How to Clean a Dishwasher

What happens to all that grime that comes off your dishes when they get washed in the dishwasher? It starts to build up in there, that's what. Here's how to get your dishwasher clean and good as new.

  1. Remove the racks and anything else (e.g. the spray arm) blocking your access to the stains.
  2. Scrub away the stains inside the dishwasher with vinegar and water, or dish soap, and a sponge or brush. Be sure to clean the drain grating well, since debris often gets caught here. You may need to use a toothpick or other sharp tool, such as needle-nose pliers, to get the food out of the small holes.
  3. Clean the racks and other accessories with the same solution you used in step 2. It may be easier to clean the racks in the bathtub than in the sink, because they're so large.
  4. Clean the rubber seal of your dishwasher with a solution of three cups hot water to half a cup of vinegar or bleach. This is important because the seal can catch food or get moldy. Clean the under-edge of the door with the same solution.
  5. Rinse everything.
  6. Put the dishwasher back together.
  7. Run the dishwasher on the hottest cycle possible, with either vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice or, believe it or not, Tang (orange drink mix) [sources: Hoyum, Karth]. You can also buy a cleanser especially formulated for dishwashers. In this case, follow the directions on the package. Remember, bleach is not recommended for inside your dishwasher, because although it does a good job against mildew and mold, it's not as safe as other cleansers.

You don't have to clean every part of your dishwasher every time you clean one part, but all the parts should be cleaned about once month. The only exception is the drain, which you can clean twice a year [source: Karth]. If you use your dishwasher a lot you don't have to clean it quite as often because it has soap and water running through it on a regular basis.