How to clean your dishwasher

Follow this simple maintenance routine to keep your machine in good nick.

Who washes the washers?

We expect our dishwasher to last at least 10 years, but if you don't take the time for a few minutes of maintenance then yours may not go the distance. Luckily a little dishwasher TLC isn't too onerous, and your manual will give you the basic steps to help you get the longest life and best performance from your machine.

In case you've misplaced your manual, here are our tips to help you keep your dishwasher running trouble free.

In this article:

Daily dishwasher cleaning routine

  • Scrape and go. Scraping large particles into the bin or compost means you won't have to pick them out of the filter later, but there's no need to rinse plates before racking them (rinsing can even fool your dishwasher's automatic mode into thinking your crockery's cleaner than it is, so it won't wash as well).
  • Leave the door ajar. This isn't always practical, but this helps extend the life of your door seals, and circulating air helps keep mould and odours at bay. Some models even open automatically to aid drying performance.
  • Use good quality dishwasher detergent. Not only will they do a better job, quality cleaners are less likely to leave detergent residue behind and help prevent slimy deposits from building up in your appliance.

Weekly dishwasher cleaning routine

  • Clean your dishwasher seals. Grime building up around seals can cause them to deteriorate more quickly. Run a damp cloth over door seals and contact points to keep them in top condition.
  • Clean the filter. Yes, it's icky, but washing out the internal filter under hot running water and using a plastic brush to lightly scrub off the dirt means your dishwasher will clean more efficiently (and means less grime makes its way deeper into your appliance). Check your manual for instructions on how to remove it. The bigger trap filter can just be rinsed under hot water.
  • Run your dishwasher regularly. Dishwashers like frequent use, and leaving them to sit for too long can give fats and other deposits time to dry, harden and block pipes, allow seals to dry out, and may even contribute to insect infestation. Plus they're generally more water and energy efficient than hand washing, so using the dishwasher more will save you money as well as time.

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Monthly dishwasher cleaning routine

  • Give the exterior a once-over. This not only keeps your kitchen looking spick and span, it helps keep corrosion at bay. Clean your dishwasher's door and fascia with a soft cloth and hot soapy water (or an all-purpose cleaner, but check your manual first), paying attention to corners, handles and around the controls. Glass cleaner works wonders on grime and fingerprints on stainless steel. For fully integrated appliances, clean the fascia as you would the rest of your cabinetry.
  • Fill the rinse aid dispenser. Topping up the reservoir next to the detergent dispenser will help keep your glasses streak free. Many dishwasher tablets include their own rinse aid, but it's extra important if you prefer powders.

Bi-annual dishwasher cleaning routine

  • Run the dishwasher on its hottest cycle while empty. Or better yet, pour a couple of cups of vinegar into a bowl on the bottom rack. This helps flush grease, limescale and deposits out of the pipes and removes foul odours.
  • Check the spray arms. Grime can become lodged inside the jets, making them less effective, so if your manual advises it, remove the spray arms and poke a toothpick into the water exit holes to clear any obstructions and keep them flowing freely.

Should I use a commercial dishwasher cleaner?

There are several commercially available cleaning products that claim to clear out your dishwasher's internals and leave it as good as new. Running a cleaner through your dishwasher is a great way to flush away built up grease and limescale, but unless you've let neglect get the better of you and you're now dealing with a decades worth of grime in one go you may better off with plain old white vinegar. Like its commercial counterparts vinegar helps shift discolorations, foul smells, and nasties built up in your pipes, but has the added benefits of being less toxic, cheap and readily available. Some dishwasher manufacturers, such as Miele, do advise against using vinegar in their appliances as its acidity can potentially damage sensitive internals over time and recommend proprietary products designed for their machines instead, so as always check your manual first.

To deep clean your dishwasher with vinegar, pour two cups into a bowl on the bottom rack of your otherwise empty appliance and give it a run, pausing the cycle in the middle for half an hour or so to give it an extra good soaking.

Why pour the vinegar into a bowl and not just tip it straight in? Because many dishwashers run their drain pump at the start of the cycle to clear residual waste water left over from the last run, and this would pump your vinegar straight down the drain. Using a bowl bypasses this initial pump out and keeps the vinegar in the machine where it's needed.

If opening the appliance at the end of this cleaning cycle still causes olfactory offense then throw in a generous handful of baking soda and run it again to give stubborn smells their marching orders.

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