How to Clean a Dishwasher

Is your dishwasher on the fritz? It might just need a thorough deep clean! Find out how to clean a dishwasher—and how to deodorize it—with a few simple products.

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A reliable dishwasher sanitizes dishes and makes them sparkle, so it can be easy to forget that the dishwasher itself should be cleaned, too. Regularly cleaning the inside of your dishwasher helps prevent bad odors and eliminates the buildup of detergent and hard water minerals that can damage the appliance over time. Proper cleaning and care will ensure your dishwasher lasts longer and runs at optimal performance. It can also keep you from getting a moldy dishwasher. Repeat this simple process for how to clean a dishwasher about every 30 days on an empty dishwasher.

Here’s more tips for how to clean kitchen appliances—including cleaning a microwave, scrubbing an oven and refreshing an air fryer.

How to Clean a Dishwasher

Tools and Supplies

  • Microfiber cloth. These microfiber cloths are the secret to a streak-free shine on appliances. Just spritz multipurpose cleaning spray (or stainless steel cleaner) and wipe. They’re an eco-friendly alternative to paper towels and ideal for everyday household cleaning.
  • Dish sponge. The dishwasher isn’t truly clean until the filter is scrubbed down. Opt for a soft sponge for the job, like this soap dispensing dish sponge. The handle keeps hands clean from grimy dishwasher filter debris while the soft sponge head safely cleans the filter. Speaking of sponges, check out this adorable sponge holder.
  • Affresh dishwasher cleaner. When in doubt, turn to dishwasher tablets. They leave the dishwasher’s interior sparkly clean while removing limescale and mineral buildup everywhere, including the drain, pump and valve. Just pop a tablet in the detergent tray, run a cleaning cycle and walk away! They’re one of the smartest hacks for cleaning kitchen appliances, right next to the Angry Mama Microwave Cleaner and Keurig cleaning pods. Learn more about the Affresh dishwasher cleaner here.


1. Wipe down the dishwasher exterior

Use a damp microfiber cloth to gently clean the exterior of your dishwasher. For a stainless steel dishwasher, follow with a stainless steel cleaner to polish, wiping in the direction of the grain.

2. Clean the filter

Check your dishwasher manual to find the location of the dishwasher filter and the best way to clean it. For most models, it’s located underneath the bottom rack. Look for a circular object near one of the back corners or near the base of the center sprayer. Twist the filter counterclockwise and gently pull it up to remove it. Rinse the filter under running water to remove any food particles. Use a soft sponge if needed.

3. Use vinegar to break up mineral deposits

Pour two cups of distilled white vinegar into a glass bowl and place it upright in the lower rack. Run a normal cycle with the heat dry option turned off and no detergent. This process allows the acidic vinegar to rinse through the interior, working its magic on cloudy film and build-up caused by mineral deposits.

4. Use baking soda to deodorize

After the vinegar cycle is done, you can use baking soda to deodorize the dishwasher and remove any remaining stains. Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run a cycle on the hottest water setting.

5. Optional: Use a dishwasher cleaner tablet

If you’d rather skip the two-step DIY cleaning process, you can use a dishwasher cleaner tablet instead. The highly reviewed Affresh dishwasher cleaner uses a powerful formula to clean and deodorize the inside of your dishwasher with one tablet. Place the tablet in the detergent tray then run a normal cycle. If your dishwasher is extremely dirty, you can add a second tablet to the bottom of the dishwasher before running the cycle.

Don’t forget to check out what to do if your dishwasher isn’t draining.


How often should you clean your dishwasher?

For optimal performance, clean the dishwasher once a month. This includes removing the debris and grime from the filter and running two separate clean cycles with vinegar and baking soda (or a dishwasher cleaning tablet).

How long do dishwashers take to clean?

Cleaning the dishwasher takes about the same time as a normal wash cycle. Scrubbing the filter and wiping the exterior should only take 20-30 minutes. Add that to the two wash cycles needed with vinegar and baking soda (or one if using a dishwasher tablet) and that’s how long it takes to clean a dishwasher.

Why won’t my dishwasher clean?

There are a few reasons why the dishwasher won’t clean, one being the filter is clogged. Other factors include an outdated or broken appliance, water malfunctions or improper loading. Try removing the filter and cleaning it. Otherwise, reach out to the dishwasher manufacturer. Keep an eye out for these dishwasher problems you need to fix ASAP.

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Erica Young
Erica is a cleaning and home décor expert. She knows exactly how to tidy a filthy kitchen and straighten out a mixed-up pantry! When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, buying more bins she doesn't need or bingeing her latest TV show obsession.