Removing the racks prior to cleaning will allow for easier access to the interior of your dishwasher. It will also give you the opportunity to properly clean them. Scrub the racks with hot soapy water. You may need to use an old toothbrush or scrub brush to scrub the silverware baskets. After washing rinse well and lay flat to air dry while you clean the rest of the dishwasher.
1. Clean the Seal
The seal around the inside of the door is a common place for mold and mildew to grow. Examine the seal for signs of these. If none is present you may use a toothbrush and mild kitchen cleanser. If you detect the presence of mold or mildew you need to use a mixture of ½ cup bleach or white vinegar diluted with a few cups of hot water. Scrub the cracks of the seal with a toothbrush and wipe with a towel.
2. Clean the Edges and Bottom of the Door
Follow directions for cleaning the edges and bottom of the door as you did for the seal. Be careful not to spill your bleach solution on the carpet or other sensitive surfaces.
3. Clean the Spinning Arms
The spinning arms are the propeller shaped arms that spray the water into the dishwasher. They are covered with holes which can become clogged with food and other debris. Take a toothpick or large needle and pick out any debris in the holes with care.
Make sure you do not use a sharp knife because of the risk of damaging the arms or causing harm to yourself by slipping. Lemon seeds are one of the most common culprits when it comes to clogging the holes of the spinning arms.
4. Clean the Drain
The drain at the bottom of the dishwasher often traps food and other debris in it. Pick out all visible trapped particles. Then wipe the area all around the drain.
If you can see that there is more debris that has passed through the drain cover down inside the drain you can remove the drain cover carefully to clean. You may wish to call a professional to do this if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.
5. Run a Wash Cycle
The next step is to run a wash cycle with some kind of deodorizer. Replace the racks. Place a bowl of vinegar in the top rack of the empty dishwasher and run the dishwasher for a full cycle on the highest heat setting available. You can also use a packet of unsweetened lemonade mix (make sure it is sugar-free) and empty it into the detergent dispenser. Then run the empty dishwasher like normal.
Another alternative is sugar-free tang used in the same manner as the lemonade mix. The acetic acid in the vinegar and the citric acid in the drink mix help by loosening residue that has built up on the interior walls.
Never use a liquid dish soap to clean the inside or any other soap that makes suds because if you do, your dishwasher will foam over when it is ran.
Another choice is to run a wash cycle with baking soda. Sprinkle a cup of soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it on the hottest setting. If you have mold or mildew on the inside walls you may want to run it with a cup of bleach.
Bleach is great at killing mold and also eliminating odors. However it is not as safe as using vinegar, drink mix or baking soda. It should never be mixed with other cleaning products. It will produce a dangerous gas when it comes in contact with certain cleaning ingredients.
Bleach also is not recommended for use on aluminum. If after several cycles have been run and you still have dirt or film inside your dishwasher you may want to try one of the many dishwasher cleaning products available for purchase. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label.
6. Clean the Exterior
The exterior of your dishwasher can be cleaned using a cloth or paper towels and a mild cleanser. Spray the door with cleanser and make sure you wipe down all knobs, buttons and the handle in addition to the exterior wall of the dishwasher.
Try some of the following tips to keep your dishwasher running smoother and smelling cleaner. Remove food from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Rinse dishes and silverware in the sink. You do not have to be excessive about this but make sure to clean off all large pieces of food.
Do not overload or cram dishes. Leave enough space in between to allow the water to circulate freely. To prevent odor, leave your dishwasher open long enough to dry completely between each use. You can also use a cloth or potholder to prop the door open just enough to prevent mildew and odor from forming.
Photo by Dan4th Nicholas, Creative Commons Attribution License