In case you missed the Tik-Tok trend that broke the Internet last year – and that has returned yet again this summer – we have some news: your dishwasher has a filter, and it needs to be cleaned. But that’s not the only part of your kitchen’s cleaning workhorse that needs regular upkeep, especially if it’s been smelling a bit funky. In theory, your dishwasher should be cleaning itself whenever you run a load. But sadly, it isn’t. Over time, pieces of food, grease, undissolved detergent, mold, and mineral scale all build upon the dishwasher’s filter, spray arms, racks, and interior walls. Not only does a neglected dishwasher look and smell unpleasant, but this built-up gunk can also leave spots and residue film on your dishes. Gross, right? In short, if you’re not cleaning your dishwasher regularly and effectively, it can’t do its job. And worse, if you let that food debris and grime build up, it can seriously damage your dishwasher’s filter and pump – ultimately leading to costly repairs – or worse, having to replace your dishwasher entirely.
Read on to learn how to give your dishwasher a little TLC with our step-by-step guide. You’ll be amazed at the difference – it’ll look brand-new, smell fresh, and run more efficiently than ever.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?
Generally speaking, you should be doing some level of upkeep anywhere from daily to monthly. How often you need to clean it depends on a few factors, such as how often you’re using the dishwasher, what you’re washing, how well you rinse off your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, the hardness of your water, etc. Here’s our handy dishwasher maintenance guide:
Daily: Remove bits of food and any other debris (especially paper labels if you re-use and wash jars or other labeled containers) after each wash cycle.
Weekly: Spray and wipe down the dishwasher door (inside and out) and clean the gasket.
Monthly: Deep clean the interior, including the filter. If your clean dishes feel gritty or have bits of food left on them after washing, or the dishwasher has an unpleasant odor, you should clean it more often.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- Vital Oxide
- Unscented dish soap
- Your regular dishwasher detergent
- Small soft-bristle brush (or an old toothbrush)
- Microfiber cleaning cloths
How Long Will It Take to Clean My Dishwasher?
To perform a basic cleaning, plan to spend 10 to 15 minutes, plus about two hours, for a dishwashing cycle, if needed. If your dishwasher requires a more thorough cleaning, plan for about 45 minutes, plus the dishwashing cycle.
Without further ado, here’s our in-depth, step-by-step guide on how to clean a dishwasher effectively, whether you’re just looking to do some daily maintenance to keep the grime and odors at bay or to de-gunk the filter and gaskets.
Step 1: Remove the Dishwasher Racks & Utensil Holders
To get down into the dishwasher’s nitty-gritty cracks and crevices, you’ll need to start by removing the racks and utensil holders. Take them out and give them a good scrub in the sink (or bathtub if your sink isn’t large enough) with hot water and unscented dish soap. Rinse thoroughly, and then spray liberally with Vital Oxide to sanitize. Let air dry while you tackle the following two steps.
Step 2: Remove & Clean the Filter
It’s simple: If your dishwasher’s filter isn’t clean, nothing else will be. The filter is found below the spray arm. If you aren’t sure how to remove it, check the owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for instructions. Most filters in modern dishwashers simply twist off, but older models may require a screwdriver to remove. If there is a second filter, remove it as well. Brace yourself; if you haven’t ever cleaned your dishwasher’s filter before now, it’s going to be funky.
Unlock and remove the filter. Rinse it under running hot water, and then place it in a mixture of hot water and a few drops of your regular dishwashing detergent. Allow it to soak for a few minutes to loosen the debris, and then gently scrub the mesh screen and with an old toothbrush to remove any grease or food particles stuck in the crevices. Rinse the filter thoroughly with hot water, spray with Vital Oxide to sanitize and neutralize any lingering odors.
Before replacing the filter, spray the filter housing with Vital Oxide and wipe to remove any grease buildup or bits of food. Carefully lock the filter back in place.
Important Note: Do not operate your dishwasher without the filter locked correctly in place, as you can cause severe damage to the machine and possibly void the warranty.
Step 3: Clean Out the Debris
Check for any lingering debris that might be hiding within the dishwasher. Spray the dishwasher’s spray arms and side walls with Vital Oxide, paying particular attention to the corners at the top and bottom of the dishwasher.
Important Note: Always avoid using a bleach-based cleaner if the interior of your dishwasher is stainless steel or has any stainless steel parts. Bleach is highly corrosive and can scratch or damage stainless steel surfaces. Vital Oxide is safe for use on stainless steel, as well as plastic, glass, and chrome surfaces.
Step 4: Reinstall the Dishwasher Racks & Utensil Holders
Now that everything is wiped clean inside the dishwasher, simply replace the dishwasher racks and utensil holders.
Step 5: Run the Dishwasher with Vital Oxide
Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup of Vital Oxide and place it on the bottom of the empty dishwasher. Set the dishwasher to run on a hot water cycle. Vital Oxide will help break down any remaining food particles, grease buildup, soap scum, mystery residue, and any other leftover grime. Plus, it’ll remove any stubborn stains and neutralize any odors. The result? A bright, sparkling dishwasher that smells fresh and oh-so-clean.
Step 6: Wipe Away Door & Gasket Grime
Start by wiping away any residue and spots that may have splashed or settled onto the interior surface of the dishwasher door with a microfiber cloth dampened with Vital Oxide. Next, clean the gasket. Use an old toothbrush to gently scrub away any icky grime from the rubber seal and wipe it clean with a damp microfiber cloth. Hang in there; you’re nearly done!
Finish up by cleaning and polishing the exterior door. Spray a microfiber cloth with Vital Oxide, squeeze out the excess, and then swipe in the direction of the surface’s grain. Rinse out your cloth with warm water, and then make a pass over the surface again for a gleaming, fingerprint-free finish. Be sure to wipe down the control panel and handles with your damp cloth as well.
Important Note: Stay away from abrasive cleaners or pads that can scratch and mar your dishwasher's exterior. Microfiber cleaning cloths (or a soft sponge) are the safest bet when it comes to cleaning the exterior of appliances.
Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean
Now that you’ve cleaned your dishwasher, you’re bound to see a multitude of dishwasher benefits. Not only is your appliance better-smelling and sparkling clean, but you’ll also find it’s actually more effective, too. With all that gunk and food residue gone, dish detergent and water can spray through the machine at full strength, resulting in cleaner dishes. A good rule of thumb is that any time your dishes start to come out of the dishwasher with gunk still stuck to them, it's a sign that your machine (particularly the filter) probably needs a deep clean. Try to deep clean the inside of the dishwasher once a month (or at least every six months if you don’t use it often) to keep it running optimally and prevent odors.
On the subject of odors, the root of most dishwasher smells is usually leftover food residue. Try to get in the habit of cleaning any remaining debris after each dishwashing cycle. Simply pull out the bottom rack to look for any leftover food particles and remove them with a paper towel. To prevent unwanted odors from forming in the first place, always wipe excess food from plates, silverware, bowls, and other items before loading them into the dishwasher. Remember, your dishwasher is not a garbage disposal. To help preserve your dishwasher’s filter (honestly, who wants to clean it more than they have to?!), always check for labels (perhaps on jars you might be reusing, or if new items have barcode tags on them) and remove them completely before putting the item into the dishwasher.
At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary product that’s powerful enough to neutralize tough odors without harsh chemicals or alarming safety ratings. Follow us on Instagram (@vitaloxideofficial) for more great cleaning and disinfecting tips. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're here to help!