How to Clean a Dishwasher

Your dishwasher is a labor-saving friend in your home, but once a month or so, it needs some love. Here’s how to quickly and easily clean your dishwasher to keep it smelling fresh, running smoothly and getting your dishes sparkling.

Cleaning the Inside of a Dishwasher

With all the items on your household chores list, cleaning the inside of your dishwasher probably isn’t high on the list. Most of the time your dishwasher is doing the cleaning, not being cleaned.

But over time, soap scum, undissolved detergent, food debris and grease can build up in your dishwasher, especially in its trap and drain, but also on the walls, seals, arms and basin. This residue and grime can create a breeding ground for germs and can also get cycled back around your dishes when you run your machine.

If you have hard water like many American households, the minerals in your water can also cause limescale and mineral deposits in your dishwasher. These can be unsightly and could affect your dishwasher’s performance.¹

Plus, the residue can also cause that musty dishwasher smell that no one wants, especially not in the kitchen where they prepare food.

How to Clean a Dishwasher

There are several DIY hacks for cleaning a dishwasher, such as leaving a bowl of vinegar on the top rack and running an empty dishwasher, followed by another empty cycle with baking soda sprinkled in the bottom of your machine.

Some DIY cleaning strategies suggest using chlorine bleach to clean dishwashers. Do not use chlorine bleach to clean stainless steel dishwashers, as it can permanently damage and discolor the interior. In fact, you don’t need to use chlorine bleach at all to clean your dishwasher. Who wants bleach near the dishes they eat from and cook with?

Fortunately, there’s another method you can use to clean the inside of your dishwasher quickly. With affresh® dishwasher cleaner tablets, you can take care of business in a few minutes and a single dishwasher cycle. You can even wash a load of dishes at the same time.² Here’s how:

STEP 1: Load your dishwasher per usual or run an empty dishwasher for cleaning.

STEP 2: Place an affresh® dishwasher cleaner tablet in the bottom of your machine if you’re running it full of dishes (and your detergent in the detergent dispenser). Put the affresh® tablet in your dishwasher’s detergent dispenser if running it empty. If your dishwasher has a lot of buildup, put one affresh® tablet in the detergent dispenser and a second on the bottom of the dishwasher and run without dishes.

STEP 3: Run a normal wash cycle.

STEP 4: Get a glass of your favorite beverage and go about your business while affresh® powers away limescale and mineral buildup and descales your dishes and glassware.

Affresh® dishwasher cleaner Removes the Residue and the Smell

Formulated with EPA Safer Choice® certified ingredients, affresh® dishwasher cleaner is specially formulated to help remove limescale and mineral buildup that can be unsightly and could affect your dishwasher’s performance.¹ A single tablet in the bottom of your dishwasher during a normal wash cycle cleans your dishwasher while your detergent cleans your dishes.

cleaning dishwasher

No matter what brand or model of dishwasher you have, you can use affresh® dishwasher cleaner. And here’s a bonus: if you have cloudy glasses or dishes from mineral buildup, affresh® will help descale and brighten those, too, all at the same time.

Affresh® dishwasher cleaner is safe for stainless steel dishwashers, septic systems and municipal water supplies. It’s safe for most dishes and pots and pans as well, but check your manufacturer’s directions before using it in a load full of your best dishes.

Tips for Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean

Use affresh® dishwasher cleaner monthly for best results.¹ Set a reminder to make it part of your once-a-month cleaning routine. Try a pack of 6 tablets, so you can keep affresh® under the sink for whenever your dishwasher needs freshening up.

Here are some other tips to help care for your dishwasher:

• If you have a garbage disposal, run it before you run your dishwasher. Both appliances use the same drain, so you want to be sure it’s clear before starting the dishwasher. If you’ve ever seen water and debris come back up into your sink while the dishwasher is running, it’s because you’ve forgotten this step.

• Run the water at your kitchen sink until it gets hot, then start your dishwasher. The detergent and the appliance itself work best if the water is hot from the beginning of the cycle.

• Don’t overfill your dishwasher. The water from the spray arms needs to be able to reach the surfaces of your dishes and inside your glasses.

• Use the correct amount of detergent. Too much will cause over-foaming and may force newer appliances into multiple rinse cycles. It will also lead to more soap scum buildup. Too little will affect how clean the dishes become.

• Rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher, but don’t pre-wash. Believe it or not, your dishwasher detergent needs some bits of food on the dishes in order to work properly! Surfactants in the detergent bond with dirt and grease and without any, it can over-foam and lead to the issues above.

• Remove paper labels from any jars or containers that you wash before putting them in the dishwasher.

• Keep the dishwasher door ajar after you empty it to circulate airflow and allow it to fully dry.

• Make it a habit to inspect the filter at the bottom of your dishwasher after you empty a load. Consider rinsing the filter as a weekly maintenance chore and deep cleaning with affresh® monthly or after about 30 wash cycles.

• If you notice standing water in your dishwasher after a wash cycle, then it cannot drain properly because it is clogged with debris and residue. It’s time to clean your dishwasher. Remove the bottom rack, remove any debris around the filter and drain and use two affresh® tablets, one in the detergent dispenser and one on the bottom of the machine. Run the dishwasher on a normal cycle, without any dishes.

Keep your dishwasher consistently clean by using affresh® regularly. It’s #1 recommended by Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag and Amana brands.³ It will help you keep your machine looking — and smelling — new.

¹ Heavily soiled machines may require extra cleaning cycles.
² Check manufacturer’s suggested cleaning instructions on all dishwasher-safe items.
³ affresh® brand products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.