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How to Clean Your Dishwasher

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Grit and food particles left on bowls and glasses is a flashing sign that you have been neglecting your dishwasher.

Grit and food particles left on bowls and glasses is a flashing sign that you have been neglecting your dishwasher.

Dishwasher Leaving Grit on Your Dishes?

Tired of opening up the dishwasher to find gritty particles on the insides of your bowls and glasses? If you have an older model, you may be thinking that it's time for a replacement, but don't run out and buy a new dishwasher just yet. It may just need a good cleaning.

I know that taking apart and cleaning the inside of your dishwasher seems a little scary. What if you break the pieces?! But rest assured, it isn't as intimidating as it sounds, and you probably have everything you need already under your kitchen sink.

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

  1. Remove the bottom rack and take out sprayers.
  2. Separate sprayers into their component parts and soak sprayers in a water-vinegar solution for 10–60 minutes.
  3. Scrub sprayer parts to remove food debris and hard water build-up.
  4. Scrub bottom of dishwasher to remove food debris and gunk.
  5. Reassemble and replace sprayers.
  6. Add two cups of vinegar to dishwasher and run cleaning cycle using the hottest water possible.
  7. Stop cycle halfway through and wipe out inside of dishwasher.

Each of these steps is described in detail below, with photos to guide you.

Prevent Soap Scum Build-Up on Dishes: What You'll Need

Time estimate: 1–2 hours

Supplies Needed:

  • Kitchen gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Steel wool
  • Rags and/or paper towel
  • Old toothbrush or kitchen brush

Step 1: Take Apart Your Dishwasher

Fill your sink with hot water, two cups of distilled white vinegar, and a squirt of dish soap.

Remove the lower rack from your dishwasher and set it aside. Unscrew the tab holding the top sprayer in place and remove the sprayer from underneath the top rack. Pull the bottom sprayer out and separate the parts that make up the bottom sprayer. Set the sprayers in the sink.

Step 2: Scrub and Rinse Out Sprayer Pieces

Soak the sprayer pieces in the vinegar water for 10 minutes to an hour (depending on how hard the mineral deposits have become). Using an old toothbrush, kitchen brush or steel wool, scrub food debris and hard water deposits off sprayer pieces.

If your model has a mesh-capped strainer, run water through the mesh top and lightly tap it against the sink to remove debris from the inside.

Don't spend hours on this step. Your goal is a dishwasher that gets your dishes clean, not perfection!

Step 3: Clean Out the Bottom of the Dishwasher

Using an old rag or paper towel, remove any food debris from the bottom of the dishwasher. Using a sponge, brush or steel wool, scrub all surfaces, paying special attention around where the sprayer goes and in the corners next to the door.

Rinsing areas with water as you work will wash away the loose grime and help you see where you still need to focus.

Step 4: Replace Sprayers and Run Dishwasher

Put the sprayers back into the dishwasher. Throw two cups of white vinegar into the bottom and run your dishwasher using the hottest setting possible. Once you are about halfway through the cycle, cancel the wash and drain the water.


Step 5: Wipe Out the Bottom of the Dishwasher

Running your dishwasher should have loosened any remaining dirt in pipes and the unit. Using a clean rag or paper towel, wipe out the bottom of the dishwasher one last time, leaving your dishwasher sparkly clean.

What Causes the Cloudy Film on Glasses?

That cloudy film on your glasses and dishes is caused by hard water buildup from your dishwasher. Yes, you can clean your glasses, silverware and dishes every few months in vinegar water, but honestly, who has time for that? Your best bet is to add booster to your dishwasher with every load.

I personally use Lemishine Booster. It works using citric acids instead of harsh chemicals. I sprinkle a little bit in the door with every load, and since I've started using it, my glasses stopped getting cloudy. It's seriously good stuff.

How Do I Clean Cloudy Glasses and Silverware?

"This is great," you say. "I will clean out my dishwasher, and now it will clean my dishes properly. The trouble is, my glasses and silverware are already cloudy."

Fear not. I will show you how you can have clear glasses and shiny silverware again in under an hour.

Fill your sink with a few inches of hot water and add two cups of vinegar. Let the glasses and/ or silverware soak for a few minutes. Lightly scrub glasses and silverware with steel wool and wipe dry with a soft cloth.

That's it. In one hour all your glasses and silverware will look good as new!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Sarah


Daniela - My Cleaners on November 17, 2013:

I still think the vinegar soaking did the most of the glasses clearance. I am a big admirer of the steel wool, but another solution I also like pretty much is the back of my washing sponge - it is kind of like a mild sandpaper. It is especially good for cleaning the cloudy glasses and has various applications. Many housewives will be thankful of this post.

Best regards,

Daniela Davies @ My Cleaners Kingston

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on October 10, 2013:

This is great! Very interesting and although I seldom use our dishwasher (I prefer manual job), this is indeed very useful and absolutely worth all the votes and sharing. Thank you.

precy anza from USA on October 09, 2013:

We often hand wash but reading this is very helpful. Who knows, one day we will need to clean our dishwasher. And that tip on sparkly, newly cleaned silverware and glasses I need. Up and shared! Thank you! :)

Sarah (author) from Indiana on October 09, 2013:

Thanks, Beth. Yes, It should work on dishes too!

Beth100 from Canada on October 09, 2013:

Congratulations on HOTD!! Excellent instructions on cleaning the dishwasher. If I only had this about two months ago, it would have saved me a load of money on a new D/W!! Oh well, now I have the knowledge to keep my new one sparkly clean! Will the vinegar solution work for dishes that have D/W cleaner residue on it? It's virtually impossible to scrub off... :(

rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on October 09, 2013:

Congratulations on HOTD, well deserved! This is a very thorough and helpful article about a household task that not many people give much consideration to. I always make sure to clean the dishwasher a few times per annum and it makes a huge difference. Great tips and wonderful images! Take care. (Voted Up). -Rose

Jasmine S from Pennsylvania on October 09, 2013:

I never knew you could clean a dishwasher!!! Wonderful and useful hub. Congrats on making HOTD

Lucy Jones from Scandinavia on October 09, 2013:

Perfect - just what I needed. Well deserved HOTD. Thanks for the great tips. Voted up as useful.

moonlake from America on October 09, 2013:

I had a friend that constantly complained about her dishwasher so one day I took a look and ran my hand around the bottom part of her dishwasher it came out full of stuff. It just needed a good cleaning after that it worked fine. Voted up. Congrats on HOTD

Better Yourself from North Carolina on October 09, 2013:

Great hub and Congrats on HOTD! We have an older model dishwasher and I'm certain its in need of a good cleaning. Thanks for sharing such detailed steps for getting the job done!

Sarah (author) from Indiana on October 09, 2013:

I have always used it very GENTLY, and have never had any trouble. That said, I think you could use a plastic scrubbie with similar results and less risk. Thanks!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on October 09, 2013:

I didn't know dish-washer needs cleaning. So, I guess I need to take a look at mine, though I've only used it a couple of times in the twelve years I've had it.

I've always thought steel wool will damage your wares. I usually prefer washing with baking soda and vinegar.

Great hub with very useful info. (voted). Congrats on the Hub of the Day award!

RTalloni on October 09, 2013:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award and thanks for this helpful information! Who knew?!

Shasta Matova from USA on October 09, 2013:

Excellent advice here - congratulations on Hub of the Day. I have cleaned my dishwasher once or twice since I bought it, but not nearly as thoroughly as you describe. It is probably due for another cleaning - this time I will be following your steps!

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on October 09, 2013:

Excellent and timely. I thought my dishwasher had it. Now, maybe not. I'll give your advice a try to I really hope it works. The symptoms are the same as what you describe. I'm really not interested in buying a new dishwasher. Great step by step. Congrats!

Claudia Porter on October 09, 2013:

This is so perfect for me right now. Every time I run the dishwasher I have to rewash a few of the cups. It's very frustrating. This will be a big help! Thanks.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on October 09, 2013:

Very handy hub. My local shop sells a solution that can be run through an empty dishwasher to clean it out but it costs £4 (maybe $6) for one use. And I wouldn't be sure it was getting the dishwasher as clean as your method.

Christy Kirwan from San Francisco on September 16, 2013:

These tips are excellent, modern housewife! It never even occurred to me that the dishwasher itself might need cleaned from time to time! Thanks. :)