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It almost seems redundant to clean a dishwasher. They’re designed to clean dishes — so shouldn’t they be self-cleaning? Sadly, they’re not.

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In fact, dishwashers can get quite filthy, especially if you run them often. If you’re one of the folks who let their dishes pile up out of sight in the washer, it can help to know how to clean your dishwasher, how often to do it, and ways to keep it clean after the fact.

Here’s the full scrub.

The good news is that it’s not hard to clean your dishwasher.

What you’ll need

All the ingredients you need are already in your pantry!

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1. Clean the drain

A clear drain will increase cleaning efficiency and prevent damage to the dishwasher.

  1. Empty the dishwasher and remove the bottom rack. The drain is located on the bottom of the basin, below the spray arm.
  2. Remove any food residue from the drain with a paper towel and discard. You’ll be surprised how much gunk ends up in the drain.
  3. Try to get in the habit of clearing the drain after each wash cycle and make sure dishes are scraped clean of any large pieces of food residue.

2. Wash the filter

Many dishwashers have removable filters. Most have a circular filter that sits under the spray arms on the bottom of the dishwasher’s interior. Some models have a separate metal coarse filter that the cylindrical filter holds in place.

  1. If you’re unsure where your filters are, have a look in your appliance manual. To remove the cylindrical filter, turn it counterclockwise and lift it straight up. If your dishwasher has a coarse filter, the metal plate will release along the cylindrical filter.
  2. Wash both in hot, soapy water.
  3. Inspect the sump (the hole where the cylindrical filter slides into) for solid chunks of food or other debris. If it’s not clear, clear it.
  4. If it’s clear, reinsert the filter(s).

3. Run a wash cycle with vinegar

White vinegar is an effective cleaner, deodorizer, and sanitizer. And it can most certainly help the inside of your dishwasher:

  1. Fill a dishwasher-safe cup with white vinegar.
  2. Place the cup on the top rack of the dishwasher.
  3. Use the hottest water setting on your dishwasher and run it through a cycle.

4. Run a wash cycle with baking soda

Baking soda isn’t just for making cakes fluffy — it’s also a cleaning agent.

  1. Once the vinegar cycle is complete, sprinkle a cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher.
  2. Run it through a short cycle in on the hottest water setting.
  3. The baking soda deodorizes and removes any stains.

5. Wipe the rubber seal

The rubber gasket around the door can get dirty with daily use. Use a towel and hot, soapy water to wipe away any gunk on the gasket.

6. Wipe the front

Rinse the kitchen towel in clean, hot, soapy water and wipe down the front of the machine.

If you have a stainles- steel dishwasher, use stainless-steel cleaner to give it a spiffy shine.

Dishwashers dissolve food particles from your dishes with the help of hot water and detergent. Over time, food particles can clog up the drain and spray arms.

The clogs reduce the amount of water circulating during the wash and rinse cycles. Eventually, your glasses get cloudy and dishes end up with a film of soap and food residue. Which is… eww.

Regularly cleaning your dishwasher not only helps your machine clean effectively but may even extend the life of your appliance.

If you run a load daily, appliance experts recommend that you clean your dishwasher’s filter and drain once a month to help keep it running smoothly and your dishes clean.

Use it less often? You might be able to wait a bit longer between cleanings.

Scrape your dishes well before you place them in the dishwasher to prevent food buildup in the drain. But remember to deep clean the dishwasher itself every once in a while. Or learn how to hand wash dishes in the least annoying way.

Cleaning a dishwasher involves taking out some of the components — like the filter and drain — and cleaning them individually. You’ll also need to run the dishwasher with both vinegar and baking soda separately.

Giving your dishwasher a once-over roughly every month helps you keep it free of clogs and running smoothly. Be sure to scrape your dishes before loading them up to provide a little extra shine.