How to clean a dishwasher filter

Learn how to clean a dishwasher filter properly to help boost your appliance's performance. Locate and remove yours for regular cleaning and keep your dishes sparkling clean with ease.

A man removing a dishwasher filter for cleaning
(Image credit: Volodymyr Bushmelov)

Want to know how to clean a dishwasher filter? If you've finally got round to doing this unexciting but necessary task, this advice is for you. Likewise, if your first reaction when seeing the title of this article was 'I didn't know my dishwasher had a filter', this advice is also for you. 

All dishwashers, even the best dishwashers that are nearly new, need regular maintenance, and if you only do one thing to keep your dishwasher in working order, making sure you clean a dishwasher filter regularly should be the top of the list. We spoke with some appliance experts for their advice to make this task far less daunting and confusing. 

A white kitchen with open dishwasher and plants

(Image credit: Designer Appliances/Kristyna Saja)

Why do I need to clean a dishwasher filter? 

Cleaning the filter regularly should be an integral part of cleaning a dishwasher. Sophie Beckett-Smith, large appliance expert at emphasizes that  'cleaning the dishwasher filter is one of the most important tasks for keeping your appliance fresh and clean.' Dirty filters are responsible for the vast majority of dishwasher problems, from bad smells to poor cleaning results. 

And yet, Jake Romano, plumbing expert at John The Plumber points out, 'most people only clean their filters when their dishes feel dirty or they notice food particles on their dishwasher filters.' It's gross, unhygienic, and means you'll have to still clean your dishes by hand – very much not the point of owning a dishwasher. Eventually, a clogged filter also will prevent the dishwasher from draining properly.

Where is my dishwasher filter located? 

Your dishwasher filter is located at the bottom of your dishwasher. It will be quite obvious, usually in the center or towards the dishwasher door, and shouldn't require any tools to remove it for cleaning, but if you're not sure where it is, simply check the instruction manual that came with your dishwasher – it will always have an image and a description of where your filter is to be found and how to unscrew it.

A man removing a dishwasher filter for cleaning

(Image credit: Volodymyr Bushmelov)

How to clean a dishwasher filter

Jake's advice 'to clean most dishwasher filters, first, remove the lower dish basket. Next, you turn the dishwasher filter assembly counter-clockwise and lift it out. Once it's out, grab the lower mesh filter and lift it to remove it. From there, shake the debris into the garbage then rinse the filters under warm running water.'

Rosie Clarke, Product Training Manager at Miele GB, 'be sure to remove the filter carefully to avoid any soiling falling into the circulation system that it protects.' She also warns that only 'a cloth or soft brush can be used to remove any residue that has dried on'. – 'abrasive chemicals should not be used to clean the filter mesh.'

Jake agrees, cautioning against using 'a hard brush or scrubby. If anything, use dish soap and a soft cleaner to wipe the matter off.' Sophie adds that you should 'ensure the filter is fully air dry before putting back into your dishwasher and reassembling.'

Once you're done cleaning and drying your filter, Jake advises to 'check the pit you place the filters in for any large debris that may be stuck, then remove it and simply return the two filter pieces where you initially found them.'

This is the basic process for cleaning a dishwasher filter. However, Rosie recommends following the instruction manual 'as filter designs can vary between models.'

A dishwasher filter being cleaned with a brush

(Image credit: Deepshine/ Getty)

How often to I need to clean a dishwasher filter? 

According to Jake, 'most experts agree that you should clean your dishwasher filter at least once a month as this will help keep dishes cleaner and may prevent dishwasher issues.'

Elyse Moody, appliance expert at Designer Appliances, adds that while 'once a month is probably plenty for most people', the exact frequency of your filter cleaning will depend on two things: 'how often you run your dishwasher and how much you scrape dishes before loading them in.' If you hate scraping/pre-rinsing, you'll need to clean the filter more often.

Rosie adds that keeping your filter clean is not just about manually removing it. If you always run your dishwasher on cold, your filter will get dirty quicker – 'the frequent use of programmes of less than 50 degrees can encourage grease and odors. To prevent this from happening, a 75 degrees intensive wash should be run at least once per month. If this has not been done and grease deposits have built up, they can easily be removed using a dishwasher cleaning treatment in conjunction with a hot wash.'

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.