If You've Owned Your Dishwasher For More Than Three Months, It Needs A DEEP Clean

If You've Owned Your Dishwasher For More Than Three Months, It Needs A DEEP Clean

When the dishwasher was invented way back in 1886 (**Jonathan Van Ness voice** Can you believe?), it was a game-changer, time-saver, and germ-destroyer all in one. Not to mention, it was a total godsend for anyone and everyone who didn’t want to spend hours with their elbows up to food-flecked soap and water. Tbh, it still is—especially for city-dwellers who have spent years living in teeny-tiny apartments without one.

But as clutch as the modern dishwasher is after that five-course dinner party, it can’t clean itself. If this is (bad) news to you, you’re not alone. “That’s a misconception a lot of people have about both the dishwasher and the washing machine,” says Melissa Maker, cleaning expert at Clean My Space, a housekeeping service in Canada. “They’re appliances that clean other things, shouldn’t they clean themselves as well?” Sorry, but nope.

Lucky for you—and all your future dinner guests—here’s how to clean your dishwasher like a total expert.

But wait, how do I know if my dishwasher is dirty in the first place?

If your beloved appliance starts to straight-up reek, that’s a solid sign it’s cleanin’ time. (What? I’m just trying to make it sound fun.) Some other telltale signs? “You might see a moldy or mildewy kind of buildup on the sides of the dishwasher door or in the corners,” says Maker. “Also, your dishes aren’t coming out clean—they kind of have caked-on little flecks or little pieces of food stuck on them.” Guess that honey yogurt parfait wasn’t just extra sticky, after all…

“That all happens because you’ve got food trapped in the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher,” explains Maker. That doesn’t just give bacteria the opportunity to grow, but also prohibits the water from filtering out properly. That means “the dishwasher can’t do its job, so food gets redeposited back onto your glasses and dishes,” she adds.

Kind of a lazy cleaner? It’s okay—peep this fool-proof guide for some pro tips:

Okay, so my dishwasher is gross. How do I clean it?

Look no further than your filter. That’s where all the gunk ends up, a.k.a. the source of all evil. Combine that with soap residue and a little bit of water—all conveniently located in one small, contained space—and you’ve got the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, says Maker.

Many newer dishwashers feature a removable filter, but some older ones don’t (your appliance manual will tell you either way). Lost your manual? Maker says the filter is typically located at the bottom of the dishwasher right under where the “water arm”—literally the arm that spins around and shoots out water—is. Once you see it, you should also see clear information on how to remove the filter right there, she adds.

After removing the almost certainly funky-smelling filter (I’m just trying to prepare you!), the actual cleaning process is pretty simple. Just grab a dish brush with a bristle head on it—Maker recommends Scotch-Brite’s Advanced Soap Control Dishwand Brush—and some regular ole dish soap and water. (Dish gloves are optional, but definitely not the worst idea.) “Give it a good scrub, let it dry, and put it back,” she says. Easy-peasy-lemon-scented-dish-soap-squeezy.

No removable filter? No problem. You can still clean your dishwasher—you just need to use dishwasher cleaning tablets. They’re “quite effective,” according to Maker, whose own dishwasher doesn’t have a removable filter. She suggests running your machine on the “self-clean” cycle, if yours has that option (again, older models likely don’t). If it doesn’t, she recommends setting it to “hottest possible cycle.” Oh, and make sure your dishwasher is totally empty when you run it, because duh.

While these tablets can work wonders, they shouldn’t automatically become your go-to, though. “If you can clean the filter, you should clean the filter…even if you had a tablet to clean the dishwasher in the dishwasher cycle,” says Maker. “Otherwise, you’re only solving half the problem.”

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

Depending on your lifestyle—and how good you are rinsing the dishes before popping them into the washer—you can deep-clean your machine every one to three months. If you’re a cleaning queen, once a month should fit nicely into your already spic-and-span sched.

But if you don’t use your dishwasher on the reg or just don’t have time every month, Maker suggests reminding yourself to do it at the change of each season. You can even set an alarm on your phone for every three months. “It should take 10 minutes or less each time,” adds Maker. “It’s one of those things that’s small but makes a difference.”

Any other ways to decrease my dishwasher’s overall grossness?

First and foremost, rinse 👏 your👏 dishes👏. It’s another small thing that makes a big difference, Maker says. She recommends doing it even if your dishwasher detergent boasts its food-blasting abilities. Sure, it can take the food off your plate, but “the problem is what’s left behind afterward,” says Maker. “It’s all of that bacteria and food and whatever that gets caught in the filter and leads to odors.”

You’ll save yourself so much time and energy if you just rinse the d*mn dishes. Of course, you don’t have to get ’em perfectly clean (that’s what the dishwasher is for!), but they should at least be free of big chunks or smears of food.

Another pro tip: Leave the dishwasher door open whenever it’s not in use. Not wide open—because that’s an accident waiting to happen—but at least cracked a little bit so that it hasn’t been clicked shut, advises Maker. This allows the dishwasher to air out and helps any moisture that’s left behind dry. “Even when I travel, I always leave the dishwasher door slightly open just, so that no grossness can fester in there,” she says.

After all, a dirty dishwasher is just about the last thing you want to come home to.

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