How to Clean a Dishwasher

By: Jeremy Glass  | 
cleaning dishwasher
Those dirty dishes will come out a lot cleaner if your dishwasher is clean, too. Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

A staple in American households since the 1970s, the dishwasher is the Cadillac of kitchen appliances; a time-saving dream machine for cleaning dishes. From dishwashers specially-made to handle flasks and beakers to a countertop dishwasher measuring 17 inches (43 centimeters) tall, cleaning your kitchenware has never been easier.

Advances in technology aside, these cleaning machines still require a fair amount of human intervention to ensure they themselves stay sanitary and germ-free. Keeping your dishwasher spic and span will mean the difference between your dishes being clean and them being crystal clean. Here's how to disinfect your dishwasher in six easy steps.


  1. Clear out the gunk: Remove any dishes and start with a visual inspection of the inside. Make sure there isn't any excess food or muck in the drain. It's located under the bottom rack so you might have to remove the bottom dish rack, but it's not necessary. Once the dishwasher is clear from gunk, you're good to go.
  2. Clean the door: If the utensil holder is on the door, remove it and clean it. Then mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1 quart of water. Using a shammy towel, paper towel or toothbrush, scrub the inside and outside of the door with the baking soda mix to get rid of food stains and fingerprints. Make sure you get into all the grooves and wipe off any sudsy streaks with a sponge.
  3. Check the filter: If your dishwasher has a removable filter (it will also be located in the bottom of the dishwasher), take it out and thoroughly rinse it, and toss out any gunk left on the inside.
  4. Clean the spray arm: Using a toothpick, unclog any potential blockages in the spinner arm.
  5. Run the dishwasher: Fill a dishwasher-safe mug or bowl with white vinegar and place it securely on the top or bottom rack of the dishwasher and run it on a setting with the hottest water. The vinegar will help break down any excess food particles, grease and soap scum that remains.
  6. Run it again on a short cycle: After the regular cycle has run, grab some baking powder and sprinkle about 1 cup in the bottom of the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher again on short cycle. This step will not only deodorize your dishwasher, but also help get rid of any lingering odors.

Originally Published: Mar 31, 2011