinse Well

Step 5: Wipe Down the Filter Housing

With the filter cleaned, it’s time to wipe down the filter housing. This is the area where the filter sits inside the dishwasher. Dip a sponge or dishcloth in the hot soapy water and wipe down the opening where the filter was removed. This step helps to get rid of any food particles or grease build-up that may be present in the filter housing.

Wipe Down the Filter Housing

Step 6: Replace the Filter(s)

The final step is to replace the filter(s). Reverse the steps you used to remove the filters. If there is a flat filter, replace it first. Next, insert the freshly cleaned cylindrical filter. Make sure to lock it securely in place by twisting it in the opposite direction to which you turned it to remove it.

Replace the Filter

By following these steps, you can ensure that your dishwasher filter is clean and functioning effectively, leading to cleaner dishes and a more efficient appliance.

Tips to Keep Your Dishwasher Filter Clean Longer

Maintaining a clean dishwasher filter not only ensures the efficiency of your appliance but also extends its lifespan. Here are some detailed tips to keep your dishwasher filter clean for a longer period.

Scrape Away Excess Food

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to keep your dishwasher filter clean is to scrape away excess food from the dishes before you load them into the dishwasher. While it’s not necessary to pre-wash your dishes, removing large food particles can prevent the filter from getting clogged.

This practice also helps to maintain the overall cleanliness of your dishwasher. It reduces the chances of food debris getting stuck in the corners and crevices of the appliance, which can lead to unpleasant odors and reduced efficiency.

Regular Cleaning Cycle

Another crucial tip is to run a regular cleaning cycle once a month when the dishwasher is empty. This helps to cut through any greasy build-up on the interior and the filter, ensuring the dishwasher operates at its best.

For an effective cleaning cycle, place two cups of distilled white vinegar in an open container on the top rack of your dishwasher. The acidic nature of vinegar helps to break down grease and remove any lingering odors.

After placing the vinegar, run a regular hot water wash cycle. The combination of hot water and vinegar will circulate throughout the dishwasher, reaching into all corners and crevices, and effectively cleaning the entire appliance, including the filter.

Remember, a clean dishwasher filter not only ensures cleaner dishes but also improves the efficiency of your appliance, saving you time and energy in the long run.


A clean dishwasher filter is key to getting the most out of your dishwasher. By following this guide, you can ensure that your dishwasher operates at peak efficiency, leaving your dishes spotless after every cycle.

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