You might not believe this, but your dishwasher doesn't clean itself. Even though you run it everyday with dish cleaners and finishes, debris and water deposits can build up in the crevices and holes. Just like any large appliance, a dishwasher must be maintained for optimum performance. If your dishes aren't coming out as clean as you would like, it might be time to give it a solid, thorough cleaning. The good news is that this is a simple and easy task.
Here's how to do it!
1. Empty the Dishwasher
Remove everything from the dishwasher so you can get a clear idea of what you're up against. Examine the racks and holders to make sure no food particles are cemented on them. If the racks and holders are nasty, scrub them down with some hot water and distilled vinegar.
2. Clean Around the Edges
Take a look at the door edges. There is probably some dried spillage caked on it. I recommend using a water/vinegar solution (1 c. vinegar/1 gallon water) because it's natural, but a store-bought cleaner will work too. Take a soft rag and wipe around the entire edge and rubber seal. You may need to scrub harder on the dirtier areas.
Photo by Jen Gotch from Real Simple
3. Check Interior Parts for Lodged Food
The spinning arms of a dishwasher have tiny holes in them where little food particles and lime deposits can get stuck. You can easily remove the arms by pulling them off of their base. If you find any debris in the holes, you can use tweezers or needle-nosed pliers to dig it out. Just be careful not to scratch anything on the arms. You'll also want to check the filter on the bottom; I can almost guarantee it will be grimy.
4. Soak the Filter
You'll have to unscrew some pieces, but removing the filter is fairly simple. You're going to want to soak it in some hot soapy water or the vinegar solution. This should remove any nasty stuff that has taken up residence there. If there's still some gunk on it, scrub it with a toothbrush.
Here's a great video showing how to remove all those little pieces!
5. Put All Interior Pieces Back
Once you've cleaned all the interior parts of the dishwasher, reinsert them exactly as they were. Go ahead and put the racks and holders back in too, because you're going to run a special heavy wash cycle for an ultimate clean. Read on...
6. Kill the Mold, Mildew, and Give the Dishwasher a Fresh Scent
Now for the easy part! There are several different ways to do this. Some people recommend running bleach through the cycle, but bleach is a harsh chemical. It's not something you want to do consistently, though it is a good way to kill mold and mildew. However, you should never use bleach if your dishwasher interior is stainless steel.
Blogger One Creative Mommy recommends using Tang as a solution because the citrus acid will burn through hard water deposits, and it makes your dishwasher smell fantastic!
I would still recommend using a vinegar/baking soda as a safe, tried and true method, but there's always room for creativity. Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of your dishwasher, add vinegar to the detergent holder, and set the cycle for the heaviest wash. Now you can relax!
7. Start a Routine
To stay on top of your dishwasher cleaning, start a monthly routine of running baking soda and vinegar through on a heavy cycle and checking for debris in the crevices and holes every six months. This will ensure that your dishwasher is always running at its best!