Learn how to clean a dishwasher with the best tips, tricks, products, and tools! We’re sharing step-by-step instructions and everything you need to know to make the process a breeze. 

A woman loading cups into the top of a dishwasher.
Learn how to clean a dishwasher to extend its lifespan and get your dishes sparkling!

How To Clean A Dishwasher

It may have never occurred to many of us that cleaning your dishwasher is a thing. Surely, it would clean itself… right? Well, no. 

Think of all those bits of food from dishes that get swept about inside the dishwasher. They have to go somewhere! 

Eventually, those food scraps build up in the drains and on the spray arms of the machine. As a result, those old bits of food you forgot about lead to reduced water flow, leaving your dishes with a film of soap and grime from tiny food particles! Gross. 

Just like your washing machine (yes, washing machines need cleaning, too!), regular cleaning of your dishwasher is essential to ensure it can still get your dishes sparkling.

Not only will the machine work better, but you’ll also save money In the long run as well, and you’ll no longer need to worry about costly repairs and maintenance! It’s a win-win. 

To make the process a breeze, we’ve provided the ultimate guide for how to clean a dishwasher so you can get started straight away! 

A woman loading various items into the top rack of a dishwasher.
Be careful not to overcrowd your dishwasher.

How To Clean A Dishwasher: An In-Depth Guide

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know for how to clean a dishwasher from the best products and tools to methods, and more! Keep reading to find it all. 

Step 1: Gather Your Cleaning Materials 

Before you get started, make sure you have everything you need. You can either use pre-made cleaners or make your own DIY blends with natural products. Both methods are effective! 

Premade Solutions

Countless companies have developed products specifically for deep cleaning dishwashers, as they understand how important it is to do so regularly. Below are a few of our favorite options, but keep in mind that you’ll only need to use one! 


There are specially designed tablets available to clean the dishwasher. 

Keep in mind that these are very different from the tablets you use in your dishwasher during normal wash cycles, and you wouldn’t want to use these with dishes in the machine! 

Dishwasher cleaning tablets contain stronger ingredients that fight limescale and other minerals, along with dissolving bits of organic material such as food.


Liquid detergents are another option for deep cleaning the dishwasher. These are effective for dissolving grease and limescale, even the difficult stuff that seeps into the piping. 

They’re also easy to use, and designed for placing the whole bottle upside down in the machine. After that, it’s just a matter of running a hot cycle! 


Pods are a bit of a middle step between tablets and detergents. They’re small single units like a tablet, but they contain liquid inside like a detergent. 

They are as simple to use as tablets and similar in effectiveness. 

Natural Alternatives

Harsh chemicals not your thing? Worried about having them come into contact with the food your family eats? No worries! 

Natural products can be just as effective for cleaning a dishwasher as using store-bought solutions. That said, making your own blend of products requires a bit of extra time and effort. However, it’s still simple to do, is more cost-effective, and is worth the effort if using natural items is important to you! The most effective natural cleaning supplies include: 

  • Distilled White Vinegar (Apple cider vinegar will also do the trick if you happen to have that on hand instead.)
  • Baking Soda

The Best Tools for How to Clean a Dishwasher

Now that you’ve picked the best cleaning products, you’ll need to gather the proper tools. For the best results, we recommend the following items: 

  • Warm Water
  • Toothpick
  • Old Toothbrush
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Rubber Gloves 
Overhead image of pink rubber gloves, toothpicks, a microfiber cloth, a toothbrush, and a bowl of warm water.
Gather all your ingredients before beginning to clean your dishwasher.

Step 2: Remove Interior Items

Now that you’re ready to start cleaning, you’ll want to pull out any parts of the dishwasher that are not attached. This includes the racks, silverware holders, and even the filter. Anything that can be removed should be for proper cleaning! 

Step 3: Spot-Clean And Clear Any Debris   

Following that, you should wipe off any obvious bits of food. Then, look for any signs of stains such as limescale or hard water. Use your toothpick or toothbrush to clear any bits hiding in small spaces. Pay special attention to where the filter and the racks slot into place, as these are areas where things tend to get trapped!  

How To Remove Interior Stains 

If you do find stains, follow the tips below to get rid of them with ease. 

Limescale Buildup and Hardwater Stains

Use white vinegar and baking soda in equal parts to make a paste. Rub the paste into the stain, and leave it to soak for an hour. After an hour has passed, wipe the paste off with a sponge. 

Then, reapply the mixture, and scrub if any residue remains! You don’t have to worry about rinsing the solution, as it will wash away in the cleaning cycles that follow. 

Step 4: Do A Hot Water Cycle Run 

Run the dishwasher on its hottest setting. This will rinse off any baking soda paste and allow the machine to wash the interior thoroughly without the racks and holders blocking certain areas. 

Step 5: Clean The Dishwasher Interiors 

The interiors will have a lot of areas for food bits, limescale, and mold to hide. 

Make a cleaning solution with equal parts white vinegar and warm water, and make sure to have more vinegar and baking soda paste handy. 

Next, look for any obvious stains. Rub the baking soda paste into any you find, and leave it to soak for an hour. Then, clean all the components with the vinegar solution. 

Use the toothpick and toothbrush to get into those tight crevices. Pay special attention to the filter, silverware holder, and any areas that move (like the wheels) as it is easy for food to become trapped in these areas, and scrub away any remaining food or stains.  

Step 6: Do A 2nd Short Cycle Wash 

Once you’re satisfied that the interiors are clean, reassemble the dishwasher. 

Then, run one more cycle to rinse everything and clean out any hidden food particles that may have been loosened up from scrubbing.  A quick cycle wash will do for this step as you don’t need anything to be deep cleaned. 

Step 7: Clean The Exterior Of The Dishwasher 

Now that the hard work is done, you’ll want to finish up by wiping down the front of your dishwasher so its exterior matches the interior and looks shiny and new!

Use a toothpick and toothbrush to clear out around knobs, buttons, and crevices. Then, wipe down the control panel and door with your white vinegar and warm water solution. Or, if preferred, feel free to use your favorite multi-surface cleaning spray! Pay special attention to the handle, knobs, and buttons that are touched most often. 

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could also use this opportunity to move the dishwasher and clean under it, on top, and on its sides if the unit is not built in! 

How To Maintain Your Dishwasher 

Now that you’ve learned how to clean a dishwasher, you might be wondering how to keep it that way. Other than regular cleanings, another tip for maintaining your dishwasher is to make sure you are using it at least weekly. 

Otherwise, you can expect motor issues– or even a complete breakdown of the unit if it sits unused for too long! 

People that live alone sometimes feel it isn’t worth using the dishwasher unless they have people over, as it seems wasteful. Instead, they prefer to hand wash as they go. 

However, remember that dishwashers typically use less water than hand washing, even with small loads. Plus, they save tons of time! So, let those dishes build up throughout the day, and run your machine at least once or twice a week to save yourself trouble in the long run. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?

The best practice is to clean your dishwasher monthly. 

Of course, how often you use your dishwasher and how much pre-rinsing (ridding food of debris) you do will impact how often you need to clean it. Use your best judgment, but on average, monthly is a safe bet. 

The Bottom Line

Even appliances that seem to be self-cleaning like dishwashers need a bit of maintenance. 

Learning how to clean a dishwasher and doing so at least once a month will ensure that your dishes stay hygienic, the machine keeps running properly, and will also save you from costly repairs in the future!

More Lifestyle Tips

Looking for more easy ways to keep your home in tip-top shape? Check out more of our tips and tricks below! 

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Welcome to Food Dolls! We’re so glad you found us. We are Alia and Radwa, sisters who want to share simple and easy recipes with you. We hope you find recipes here that you enjoy making as much as we do! Learn more about us!

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