How to clean a dishwasher

Here we give you simple tips and advice about how to clean a dishwasher and make it run smoothly

woman packing cutlery in a dishwasher

We buy a dishwasher to save time and make our daily lives easier but did you know that keeping it clean makes it work better and even faster? Descaling your appliance regularly, once a month, for example, it will make it run like brand new. Not only will your knives and forks sparkle but it will stop the appliance from forming bacteria, fungi and unpleasant smells while eliminating problems like standing water and mould.

With just a few items you can have your dishwasher working at its best in no time. This step-by-step guide has everything you need to know to get a complete clean, leaving your dishwasher gleaming and ready for action!

Use our kitchen cleaning hacks for more handy tips. Once you're done, see all our cleaning buys, how-tos and hacks to keep your home sparkling.

You will need:

Safety first: Always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands when you are cleaning a dishwasher, and if you are using a cleaning product ensure you read the instructions fully before use.

1. How to clean a dishwasher with vinegar

Let's tackle the inside first. Empty the dishwasher. Then place 250ml of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack. Or, pour the solution into the bottom of the dishwasher. Set the temperature to the highest heat level and run for a full cycle. The vinegar mixed with hot water will disinfect everything and wash away any grease and grime and remove musty odours.

How often? Weekly.

Use our guide to cleaning a house with vinegar to find lots more useful tips.

2.  How to clean a dishwasher with a commercial cleaning product

If you don’t want to clean using vinegar you can also buy a cleaning product, such as  Dr Beckmann Service It Deep Clean. Make sure you read the instructions in full before use and wear rubber gloves. Simply follow the instructions on the packet and pour all the powder directly into the bottom of the empty dishwasher and run cycle as normal.

How often? Weekly.

interior of a dishwasher

(Image: © Getty)

3. How to clean a dishwasher with bicarbonate of soda

After cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar or a commercial cleaner you can use bicarbonate of soda to freshen it up even more and get rid of any lingering smells. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda on the bottom of the machine and run on a short cycle at the highest temperature. 

How often? Once a month.

Use our guide to cleaning with bicarbonate of soda to find lots more useful tips.

4. How to clean dishwasher accessories

Remove the racks and utensil holder and wash with hot, soapy water. Dip an old toothbrush in the soapy water and scrub to remove any stubborn marks. Gently scrub the spray arm (this is the propeller like arm that cleans the dishes), and poke any debris or limescale through the holes with a toothpick and scrub with a sponge scourer. Then rinse under a tap.

How often? Once a month.

pouring cleaning fluid on to a sponge scourer

(Image: © Getty)

5. Cleaning the filter

Remove the lower tray, look inside and locate the drain then clean all around it. Pull the filter out and remove any chunks of food that have been left behind. Rinse and wash thoroughly with soapy water. You’ll be surprised at what you might find in here – chips of glass, a small fork, even bones (yuk).

How often? Once a month.

6. How to clean a dishwasher's door seals

Clean around the door seals thoroughly as they are prone to mould and mildew, which will eventually damage the seals and could cause the dishwasher to leak. Scrub the sides of the doors and around the edges with a small toothbrush.

How often? Weekly.

7. How to clean the dishwasher door

You can use a multi-purpose cleaner to wipe away all fingerprints, grease or food residue from the dishwasher door. You can also just use warm, soapy water and dry with a soft cloth or piece of kitchen towel. 

How often? Weekly.

8. Run an empty hot wash

A hot wash will stop your dishwasher smelling, and it's worth doing this if you use the eco or cool wash programme during the rest of the month – these washes might be eco-friendly, but they allow food residue to build up more readily.

How often? Once a month.

9. How to keep the dishwasher clean

Now you've found out how to clean a dishwasher, keep it sparkling and smelling great with these useful tips to keep it running smoothly:

  • Scrape any excess food off plates, pots and pans before they go into the dishwasher.
  • Don't overfill it as this will make it less efficient and the water won't have room to circulate. Same applies to cutlery.
  • Clean the filters regularly.
  • Regularly top up with dishwasher salt and rinse aid to stop limescale building up and to soften the water. Why? Salt softens the water which helps the dishwasher detergents work better; rinse aid ensures dishes dry streak-free.
  • Use the right setting, don’t use an economy setting if the load is really dirty and needs a hot wash.

10. What not to do when cleaning a dishwasher

Despite what you might read elsewhere, do not use bleach or harsh cleaners to clean your dishwasher; doing so will damage the seals and dishwasher itself over time.

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