How To: Clean a Dishwasher

It's tempting to think that your dishwasher gets a good cleaning every time you run it through a cycle, but that's unfortunately not the case. Here's how to keep it sparkling clean, sweet smelling, and effective.

How to Clean a Dishwasher - Open

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The idea of cleaning a dishwasher may seem a bit strange at first, but think of it this way: You regularly maintain your vacuum, right? Well, the dishwasher isn’t dissimilar. Whereas accumulated dust and debris are what threaten the performance of your vacuum, food scraps, soap scum, and stubborn grease are what compromise your dishwasher. Even if you installed the unit pretty recently, you should know how to clean your dishwasher in order to maximize its efficiency.

MATERIALS
- 1 cup plain white vinegar (or unsweetened lemonade mix)
- 1 cup baking soda

How to Clean a Dishwasher - Interior

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STEP 1
Detach the bottom rack so that you can access the dishwasher drain. Thoroughly examine this crucial area, removing any gunk or chunks you find, because they not only impede drainage but can also damage the appliance.

STEP 2
Fill a dishwasher-safe container with one cup of white vinegar, placing it on the upper rack of the otherwise empty machine. Close the door and run the dishwasher through a hot-water cycle. Once the vinegar has worked its magic, you should find that it has washed away grease and grime, and even removed any musty odors that may have been present. Note that you can use a package of unsweetened lemonade mix rather than vinegar to achieve the same result. Remember to stick with regular lemonade, though; flavored options can leave stains.

STEP 3
Now sprinkle a cupful of baking soda across the bottom of the appliance, then run it on a short hot-water cycle. When the cycle’s done, you should notice that your fresh-smelling dishwasher now boasts a brightened, stain-free interior.

OPTIONAL
Has your dishwasher suffered a vicious attack from nasty mold? If so, add a cup of bleach to the bottom of the basin, then run the machine on a full cycle—that is, unless the interior of your dishwasher contains stainless steel, in which case you should completely avoid the use of bleach (bleach and stainless steel are not friends).

 

Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean
Perhaps the best way to keep a dishwasher clean is to treat it with basic respect and consideration day in and day out—after all, the machine isn’t invincible. Observing a set of simple usage guidelines can help you wring the best possible performance from this workhorse appliance, even as you prolong its life span.

• The dishwasher shares a drain with the kitchen sink, so if you have a garbage disposal, run it before washing the dishes to ensure that the drain is clear.

• It’s smart to conserve electricity and water by running the dishwasher only when it’s full, but resist the temptation to pile dishes too high or too tightly.

• Don’t prewash dishes too thoroughly before adding them to the dishwasher. For detergent to do its job effectively, there needs to be a certain amount of grease and food residue present. Otherwise, the detergent simply creates foam during the wash cycle, and that excess can be detrimental to the appliance.