How to Clean Your Dishwasher: A Comprehensive Guide

Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean and Fresh

Hello, Challenger. Dishwashers are an essential part of modern kitchens, saving valuable time and effort in cleaning dishes. However, over time, dishwashers might accumulate grease, soap scum, and food residue that can cause foul odors and affect the machine’s performance. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of how to clean dishwasher so that it looks and performs like new.


A dishwasher is a machine that simplifies the task of washing dishes. It uses hot water and cleaning agents to remove food particles and grease from plates, cups, and utensils. Typically, dishwashers consist of racks, spray arms, pumps, a heating element, and a detergent dispenser. As you use the dishwasher day in and day out, pieces of food, greases, and leftover detergent can get stuck in places you cannot see. This residue then grows bacteria and molds that cause bad smells and clog the dishwasher’s filter, resulting in inferior wash performance.

To avoid these issues, you must know how to clean your dishwasher periodically. Doing so will help maintain the machine’s effectiveness, prolong its lifespan, and create a hygienic environment for your cooking needs.

Below are some of the tools and cleaning ingredients you will need before you start cleaning your dishwasher:

Tools Ingredients
Sponge White vinegar
Toothbrush Baking soda
Scrub brush Lemon juice
Washcloth Dish detergent

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Step 1: Empty the Dishwasher

Before you begin, you should remove all the dishes, utensils, and cutlery from the dishwasher. Then, inspect the dishwasher’s baskets and racks to make sure they are free of any debris.

Step 2: Clean the Exterior

Use a sponge, warm water, and dish detergent to wipe clean the dishwasher’s exterior. Wipe off any stains, fingerprints, or smears from the door, control panel, and hinges. If there are any stubborn spots or grease buildup, use a scrub brush and some baking soda or vinegar to tackle them.

Step 3: Clean the Filter

Filters are the dishwasher’s last line of defense that prevents leftover food particles and other debris from clogging the drain or the spray arms. To clean the filter, locate it in the bottom of the dishwasher, remove it, and rinse it under a running tap water. Use a toothbrush or a scrub brush to scrub off any stubborn debris that didn’t come off with water.

Step 4: Check the Spray Arms

Spray arms are located on the bottom and the top of the dishwasher and are responsible for spraying hot water and detergent during the wash cycle. Sometimes, food particles or hard water deposits can clog the spray arms’ tiny holes, reducing the machine’s cleaning efficiency. You can remove the spray arms by unscrewing them or unlocking and examine them for any blockages. If you find any, use a toothbrush or a thin wire to clear out the openings.

Step 5: Descale the Dishwasher

Hard water deposits can accumulate over time on the dishwasher’s walls, utensil baskets, and heating element. These deposits can cause the water pressure to decrease and render the heating element less effective, leading to streaks on your glassware, cutlery, and plates. To remove the hard water stains, add a cup of white vinegar to the dishwasher’s empty tub and run a hot water cycle. The vinegar will dissolve the hard water buildup and eliminate bad smells as well.

Step 6: Freshen the Interior

To make your dishwasher smell brand new, cut one or two lemons into halves and place them face down on the dishwasher’s top rack. Run a hot water cycle, and the lemon scent will freshen up the dishwasher’s interior and leave it smelling delightful.

Step 7: Baking Soda Deodorizer

Baking soda is another excellent deodorizer that can absorb the bad smells of the dishwasher. When you finish cleaning the dishwasher, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom of the machine and let it sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb any lingering odors, leaving your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean.


Q1. Can I use bleach to clean the dishwasher?

A1. It depends on the dishwasher’s material and the damage bleach might cause. Bleach is too harsh for plastic or rubber parts and can cause discoloration, cracking or melting of some parts. Therefore, it’s better to use natural cleaning solutions like white vinegar or lemon juice.

Q2. Do I need to clean the dishwasher after every wash?

A2. No, you don’t. However, it would be best if you cleaned the dishwasher periodically, depending on its usage and water hardness level. You can clean it once a month or every two to three months.

Q3. What should I do if my dishwasher smells after cleaning?

A3. If the dishwasher still smells after cleaning it, you can try running a hot water cycle with a dishwasher cleaning tablet or add some baking soda to the machine’s bottom and let it sit overnight before running a cycle.

Q4. Can I use dish soap to clean the dishwasher?

A4. You can use dish soap to clean the dishwasher but, you should avoid using too much soap or abrasive cleaning tools. They can damage the dishwasher’s interior, leave spots on dishes, and damage the spray arms.

Q5. Can I put vinegar in the dishwasher?

A5. Yes, you can. White vinegar can be used as a natural cleaning agent in the dishwasher. It removes hard water deposits, grease, and soap scum. Just make sure to use only white vinegar and not any other kind with high acidity.

Q6. How often should I clean the dishwasher’s filter?

A6. You should clean the dishwasher’s filter every two months or after every use, depending on how often you use the dishwasher. A clogged filter hinders the dishwasher’s performance, leading to poor cleaning and bad odors.

Q7. Why is there water left in the dishwasher after the wash cycle?

A7. Water left in the dishwasher after the wash cycle can happen due to a clogged filter or spray arms, a blocked drain hose, or a malfunctioned drain valve. Check these components for any obstruction and clean or replace them as needed.


In conclusion, keeping your dishwasher clean and fresh is essential for maintaining its performance, extending its lifespan, and ensuring your family’s hygiene. The above steps are guidelines on how to clean dishwasher effectively and inexpensively using natural ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda. We hope that you found our article informative and helpful. Now, it’s your turn to take action and clean your dishwasher today.

Remember that regular dishwasher cleaning can save you valuable time, effort, and dollars in the long run. And, to avoid damaging your dishwasher, using eco-friendly, natural cleaning solutions is always the best solution.


Note that some of the cleaning solutions using natural products like vinegar, lemon juice, or baking soda in cleaning your dishwasher might not work for all households or specific dishwasher models. Therefore, we recommend that you read your dishwasher’s instruction manual and consult with the manufacturer before attempting these cleaning methods. As always, use caution when handling cleaning solutions and follow safety guidelines accordingly.