How to Maintain a Dishwasher

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Your dishwasher is an amazing appliance that can help you clean your dishes much faster without using a ton of water. Using it correctly and keeping it clean will lead to cleaner dishes and faster cycle times, making your chores in the kitchen a whole lot easier. Keep these tips in mind as you use and clean your dishwasher to keep it in tip top shape for years to come.


[Edit]Using the Dishwasher Correctly

  1. Set your water heater between . Some water heaters start out at a lower temperature, so you should double check yours before running your dishwasher. Try to keep it between for the most optimal wash temperature.[1]
    • If your water is too cold, it won’t be able to remove stubborn grease and food from your dishes.
    • If you turn your water heater up too high, it will actually flash dry your dishes instead of cleaning them, meaning the food will get stuck instead of rinsing off.
  2. Scrape large bits of food off your dishes before loading them. You don’t need to rinse your dishes before you load them, but try to scrape off any large food scraps before you put them in the dishwasher. This will make it easier for the dishes to get clean, and it will lessen the chance that your dishwasher gets clogged.[2]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • You can scrape food scraps into your trash or compost bin, if you have one.
  3. Load only dishwasher-safe items. Not all dishes are dishwasher-safe, especially metal or plastic ones. Check the bottom of the dish to see if it says “dishwasher-safe.” If it doesn’t, you may need to wash it by hand.[3]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • Putting non-dishwasher-safe dishes in your dishwasher could cause them to melt or warp due to the heat of the water.
  4. Fill your dishwasher up, but don’t overload it. Try to fill your dishwasher up completely to avoid wasting water before you start a load. Put plates, bowls, and large pans on the bottom, cups on the top, and silverware in the flatware basket. If you have to stack dishes on top of each other, your dishwasher is probably too full. Try splitting up your load into 2 smaller loads for the most thorough cleaning.[4]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • This goes for silverware as well. If you have to cluster a ton of your silverware together in the flatware basket, they won’t get clean during the wash.
  5. Pour detergent into the dispenser up to the fill line. Grab a liquid dishwasher detergent or a dishwasher pod made specifically for dishwashers and put it into the soap dispenser. If you’re using a liquid detergent, fill it up to the fill line to avoid overloading the cycle with soap.[5]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • Never use normal dish soap in a dishwasher, as it may suds up too much and overflow out of your dishwasher.
    • If you notice water spots on your dishes, you may have hard water, or water with a lot of minerals in it. You can thin it out by adding a rinse aid to your detergent when you pour it in.
  6. Pick a heavy cycle for extremely dirty dishes. Although it can be tempting to pick a lighter, quicker cycle to save time, if your dishes are super dirty, they won’t get clean. Take stock of how dirty your dishes are and choose a heavy, normal, or light cleaning cycle.[6]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • Most dishwashers have a rinse only cycle in case your dishes just need a quick rinse without soap.

[Edit]Cleaning Your Dishwasher

  1. Wash the outside of your dishwasher to remove fingerprints. If your dishwasher is made of plastic, use soap and hot water to wipe down the outside. If it’s made of stainless steel, spray glass cleaner onto a soft cloth or paper towel, then use that to wipe it down.[7]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • The outside of your dishwasher can get messy from general kitchen use.
  2. Wipe out the dishwasher trap once a week. Pull out the bottom rack of your dishwasher and remove the lid underneath the lower sprayer. Lift out the parts individually and clean them off in the sink using warm, soapy water.[8]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • The dishwasher trap collects food scraps that can’t quite make it down the drain. If the food scraps build up, it can lead to a funky smell coming from your dishwasher.
  3. Scrape out the spray arm once a month. Pull out the bottom rack of your dishwasher and tug the spray arm off the base of your dishwasher. Carry it over to your sink and rinse it with warm, soapy water. If there’s any food scraps stuck in the holes underneath the spray arm, use a toothpick or a wooden skewer to scrape them out.[9]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 9.jpg
    • The spray arm is what sprays water into the dishwasher, so it’s important to keep it free of debris and grime.
  4. Clean the seal around the door of the dishwasher once a month. Open up your dishwasher and grab a clean towel. Run it along the rubber seal around the door of the dishwasher to wipe away any food scraps or grime. This will help your dishwasher seal better to avoid leaks in the future.[10]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 10.jpg
    • You can also wipe down the area around the soap door to remove soap scum.
  5. Run vinegar through your dishwasher once a month. Pour of white vinegar into a clean bowl and place it in the center of the bottom rack. Without adding any detergent, turn your dishwasher onto the hottest setting and let it complete the cycle. The vinegar will deodorize and sanitize your dishwasher to leave it smelling and looking fresh.[11]
    Maintain a Dishwasher Step 11.jpg
    • Vinegar also works to remove hard water buildup.
    • You can also pick up a bottle of commercial dishwasher cleaner instead of vinegar.


  • Cleaning your dishwasher regularly will lead to shinier, sparkling dishes.


  • If your dishwasher is leaking or needs a repair, call a professional right away.

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

[Edit]Using the Dishwasher Correctly

  • Dishwasher detergent

[Edit]Cleaning Your Dishwasher

  • Soap or glass cleaner
  • Towel
  • Sponge
  • Dish soap
  • Bowl
  • White vinegar

[Edit]Related wikiHows

  • Install a New Dishwasher
  • Fix a Leaky Dishwasher
  • Drain a Dishwasher



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