How to clean the inside of a dishwasher

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Q: What should I do to clean and maintain my dishwasher?

A: Cooking and eating at home can be a joy, except for the last step: cleaning up the mess. This is where a dishwasher can be a godsend. But sometimes the dishwasher itself needs a little cleaning – by you.

From a functional standpoint, the most critical place to clean is the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher. For years, major US brands have featured non-removable filters, which they advertise as self-cleaning. The holes or grate openings on the filters were quite large, letting most food debris through, as dishwashers also had grinders (think tiny trash cans) to break down bits of food into small particles that don’t clog the pump or drain line. European models, on the other hand, usually had filters that had to be cleaned manually.

Some consumers saw this as a downside, but many bought the machines anyway, as they were quieter. One key reason: they didn’t have grinders. As noise ratings have become a major selling point, the market has changed. Although some dishwashers sold in the United States still have non-removable filters, most now have manually cleaned filters, or at least filters with a part that must be manually cleaned.

“Energy and water standards, as well as overall system performance, have contributed to the change in filter design,” said Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. .

If you have a model with a non-removable filter, get into the habit of regularly checking the screen or cover at the bottom, under the swirling spray arm. Although the holes allow food through, the filter is designed to catch larger, harder debris, such as toothpicks or olive pits. Cleaning is easy: just remove the parts by hand. Some Frigidaire models with self-cleaning filters don’t have holes where hard bits collect; instead, under the spray arm is a so-called glass trap that filters out broken glass as well as pits and other debris. To remove and clean this part, turn its handle 90 degrees counterclockwise while pressing down on the center of the spray arm.

If your dishwasher has a removable filter, check the manual (or find it online, usually via the manufacturer’s website), as the specifics vary. There’s usually a circular piece at the bottom of the tub that’s easy to grab with one hand and turn counterclockwise when you want to inspect and clean the fine-mesh strainer underneath. The counterclockwise function is not uniform, however: some rotate clockwise.

The circular piece often fits into a flat piece of wire mesh with coarser holes that lifts up for cleaning. Clean each part by rinsing it in the opposite direction of the water flow when the dishwasher is running. An old toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush, or a sponge, can help loosen the debris. Soaking a coin in soapy water can also help. If there is mineral buildup, soak it in vinegar. Once you’ve removed the wire mesh, clean the area underneath to remove any pieces that got stuck there. Some Samsung dishwashers also have a door under the wire mesh that opens to allow cleaning of debris.

In addition to cleaning everything at the bottom of the tub, you may also need to clean a part called the air space which is next to the sink, higher than the dishwasher. The air space has a removable cover, and underneath is a part that connects to both the dishwasher drain line and a drain line that connects to the sink, with a small air gap. air separating the two. The gap prevents drain water from flowing back into the dishwasher, which would smell and could be hazardous to your health. (Some installations don’t include this and instead rely on a high loop in the dishwasher drain line to prevent contaminated water from flowing back into the dishwasher.)

When there is an air gap, food particles can accumulate and block the gap, preventing the dishwasher from draining properly. To clean it, remove the cover and use tweezers or a narrow brush to remove debris from the plastic part underneath. Or try a plumber stuff: After removing the cover, place a cardboard tube of a paper towel roll on the plastic mechanism and blow through the tube with as much force as possible. Using a wet/dry vacuum on the plastic is a third option for cleaning the tube.

Aside from the filters, a dishwasher typically cleans the interior on its own, like you do the dishes. But it is possible for the spray arm nozzles to become clogged with mineral deposits or even food. Clean them by removing each arm (most dishwashers have upper and lower arms) and using a thin wire, pickaxe or strong needle to clean out the holes while running water through the central arm opening. You may also need to periodically wipe the gasket with a damp cloth. Some manufacturers recommend periodically running a cleaning cycle without dishes but with citric acid, vinegar, or dishwasher cleaner to break up mineral deposits and remove film or hard water spots.

However, no dishwasher can clean its exterior. It’s up to you. You can never go wrong by simply wiping off food spills with a soft, slightly damp cloth, then wiping the surface dry with a second soft cloth. Use a little hand dish soap diluted in water if you need something stronger, but rinse all the soap off the surface with plain water. Beyond that, it’s important to know what type of finish is on the door. Some dishwashers are painted — a category that GE manuals say includes black stainless steel and fingerprint-resistant stainless steel. On these, never use stainless steel cleaner.

You can, however, use a stainless steel cleaner on a plain, uncoated stainless steel door. You can also use baking soda and water. And if there’s tarnish or rust, you can use a non-abrasive cleaner that contains oxalic acid, like Bar Keepers Friend’s Gentle Cleaner. Rub in the direction of the grain lines of the metal. Never clean stainless steel with bleach; bleach destroys the layer of chromium oxide that forms on stainless steel and makes it rust resistant.

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