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How to clean a dishwasher in 5 simple steps

These cleaning tips will leave your dishwasher spotless inside and out

woman loading dishwasher
Chloe Best
Lifestyle Features Editor
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A clean dishwasher is crucial for clean dishes, but it is yet another often overlooked appliance when it comes to our cleaning routines.

However, bits of food, grease and grime can easily clog up inside the machine, which can leave unsightly marks on plates and glasses, create bad odours, and ultimately damage your dishwasher.

A full dishwasher© Photo: iStock

Dishwashers require regular cleaning

Fortunately, keeping your dishwasher spotless doesn't have to be an arduous task; wiping down the inside and removing visible bits of food from the filter after every wash are quick jobs that you can do regularly to help avoid longer-term damage.

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Meanwhile, natural cleaning staples such as white vinegar and baking soda can be just as effective in getting your dishwasher sparkling clean as they are when cleaning your oven, microwave and fridge. Read on for all the expert advice you need to know…

How often should you clean a dishwasher?

If you use your dishwasher daily, you should aim to do a monthly deep clean of the interior with a specialist dishwasher cleaner or one of the natural alternatives below, along with regular maintenance of the filter, door edges and exterior.

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This includes regularly removing bits of food from inside the filter well – either after every load or whenever you notice debris – and wiping down the doors inside and out to get rid of any dirt or drips.

How to clean a dishwasher

1. Remove the filter and racks

Start your dishwasher deep clean by removing all the racks and utensil holders, along with the filter, which you can clean separately.

2. Clean the interior

Wipe down the interior of your dishwasher, taking care to remove any visible food particles and debris, and paying particular attention to the spray arms and bottom of your machine. A toothbrush can be handy to help remove any bits of food that are lodged into your dishwasher.

Dishwasher cleaning filter© Photo: iStock

The dishwasher filter can get clogged up if not cleaned

3. Run a cleaning cycle 

Run a cleaning cycle in your machine; you could opt for a specialist dishwasher cleaner, which will contain chemicals to dissolve and clean away any grease and grime, or opt for a natural alternative, such as white vinegar or baking soda, to leave the interior of your dishwasher spotless.

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4. Clean the dishwasher door

Once this is complete, you can clean the dishwasher door – both inside and out. Simply wipe down with a damp microfiber cloth or sponge, and take particular care if the interior of your dishwasher is stainless steel, as some cleaning products – including bleach-based products – may cause damage.

5. Complete the cleaning process

Replace the clean racks and utensil holders to finish.

How to clean a dishwasher filter

You will find your dishwasher filter at the bottom of your machine, simply pull out the bottom drawer to access it, and check the owner's manual for details on how to remove – some will twist off, while others will require tools to unscrew them.

Once removed, rinse the filter under water and use a soft toothbrush to remove any food remnants stuck on it, before rinsing clean and locking it back into place. Alternatively, you could leave the filter to soak in warm water with a cup of white distilled vinegar for 30 minutes while you give the rest of your dishwasher a deep clean.

How to clean a dishwasher with vinegar

White vinegar spray bottle© Photo: iStock

Vinegar can be incredibly effective at cleaning dishwashers

Once a month, descale your dishwasher by placing a large glass measuring jug filled with white vinegar on the top shelf and running the machine as usual with no detergent. This will mix with the water and leave your dishwasher sparkling clean.

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How to clean a dishwasher with baking soda

Baking soda is another great store-cupboard staple that can help to clean your dishwasher, and it can be even more effective when used alongside vinegar. After running the cleaning cycle with vinegar as above, sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of your dishwasher and run a quick cycle to remove any lingering residues.

How to clean a dishwasher with natural products

Baking powder and lemon juice with toothbrushes for cleaning© iStock
Natural remedies can be effective in cleaning dishwashers

There are lots of other natural cleaning products that can help to get your dishwasher pristine for less than £1, including essential oils, salt and lemon juice.

Lemon juice:

Not only is lemon at effective at freshening up everything from your microwave to your fridge, but it's a great option for cleaning your dishwasher, too. Simply add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to the bottom of your dishwasher before running a cycle to remove stains and add a fresh scent.


Adding dishwasher salt to your machine is an easy way to help soften water and prevent mineral build up on your glasses if you live in a hard water area.

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Borax is another natural cleaner that can help to remove stains and odours from your dishwasher. Add a tablespoon of borax to the bottom of the machine before running a cycle.

Essential oils:

Adding a few drops of essential oil to the bottom of your dishwasher can help to leave a pleasant scent. Popular options include lemon, lavender, and peppermint.

Can you clean a dishwasher with bleach?

Bleach and cleaning products containing bleach are not recommended for cleaning a dishwasher, particularly if your machine has a stainless steel interior. You should also take care never to use bleach with vinegar, as the combination of the two products can create dangerous chlorine gas.

Is it safe to put tin foil in the dishwasher?

You may have seen people raving on TikTok about using tin foil in the dishwasher to get silverware clean and remove tarnishing, however, this could cause damage to the appliance long-term.

Appliance experts at RGB Direct explain: "The hack itself has seen some great successes and has proven to be a great one as the foil will be tarnished through the rinse cycle and come out brown, this means that the tarnish on the silverware will be lifted.

"However, by adding it to your dishwasher it can actually cause more harm than good by scratching the interior particularly if the foil is scrunched up or folded in a way that creates sharp edges. It can also clog the drainage system if the foil rips apart potentially damaging the dishwasher's pump or if the foil comes into contact with the heating element or other electrical components of your dishwasher, it can cause a short circuit or other electrical damage. And with the average cost of repairing a dishwasher being £165 this maybe something you want to avoid!"

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