How to Clean Your Dishwasher

One of the most hardworking appliances in many people’s homes, especially during the holidays, your dishwasher needs regular maintenance and a bit of TLC to keep it working at its best. It would seem that this cleansing device should by default clean itself, but it, too, needs an occasional minor overhaul to keep it working hard. Here are some tips on cleaning your dishwasher to ensure it performs at the top of its grime-removing game.

Check the water temperature

120 degrees is the magic number for properly cleaning and sanitizing of your plates, pots and pans as well as the interior of your dishwasher. Before you head into the depths of your garage or wherever your water heater resides, test the temp by holding a finger under the hottest running water. If you can endure more than two seconds, the water isn’t hot enough. If this is the case, increase the thermostat on your water heater to 120. If you notice the temperature is set above 120 degrees, it’s best to turn it down as any hotter uses considerably more energy and can lead to scalding.

Clean the filter

Dishwashers used to include a piece of equipment that would grind up food, similar to a garbage disposal. Food waste would be chopped into small pieces and washed away. Today’s appliances have a filter instead of a macerator, which is what resulted in the excessive noise emanating from your machine during operation. To make the machines quieter, modern appliances capture food waste in a filter basket at the bottom of the machine. The filter needs regular cleaning to remove debris, which can result in clogged drains, a malodorous smell or dishes as dirty as before they were washed.

Since each appliance is different, check your owner’s manual (most can be found online if yours is MIA) to locate your filter and learn how to remove, clean and replace. A quick removal of food particles and a quick rinse (or light scrubbing) of the filter and the surrounding screen will keep dishes clean and your appliance working harder and longer.

Check the interior

Look for additional debris near the drain and remove. Also, take note of any deterioration, rust or other issues (which shouldn’t occur if your machine is properly maintained).

Clean your machine

Wipe down the inside of your dishwasher with a paste of powdered dishwashing detergent or liquid detergent specifically for dishwashers. Avoid using any sort of hand or other soap as the foaming agents can clog filters and damage other components.

White vinegar & baking soda to the rescue

Keep hard water build up at bay by pouring a cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher safe container on the top rack of your empty machine. Run the dishwasher through a hot cycle to help remove limescale, calcium carbonate and grease. Then, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom on your machine and run short cycle to keep odors and stains away. (Remember to clean your filter first.) Here is a recipe for baking soda bombs that will clean and deodorize all in one go.

Don’t skimp on detergent

Gel or pack detergents are better for your machine than powders, which don’t break down as easily and can damage or clog the motor or other vital parts. The packs have a multitude of components that are released at specific times during the cycle. Using a liquid pre-rinse agent is also recommended.

Check your plates

Bones, paper bits, price tags, bones, fruit pits or stems all can wreak havoc on your dishwasher. Also beware of glassware that is chipped, as over time, small pieces of glass can break off and clog filters and other moving parts.

Explore the cycles

Have a lot of food on a specific load of dishes? Try the pots and pan cycle, geared toward removing a heavier amount of food debris. Or, if you don’t run your appliance every day, run the dishwasher on a rinse cycle to wash away food particles until you have a full load. This is often more efficient than rinsing by hand.

Know how to load

Make sure nothing is blocking the spray arms (like a long handled spoon or too tall glass), Again, your manual will provide loading tips that work best for your specific appliance.

Now that you know the proper ‘care and cleaning’ of your dishwasher, you can be assured of sparkling dishes and glassware before, during and after holiday feasts.