FYI: This is how often you should clean your dishwasher

Dish dish, bish

A dishwasher with a blue bubble background with thinking emojis around it
(Image credit: Future)

There’s one kitchen appliance that makes life a bajillion times easier. Yes, I’m talking about the dishwasher. It means that we can all spend less time being Cinderella, and more time being the belle of the ball.

Even though they’re amazing cleaners, they actually do need to be cleaned themselves. Think about how much dirt they have to suck up, and how much of that grime and bacteria gets stuck visibly and invisibly. You don’t want all that dirt going back onto your plates, as you have to eat off them, obvi.

I’ve spoken to experts to find out just how often you should be cleaning your dishwasher, and which parts you should pay special attention to. By doing this, you can make sure your dishwasher isn’t stinky, and that it gets your dishes properly cleaned.

Scroll down to find out all the deets…

Why should you clean your dishwasher?

Okay, so you might be wondering if it’s actually worth cleaning your dishwasher. Well, let me tell you, it is. I sought out expert opinions on the matter too, FYI. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of regularly cleaning your dishwasher,” says Jason Carter, appliance repair expert and founder of Simply Swider. “I have seen many cases where homeowners thought their dishwasher was malfunctioning when, in fact, it just needed a thorough cleaning.” You don’t want to be buying a whole new dishwasher when it just needs cleaning, as those bad boys are spendy.

How often should you clean your dishwasher?

Thankfully, you don’t need to clean your dishwasher every time you use it. You should be giving it a wash regularly though. “Dishwashers should be cleaned at least once a month,” says Tim Jankowski, president of Aladdin's Cleaning & Restoration. “This will not only improve the performance of the dishwasher but also help prevent the filter from clogging and causing water damage to surrounding cabinetry or flooring in the home.” Water damage is so not hot, especially if you’ve got a deposit on the line. 

What parts of the dishwasher are important to clean?

Now we’ve established that you’ve gotta clean your dishwasher, where exactly should you focus on and why? “In my experience, cleaning the filter is crucial,” explains Carter. “I once inspected a client's dishwasher that wasn't cleaning dishes properly and found the filter clogged with food particles and debris, obstructing water flow. After cleaning the filter, the dishwasher worked like new.”

He also adds that many homeowners are not even aware that their dishwasher has a filter, which can lead to reduced efficiency and a shorter lifespan for the appliance. When cleaning the dishwasher, Carter also recommends removing and cleaning the filter once a month too.

Other parts of the dishwasher that are important to clean are the spray arms — AKA the thin blades that look like a helicopter rotor. You can give these a wipe down with soapy water, and remove the debris from the li’l holes with a toothpick.

You should also make sure that you clean the door seal, as too much dirt can stop it from sticking properly, which could also lead to a leaky disaster. Make sure not to use anything too abrasive to do this, so you don’t damage it — I recommend using a damp Scrub Daddy, which you can bag a pack of three of from Walmart for under $10. 

What should I check when cleaning the dishwasher?

As well as checking the filter, arms, and door seal, you should also check that the cleaning supplies you’re using aren’t harming the dishwasher. Carter explains: “I have encountered situations where detergent pods have caused problems. A customer called me to fix their dishwasher because it wasn't draining water.” After a closer inspection, Carter was able to identify the problem. “I discovered that the remains of detergent pod shells had accumulated and clogged the drain. After removing the buildup, the dishwasher functioned correctly, and the customer switched to using regular dishwasher detergent.”

If you’re worried about this happening to you, go for a liquid one like Finish’s gel detergent, which has over 9,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.

How to get rid of a bad smell in the dishwasher?

If you’ve washed your dishwasher and there’s an unpleasant smell, Carter recommends using vinegar and baking soda to clean the interior. Vinegar’s acidity is wonderful for cleaning, while baking soda is brilliant for soaking up bad smells. Need to stock up? Heinz’s vinegar and Arm & Hammer’s baking soda are our faves here at Real Homes, and are both available on Amazon.

Up next: How to clean a dishwasher

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.