How to Clean Your Dishwasher — Plus, 10 Tricks to Make Your Machine Work Better

Yes, your dishwasher is one of the most time-saving appliances in your home, but there are still a few things you can do to make it work even better. The first step is making sure your appliance is in tip-top shape by descaling it — a.k.a. cleaning it — on the regular. Not only will this leave your dishes cleaner, but it’ll also prevent your appliance from becoming a cesspool of bacteria, fungi, black yeast and even mold. Yuck. First, stock up on the following items and then get to work. (This is painless, we promise.)

What You’ll Need:

• vinegar ($4,
• wire ($4,
• Cascade Complete ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent ($13,
• toothbrush ($3 for a 3-pack,

Now on to the fun stuff… 1Descale with vinegar every month.   COURTESY OF TAMILEE TIPS

Just like you descale a coffee pot, you need to de-gunk your dishwasher too. Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, recommends placing a large glass measuring cup filled with two cups of vinegar ($4, on the top rack, then running the machine as usual — no detergent, no heat dry. “The vinegar will mix with the water as it circulates,” Forte says, which will deep-clean your appliance.

See more at Tamillee Tips » 2Clean spray arm holes with wire.   COURTESY OF HOME REPAIR TUTOR

While descaling with vinegar could help unclog these tiny openings, stubborn debris requires an extra push. Use a sturdy wire, like what you use to hang picture frames ($4,, to clear them out. Then remove any crud from you appliance left on the bottom. While you’re at it, remove the utensil holder and racks and wipe them clean of any stuck-on food bits.

See more at Home Repair Tutor » 3Use a toothbrush to reach gunk.   COURTESY OF THE KITCHN

Don’t toss that used toothbrush into the garbage — they’re actually one the best cleaning tools for your dishwasher. Use the bristly end to scrub off build-up and navigate crevices in your filter.

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4Run the sink beforehand.   GETTY

Forte recommends turning on your kitchen sink before you start a cycle to help purge the cold water from your line: “This assures hot water is entering the dishwasher and that you’ll get the best clean,” she says. 5Stay organized with labels.   COURTESY OF BRIGHT NEST

End dishwasher confusion forever with these magnetic DIY labels. This way, the whole family will know when the inside is dirty and when it’s clean — and they can start unloading without you having to ask! (In an ideal world, anyway.)

See more at Bright Nest » 6Give grimy bakeware extra detergent.   GETTY IMAGES

Just like you pretreat laundry, you can pretreat dishes with a little gel dishwasher detergent (here are some we recommend). “Give crusty casseroles a little extra squirt of detergent before loading it onto the rack to help improve cleaning,” Forte says. Use the detergent meant for dishwashers, like Cascade Complete Gel Dishwasher Detergent ($7, — not the hand-washing (or you might end up with a sudsy mess). Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

7Organize silverware before you load.   COURTESY OF BURLAP & DENIM

That means putting your spoons in one caddy, your forks in another and so on. It might seem like common sense, but raise your hand if you don’t do this? (Guilty.) Trust us, it’ll make unloading way faster.

See more at Burlap & Denim » 8But don’t organize it too much.   GETTY

No, we’re not totally contradicting our last tip, we’re just adding an important addendum. To prevent forks and spoons from nestling in each other(and not getting clean), flip half of them so they face upwards and half so they face downwards. But keep all your knives facing down for safety. 9Unload the bottom rack first.   GETTY

This will help prevent water that’s sitting in cups or saucers on the top rack from spilling down and getting your dried dishes wet again. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

10Clean more than just dishes.   GETTY

You can use the “heated dry” setting to kill bacteria and mold on your sponges, toss your kid’s plastic toys (like action figures, legos or Barbies) in before a playdate to rid them of germs and so much more.

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