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How to Clean a Dishwasher: A Step-by-Step Guide

The photo is taken from inside out, capturing all white dishes, cups and metal cutlery, and a little boy child looking inside the dishwasher and placing the last white plate.
The last plate is in and ready to turn the dishwasher on.

If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher in your home, you know how convenient it can be for cleaning up after meals. However, even the best dishwashers require regular cleaning to function properly and to serve their purpose. In this article, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to clean a dishwasher, including how to clean the dishwasher filter, how to clean the dishwasher with vinegar, and how to clean the dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda. We’ll also offer helpful advice for people who haven’t used a dishwasher before and explain the benefits of having a dishwasher at home.

What is a dishwasher?

A dishwasher is a machine, designed to clean and sanitise dishes, glasses, and utensils by spraying hot water and detergent onto them. Modern dishwashers typically have several wash cycles, including rinse and dry cycles. Some dishwashers even have energy-saving features to help reduce water and electricity consumption.

Benefits of using a dishwasher

Using a dishwasher has many benefits. For one, it saves time and effort compared to washing dishes by hand. It also ensures a more thorough cleaning and sanitisation process, which can be especially important for households with young children or immunocompromised individuals. Additionally, using a dishwasher helps conserve water and energy, as it uses less water and energy than washing dishes by hand.

Grey stainless steel sink full with white and blue plates, small and big glasses, a jug and other cups. A lot of silver cutlery can be seen and a yellow sponge.
A dishwasher can take care of all this.

The importance of cleaning your dishwasher

Dishwashers are machines designed to clean your dishes and cutlery, but did you know they also require cleaning and maintenance? Regular cleaning helps prevent food debris, grease, and soap scum build-up inside the dishwasher. The build-up can cause unpleasant odours, poor cleaning performance, and damage to the dishwasher’s internal components. Another reason to regularly clean your dishwasher is that the food debris build-up over time becomes harmful bacteria. It’s essential to clean your dishwasher regularly to ensure that it continues to function efficiently and effectively.

How to clean a dishwasher step by step

Now that you understand the importance of regularly cleaning your dishwasher, let’s go through the steps on how to clean it:

How to deep clean your dishwasher. Step-by-step video. Credits to
Apartment Maintenance Pro for their fantastic work.

Step 1: Remove any food debris

Before cleaning the inside of the dishwasher, you’ll want to remove any food debris or other debris clogging the dishwasher’s spray arm or drain.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Remove the bottom rack of your dishwasher and inspect the area around the spray arm for any visible clogs. 
  • Use a toothpick or other small tool to dislodge any debris clogging the spray arm. 
  • Next, find the dishwasher drain located at the bottom. 
  • Remove any debris clogging the drain, being careful not to damage the dishwasher’s internal components.

Step 2: Clean the interior of your dishwasher

After removing any visible debris from the dishwasher, it’s time to clean the interior. To do this, you’ll need white vinegar and baking soda. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by pouring one cup of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container and placing it on the top rack of the dishwasher. 
  • Run the dishwasher on a hot cycle, using the short hot cycle if your dishwasher has one.
  • Once the cycle is complete, sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it on a short hot cycle again. It helps neutralise any remaining odours and remove stains from the dishwasher’s interior.

Step 3: Clean the Dishwasher’s Exterior

After removing any visible debris from the dishwasher, it’s time to clean the interior. To do this, you’ll need white vinegar and baking soda. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by wiping down the dishwasher’s door and handling it with a damp cloth to remove any visible grime or stains. For more stubborn stains, you can use a mild detergent and a soft-bristled brush to scrub away any dirt.
  • If your dishwasher has a control panel, always clean it with a soft cloth and a gentle detergent. Avoid harsh chemicals on the control panel. It can damage the surface and interfere with the dishwasher’s functionality.

Step 4: Clean the Dishwasher Filter

The dishwasher filter is a component that helps prevent food debris and other particles from clogging the dishwasher’s spray arm and drain. Depending on your dishwasher model, the filter may be located at the bottom or in the back near the spray arm.

Here’s how to do it:

According to FamilyHandyman, you can start by checking the type of filter. In a study, they found that some dishwashers made before 2010 have self-cleaning filters, which could be in your case too. If your dishwasher filter is round just like in the photo below, remove it from the dishwasher, and rinse under running water to remove any visible debris. You can use a soft-bristled brush and gently scrub away any stubborn debris. Be sure to clean the filter thoroughly to ensure it functions properly.

Image showing how the filter of a standard dishwasher machine look like. Explaining how to clean. Man with grey gloves is holding the filter.
This is what a standard dishwasher filter looks like.

Step 5: Clean the Dishwasher Drain Hose

If you’ve noticed that your dishwasher is not draining, it may be due to a clogged drain hose. You can either remove the drain hose and clean it, which is a bit time-consuming or according to Whirlpool, you can clean the drain hose without removing it by using a combination of white vinegar and baking soda.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Start by pouring one cup of white vinegar into the dishwasher drain. 
  • Let the vinegar sit for 10-15 minutes to dissolve any debris clogging the drain hose. 
  • Next, sprinkle one cup of baking soda into the dishwasher drain and let it sit for another 10-15 minutes. 
  • Finally, pour boiling water into the dishwasher drain to flush away any remaining debris.


Cleaning your dishwasher is an important task. By regularly cleaning your dishwasher and following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure that your dishwasher functions properly and lasts for years to come. Don’t forget to clean the dishwasher filter, which prevents food debris and other particles from clogging the dishwasher’s spray arm and drain. Additionally, using vinegar and baking soda can help to remove stubborn stains and build-up, leaving your dishwasher sparkling clean. By dedicating your time to cleaning your dishwasher, you’ll enjoy the many benefits of having a clean and efficient appliance in your home.

Picture of Charlotte M.
Charlotte M.
Meet Charlotte, Ops Manager at 1Clean and author of this article. With over a decade of experience with professional home cleaning, Charlotte has a wealth of knowledge on what it takes to deliver excellent customer experience and knows the ins and outs of cleaning products and techniques to tackle any cleaning task with ease.
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