Are your dishes coming out of the dishwasher less than clean? Is the inside of your dishwasher looking dirty? It may be time to give your dishwasher a deep clean. Proper maintenance will keep your dishwasher running efficiently and free of unpleasant odours. In this article, we will walk you through the process of how to deep clean a dishwasher, from the inside out, to ensure it is running efficiently and effectively.

Clean Dishwasher

Why Does a Dishwasher Need Cleaning?

A dishwasher is designed to clean dishes, but over time, it can accumulate food particles, soap scum, mineral deposits from hard water, and even mould or mildew. Here’s why a dishwasher needs cleaning:

  • Food Particles: Even though most of us scrape or rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, tiny bits of food can still remain. These particles can get trapped in the dishwasher’s filter and other areas. If not removed, they can lead to clogs and reduced cleaning efficiency.
  • Soap Scum: Over time, detergent residues can accumulate in various parts of the dishwasher, including the door, seals, and spray arms. This can leave a filmy layer that affects the machine’s performance.
  • Hard Water and Mineral Deposits: In areas with hard water, mineral deposits such as calcium and magnesium can build up in the dishwasher. These deposits can block spray nozzles, reducing water flow and cleaning efficiency, and can also leave spots and films on dishes.
  • Mould and Mildew: The warm, damp environment of a dishwasher can be a breeding ground for mould and mildew. If the door is always shut and there’s no air circulation, mould and mildew can grow, leading to unpleasant odours and potential health risks.
  • Fats and Grease: Some food residues, especially fats and grease, can stick to the dishwasher’s walls and parts. Over time, these residues can cause unpleasant odours and reduce the machine’s cleaning power.
  • Odours: All the above reasons can contribute to the development of bad odours inside the dishwasher. Periodic cleaning can keep these odours at bay and ensure a fresh-smelling machine.
  • Maintenance and Longevity: Regularly cleaning the dishwasher can also extend its lifespan. By ensuring that all components are free from buildup and working efficiently, the machine is less likely to experience mechanical issues or wear out prematurely.

How to Clean a Dishwasher

All you need is a few simple things from around the house and you will be able to keep your dishwasher working like new.

What You Need

  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Toothpick
  • Old Toothbrush
  • Cloth or Sponge
  • Soapy Water

Step 1: Empty the dishwasher

The first step in cleaning your dishwasher is to empty it of any dishes or debris. Make sure to remove any large pieces of food or debris that may have become stuck in the spray arms or filters.

Step 2: Clear Away Food Residue

Your next step should be clearing away any food residue which may have been left behind after previous wash cycles.

  • You can start by wiping down both sides of the sink sump with a damp cloth and making sure any spills are cleaned up as soon as possible after they occur.
  • Additionally, run a cycle (without dishes) using just hot water and either baking soda or white vinegar – this will help soften any hard-to-reach deposits on walls or racks that have built up over time.

Afterwards, use an old toothbrush again to scrub away areas where stubborn bits remain before rinsing everything thoroughly with warm water once more.

Step 3: Remove Debris from the Trap

The first step in cleaning your dishwasher is to remove any debris from the trap at the bottom of the machine. This is typically a small rectangular plastic basket where food particles are collected from the wash cycle to prevent clogging further down the line.

Carefully lift this out of your dishwasher and use a soft brush or cloth to wipe away debris and rinse it out with hot water before returning it back in place.

Man Cleaning the Dishwasher Trap
Cleaning the Dishwasher Trap

Step 4: Clean Out Around the Seal

Once you have removed all large pieces of food from the trapper, it’s time to move on to cleaning around the door seal. The door seal prevents water from leaking out when your dishwasher is in operation, so you want to be sure that nothing has become lodged underneath which could cause a blockage or impede overall performance by allowing water to escape.

To clean around this area, use an old toothbrush dipped in white vinegar and gently scrub away any residue or dirt which may have built up over time.

Step 5: Use Baking Soda to Sanitise

After taking care of all visible residue inside your dishwasher, it’s now time to sanitize its interior surfaces using baking soda. Simply sprinkle baking soda directly onto all internal surfaces including walls, racks and even utensils like cutlery baskets where applicable – leave for 10 minutes before wiping off with either a damp cloth or sponge for best results!

Baking Soda, White Vinegar
Baking Soda, White Vinegar

Step 6: Clean the Exterior

The exterior of the dishwasher also needs to be cleaned to keep it looking its best. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the exterior, including the control panel and door.

You can use a stainless-steel cleaner to remove any stains or smudges.

Step 7: Wash Filter Screen & Pipes

Your final step in ensuring maximum efficiency from your dishwasher involves the regular cleaning of its filter screen as well as pipes located between them (if applicable).

  • First, unscrew these components from their respective positions within the machine before immersing them in hot soapy water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Use a brush or a toothpick to remove any debris stuck in the filters then rinse thoroughly with cold tap water until all traces of soap have gone before replacing them securely back into position again!

Step 8: Run a Cleaning Cycle

Finally, run a cleaning cycle to remove any remaining debris and freshen up the dishwasher. You can use a dishwasher cleaner or a combination of vinegar and baking soda. Fill a dishwasher-safe cup with white vinegar and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher on the hottest cycle available.

Once the cycle is complete, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run another cycle.


Keeping on top of regular maintenance for your home appliances not only helps them run better but also saves money on energy costs in the long run too! Cleaning out your dishwasher is no different – following these eight easy steps will give you peace of mind knowing that each load is not only going to be cleaner but also cheaper than ever before! So, remember; take precautionary measures when doing any kind of repairs or maintenance around the house – especially when it comes to appliances such as your trusty old friend – the dishwasher!

Reasons to Deep Clean Your Dishwasher Infographic

Plumbing Wizard Tips

“After cleaning your dishwasher, run a rinse cycle with hot water to remove any leftover cleaning solution or debris. This will ensure that your dishes are not contaminated with any cleaning chemicals!”

“Clean the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser! The detergent dispenser can become clogged with detergent residue and food particles, which can affect the cleaning performance!”

“Check the dishwasher’s levelling! The dishwasher should be level to ensure that it is cleaning properly. If the dishwasher is not level, it can cause water to pool at the bottom, which can affect the cleaning performance. Adjust the levelling legs as necessary!”

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

It is recommended to clean your dishwasher every month to ensure it is running efficiently and effectively.

What should I use to clean the interior of my dishwasher?

You can use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the interior, including the door, seal, and racks. A mild detergent or dish soap can also be used.

Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

While bleach can be effective in cleaning and disinfecting a dishwasher, it can also be harsh and cause damage to the seals and hoses. It is recommended to use a dishwasher cleaner or a combination of white vinegar and baking soda instead.

How do I clean the filters in my dishwasher?

To clean the filters, remove them and rinse them thoroughly under running water. Use a brush or a toothpick to remove any debris stuck in the filters.

Can I put my dishwasher racks in the dishwasher to clean them?

Yes, you can put your dishwasher racks in the dishwasher to clean them. Run a cycle on the hottest setting with a dishwasher cleaner or a combination of white vinegar and baking soda.

Can I use dishwashing liquid to clean my dishwasher?

It is not recommended to use dishwashing liquid to clean your dishwasher. Dishwashing liquid is formulated to clean dishes, not appliances, and can leave a soapy residue in the dishwasher. It is best to use a dishwasher cleaner or a combination of white vinegar and baking soda.

How do I remove a bad odour from my dishwasher?

A bad odour in a dishwasher can be caused by food build-up or bacteria. To remove the odour, run a cleaning cycle with a dishwasher cleaner or a combination of white vinegar and baking soda. Leave the door open after the cycle is complete to allow the dishwasher to air out.

How do I clean hard water stains in my dishwasher?

Hard water stains can be removed by wiping the interior with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. Use a sponge or a brush to scrub the stains, and then run a cleaning cycle with a dishwasher cleaner or baking soda.

Can I use abrasive materials to clean my dishwasher?

It is not recommended to use abrasive materials, such as steel wool or scouring pads, to clean your dishwasher. These materials can scratch the interior and damage the seals and hoses.

Can I clean my dishwasher while it is running?

It is not recommended to clean your dishwasher while it is running. The dishwasher should be emptied and turned off before cleaning to ensure that you can reach all the areas and parts that need cleaning.


Lee Pearce is not just a master plumber; he’s a veritable Plumbing Wizard. With over 30 years of experience in the trenches of pipes and drains, Lee has become the go-to sage for DIY plumbing, saving homeowners thousands in potential call-out charges. As the founder of Plumbing Wizard, he’s dedicated to demystifying the complexities of home plumbing, offering easy-to-follow advice that stands the test of time and pressure. His online blog is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and tutorials that empower everyday individuals to take charge of their home’s plumbing health. Lee’s practical wisdom is not just about fixing leaks; it’s about imparting confidence and self-reliance. When he’s not writing or elbow-deep in a plumbing project, Lee is passionate about educating the next generation of DIYers, ensuring that practical skills are passed down and preserved.

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