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It doesn’t seem like appliances created for cleaning would need to be cleaned, but they do! If you want to get the longest, best life out of your dishwasher, take good care of it with regular cleanings and maintenance (just like an HVAC system or your car).

The crumbs and greasy residue from your cookware, dishes, and eating utensils can leave build up in the crevices of your dishwasher and also cause issues with water drainage. But you can prevent mold, mildew, and drain clogs from smelling up (or flooding) your kitchen by following these simple steps.

  1. Check for Clogs

    Remove the bottom rack and the spray arm so you can have access to the drain. Clean out any bits of food, trash, and other gunk that could scratch dishes or clog the drain. Also, before you replace the spray arm, use a toothbrush dipped in vinegar to scrub out anything clogging the spray holes.

  2.  Clean the Filter

    Most people don’t know this, but if your dishwasher has a filter, it needs to be removed and cleaned regularly. You can look at your appliance manual to confirm the location of the filter (if there is one.)

  3. Run a Full Cycle with Vinegar

    Replace the filter, spray arm, and dish racks. Fill a dishwasher-safe cup or bowl with plain white vinegar and place it on the top rack. Run a full wash cycle with the hottest water possible to remove grease and grime residue.

  4. Run a Short Cycle with Baking Soda

    Immediately after running the vinegar cycle, sprinkle a half-cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a short wash cycle on the hottest water possible to deodorize.

  5. Run a Full Cycle with Bleach

    This optional step can help you battle mold and mildew. Add no more than one cup of bleach to the bottom of the dishwasher and run a full cycle. (Do NOT include this step if the interior is stainless steel.)

If you really want to maintain a truly spotless dishwasher, use an old rag soaked in vinegar to wipe down the door hinges, the gaskets that run along the outside edges of the door, and all the dials or button controls, too.

Perform this routine maintenance once a month or seasonally to keep your dishwasher happily humming along for years to come.