How to clean your dishwasher

Have you noticed gunk or residue on your cups and plates after cleaning? Is your dishwasher failing to remove the scraps from in-between the tines of your forks?

Dishwashers are an awesome appliance, that have been shown time and again to be more energy and water efficient than hand washing. Newer models are sleek and quiet, and can cut your energy and water bills over time by reducing your hot water use.

Even so, you can’t expect the thing to just get on with the job forever. Even these most trusty of appliances need a little maintenance from time to time to ensure they keep cleaning your dishes as well as they should.

We’ve written this article to show you how you can remove the spray arms from your dishwasher so that you can unclog them, as well as how to clean the inside of your washing machine so that dirty dishes remain a distant memory.

First up, we’ll give you a list of supplies you might need to get the job done:
• Putty knife or butter knife
• Fine steel wool
• Ratchet – with a ¼ inch socket
• A wire coat hanger or similar implement
• Sponge
• Baking soda
• Vinegar or lemon juice
• Toothbrush

With these supplies in hand, you should be able to clean your dishwasher in less than an hour.

Removing the spray arms

The spray arms in your dishwasher are the large rotating blade-like structures which spray water around the inside of the machine to clean your dishes. Over time, the spray arms can become clogged, which really hinders their ability to clean properly.

Areas with hard water are particularly prone to clogs and blockages in dishwashers or other appliances, as are homeowners who use phosphate free dishwashing detergent.

The bottom spray arm can often be removed by rotating it counter-clockwise and lifting it up at the same time. But you will probably need to use a ratch to remove the top and middle spray arms. A ¼ inch socket seems to be a good fit in most cases.

Once removed, you can begin unclogging the holes on the spray arms.

Use a bent coat hanger or similar length of thin wire to carve the debris out of the spray holes. Take your time and be thorough, as this is a very important step.

Soak the spray arms in a home-made cleaning solution

Once you’ve manually unclogged the holes on the spray arms and given them a bit of a wipe down, you can really clean the spray arms by soaking the in a cleaning solution to break down any hidden residue.
If you’ve got a sink or basin big enough, place the spray arms in there. If not, you might need to use a bathtub or large container.
Pour vinegar or lemon juice over the spray arms, ensuring that the liquid goes into the holes. Now you should let them sit for a while so the acidic solution can get to work breaking down any scale or debris.

Cleaning the inside of the dishwasher

It’s a great idea to check your dishwasher once a month or so to see if it needs a clean. Chances are it will, especially if you use it every day. Remember, you should always scrape any scraps or debris off plates and cutlery before placing them in the dishwasher. This reduces the burden on your machine and will help keep the filters clean.

Check the bottom of the dishwasher for any scraps or debris. There should be a mat or filter like thing covering the bottom of the machine. This is called the ‘coarse filter’ and is meant to catch larger items which could become clogged in the drains and tubes leading out of the dishwasher.

Clean the coarse filter as best you can, then remove the cover to the drainage reservoir. You might need to have a feel around in some hard to reach areas in order to find the cover.
Once the cover has been removed, you’ll need to reach into the reservoir and scoop out any food or other items. This can be a dirty job, so wear dishwashing gloves if you have them.

Any debris floating in this reservoir can decompose and be sprayed back onto your dishes when the machine runs, which means they aren’t being cleaned properly and can also cause biofilm build up.

The next step is to remove the ‘fine filter’ from the bottom of your dishwasher. This looks like a disk, and will probably be covered in built-up debris. Clean it thoroughly because anything left on the filter will be sprayed onto your dishes when you run the machine.

Clean the bottom of your dishwasher to remove scale and residue

Underneath the coarse filter, which can be removed, is where the biggest build up usually occurs. If you lift up the filter you might notice a layer of residue covering the bottom of your machine.
The best way to remove this residue is by making a cleaning paste by combining vinegar or lemon juice and baking soda. Go easy on the liquid so that the consistency is right for brushing and scrubbing firmly.

First, spread the cleaning paste over the entire base of the machine and let it sit for about half an hour.
Use a plastic knife or butter knife and some fine steel wool to scrape and scrub the residue off the bottom of your machine. Flush out all the waste with a bucket full of clean water.
If the layer of residue still isn’t completely gone, you may need to repeat the process once or twice until it’s completely gone.

Use a toothbrush to clean the door and seals

Material often builds up in the seals and door of your dishwasher, which also adds to the stuff circulating around during the washing cycle. The best way to get into these nooks and crannies is by using a toothbrush to carefully scrub in and around the rubber seals and the space where the door connects to the dishwasher’s tub.
The detergent cup is often a site of build up, so consider soaking it with some vinegar and then scrubbing it out as well.

You’ve done it!

You’re now ready to replace the spray arms and give the whole thing a flush with some clean water. In less than an hour you’ve turned a gunk-spraying inconvenience into a life-enhancing appliance once again.

Remember to check your dishwasher regularly for any debris or material which might be floating around. Ensuring that dishes are wiped clean before being placed in the dishwasher will also help prevent problems with build ups and clogs.

Phosphate-free dishwashing detergent is a great and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cleaning agents, and we encourage you to use it. Just keep in mind that it might leave residue in the dishwasher which will need to be cleaned out once in a while.

If you need professional help on how to clean your dishwasher, contact us on 0412 738 874 or leave a message.
We will take care of your blocked drain problems. If your problem is an emergency plumbing matter or a burst pipe and you need urgent assistance contact us right away!

Helpful details for a Blocked Drain and Emergency Plumber situation:

Triple zero – 000
City of Melbourne – Floods and Storms
Yarra Valley Water
Victoria State Emergency Service

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