If we know anything, it’s that there’s always hope. Brighter days are ahead—at least, that’s what I keep telling myself in regard to my apparent disgustingly grimy dishwasher that hasn’t been cleaned since it was purchase over five years ago. The problem is that it doesn’t smell. That sounds a little strange, but the one good thing about a stinky dishwasher? It serves as a reminder to give it a good deep clean. Whatever led you to this place where you’ve decided that it’s time to give your dishwasher a clean, let us help navigate these trying times. Here we’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty (or grimy, as it were) on how to get your dishwasher back in tip-top shape. We're talking about how to clean your dishwasher, but also how to clean a dishwasher filter, how to clean a dishwasher drain, and how to clean the inside of a dishwasher. All of your bases will be covered here. And in case you're wondering, see Step 4 to find out how to clean a smelly dishwasher—if you're one of the lucky ones who gets nudged by your machine when it's ready for a good clean.
Here’s what you’re going to need:
Step 1: Clean the drain.
Pull out the bottom rack of the dishwasher so that you have a clear view. Clean out anything that’s caught in the drain—I won’t go into particulars here. Use your imagination, or just wait and see. Getting the drain clear of debris will help improve your machine’s efficiency and overall functionality, so don’t even think about skipping this step.
Step 2: Determine what kind of dishwasher filter you have.
There are two kinds of dishwasher filters: self-cleaning filters and manual filters. Self-cleaning filters act as a garbage disposal and don’t have food buildup like manual filters. A manual filter should be cleaned every month. If you have a self-cleaning filter, skip Step 3.
Step 3: Clean the filter.
Remove the filter (refer to your machine’s manual for the best way to go about this) and give it a light scrub with a toothbrush to remove any already-loosened grime. Soak it in hot, soapy water for about 20 minutes, then give it another good scrub to remove any remaining buildup. Rinse it clean under warm water and set aside to dry. Clean the toothbrush so it’s free of any grime—you’ll need it again later.
Step 4: Run a cycle with vinegar.
Pour a cup of cleaning vinegar into a dishwasher-safe cup and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher. Run it on the hottest setting. This step is of particular importance for combatting a stinky dishwasher.
Step 5: Run a cycle with baking soda.
Once your vinegar cycle ends, open the dishwasher and sprinkle a cup of baking soda over the bottom of the machine. Run it on the hottest setting again.
Step 6: Make it sparkle.
Grab the toothbrush you used back in Step 3 and scrub any remaining grime or residue. Wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
Step 7: Replace the filter.
After you put the filter back in place you will have earned a big pat on the back. You’ve just successfully cleaned your dishwasher.
WATCH: Here's What You Need to Know About the Harmful Bacteria That Could Be in Your Washing Machine
In case you missed it, learn how to clean your washing machine here. What appliance should we tackle next? Maybe the fridge? What about the dryer? How about the oven? Or maybe we should pivot and give our area rugs and carpets a good deep clean. Let us know what your next project is and we'll find the best way to get the job done.