8 dishwasher cleaning mistakes you deffo shouldn’t be making

Big problems, easy solutions

A collage of a dishwasher, bleach bottle and lemon on a yellow background
(Image credit: Future)

Hands up whose dishwasher has literally changed their life? The less time spent washing up gross dishes and pans, the better IMO. But when it comes to actually cleaning a dishwasher, it isn’t as simple as throwing in some soap, shutting the door, and walking away whistling casually.

You actually have got to be super careful about what you use to clean the dishwasher, as well as how often you clean the machine. This means inside, outside, as well as the various parts. Dishwashers can be super spendy to replace, which you def don’t need. Not only that, but if you’re renting you don’t want a big ol’ chunk coming out of your deposit.  

As Hannah Montana once said, “Everyone makes mistakes.” That's why I’ve rounded up common dishwasher cleaning mistakes that we all make. But she also said you’ve gotta work it until you get it right, so I’ve also included info on how you can avoid making these mistakes in future.

Your dishwasher will look so much better after you've cleaned up your dishwasher scrubbing act…

8 dishwasher cleaning mistakes to avoid — and the solutions

From using the wrong cleaning chemicals to scrubbing too hard (yes, you can do that), I’ve rounded up a range of dishwasher mistakes. 

1. Not cleaning the filter regularly

Dishes aren’t getting cleaned properly? Dishwasher smelling yucky? Chances are you aren’t cleaning your filter regularly enough (once a week is best). These tend to be located in the middle of the dishwasher inside, and are normally a cylinder-shaped tube. Twist the cylinder out the lock, and then lift it out the machine. Then, fill your washing-up basin with hot water and washing up liquid (I’m in love with Method’s dish soap, which you can buy in bulk from Amazon). From here, you can scrub it with a small brush such as a toothbrush or a dedicated cleaning brush like Oxo’s good grips, which is Amazon’s Choice for cleaning tools. Wipe down the inside of the filter before slotting it back into the dishwasher. Boom, all done.

2. Not using the right detergent

Dishwasher tablets are great for cleaning dishes, but for the machine itself, you deffo need make sure you’re choosing a product that specifically cleans it. While you can use homemade dishwasher detergent solutions in a bind, it’s definitely best to use a dedicated dishwasher cleaning tablet, such as these Active ones that have over 5,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. BTW, I recommended that you run tablets twice a month on a regular wash in an empty machine.

3. Putting in a whole lemon

Yes, you can put in a whole lemon to clean your machine. Lemon has natural acid that’s perfect for cleaning and making your dishwasher smell gorgeous. However, if you put the lemon in by itself, without halving it, all those lovely juices can’t flow around the machine and clean it (...okay that sounded weird AF, but I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it). So yeah, halve it, place the two halves on the top shelf, close the machine and run it on a regular cycle.

4. Over scrubbing the door seal

FYI: the door seal is the plastic coating that runs around the outside of the machine, making sure your machine stays shut when you have it on. But if you scrub it too hard, using something abrasive like a scourer, you risk breaking it and making it unusable. Instead, use a softer sponge that’s still relatively firm (AKA king of cleaning the Scrub Daddy, which you can get for under $4 at Walmart), and rub it gently around. This way, you can get all the gunk off without making the coating peel. 

5. Forgetting about the spray arms

Okay, so maybe you know what detergent and what cleaning supplies you need to use on your dishwasher. But have you deffo cleaned the whole dishwasher? The spray arms are so easy to forget to clean, but those li’l holes in them can build up serious dirt and can make your dishwasher smell. To avoid that, all you need to do is poke those holes with a toothpick to remove the built-up grime. You should do this at least once a week, and it will only take you a minute or two.

6. Using washing up liquid inside the machine

While using dish soap mixed with water to clean the machine parts is totally fine, you shouldn’t be using dish soap by itself to clean the inside of the dishwasher. This is because dish soap matched with the strength of the dishwasher can create a whole load of bubbles, which will be a complete pain to clean up. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If you want to clean the inside, just use a dishwasher-specific cleaner like Active’s on Amazon, which works on all machines.

7. Cleaning the front of the machine too harshly

When it comes to cleaning your dishwasher, it’s not just the inside that counts — it’s the outside that counts too. Avoid using a strong cleaning detergent as this could leave the front too sticky, and avoid using a stainless steel scourer as this could scratch the door permanently (big no-no!). Instead, use warm soapy water and a sponge to wipe down the machine, then dry off with a microfiber cloth — Spontex’s are my go-tos, which you can get from Amazon.

8. Mixing bleach with other cleaning products

Bleach can be used to clean your washing machine, by placing a bowl of one cup bleach on the top rack and running on a normal cycle. However, you shouldn’t be mixing bleach with any other cleaning products. This is because bleach mixed with ammonia — which is a common chemical in cleaning products — makes toxic gas.  Make sure that if you are using bleach, that you use it by itself. 

What you'll need to clean your dishwasher properly

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.

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