General Care & Maintenance for Dishwashers

No one wants to eat from a dirty dish, so ensure your dishwasher is up to par today.

By Tina Jepson


Dishwashers aren’t something many of us think about every day. In fact, they’re one of those appliances that only seem to matter once they’re not working.


And boy, do things get a bit hairy when you don’t have a functional dishwasher!


Truth be told, there are very few appliances that save a homeowner as much time and money as the dishwasher. Thankfully, the dishwashers on the market today can last upwards of 10 years or more, even when pushed to the limit.


Whether your dishwasher is a month young or a decade old, keeping your unit healthy and in tip-top shape is the key to a long life and maximum efficiency. The best part—you don’t need more than a few simple tools and a touch of knowledge to get the job done.


Here’s everything you need to know to handle the general care and maintenance of your dishwasher.


1. Keep Filters and Nozzles Clean

Every dishwasher made within the past 10-15 years includes a filter which acts as a barrier between your dishwasher and the drain. The filter is shaped like a cylinder and is easily removable. Simply twist the top, and it should lift right up.


Run the filter under warm water once every month or so, or whenever you notice food and debris clogging it up.




Dishwasher nozzles also collect build-up over time, especially if you have hard, mineral-rich water. Use a safety pin or wire coat hanger to loosen any deposits.


2. Check Seals

Especially if your dishwasher is on the older-side, you may begin to notice that the seals around the door are loosening or peeling away. You can use a strong adhesive like super glue to secure it, or you can replace the entire seal with a self-sealing tub gasket that can be found at any home improvement store.


3. Take out a Level

Dishwashers that aren’t level are prone to leaks and inefficient washing. To determine if your dishwasher is level, use a level and place it at the bottom of the unit. Then, remedy by adjusting the leveling screws located on the bottom.


4. Sanitize Regularly

It may seem odd, but yes, your dishwasher can get remarkably dirty over time due to mineral, soap, and food build-up and, as a result, your dishes may not be getting as clean as you’d like. The best solution is to sanitize the unit every month or so by filling a bowl with 1-1.5 cups of white distilled vinegar and placing it in the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run it using the hottest, longest cycle.




If caked-on gunk is an issue for you, go ahead and sprinkle some baking soda on the problem areas as well. The combination of baking soda and white vinegar is sure to handle anything that ails your unit.


5. Allow it to Fully Dry

Because it’s a hot, humid environment with a lack of airflow, mold and mildew can easily grow in a dishwasher. That’s why it’s necessary to allow the insides of your dishwasher to fully dry whenever possible.




6. Use the Right Detergents

Detergents come in several different formulas, including liquid, powder, and tablets. Depending on the make, model, and capacity of your unit, you may have to purchase a specific detergent.




Tablets are your best bet if you’re looking for a consistent clean, just take care to keep them away from small children who may mistake them for candy. Powders can clump and age quickly, decreasing their overall effectiveness. And never use dish soap in your dishwasher unless you want a sudsy mess throughout your kitchen!




Some newer models come with a separate compartment for dishwasher rinse aid, which is designed to help your dishes dry better. Be sure to keep this product on hand if you notice your dishes aren’t drying properly.


Dishwashers are well worth their cost because they save you a ton of time and money in the form of smaller water bills. But if you really want to get the biggest bang for your buck, focus on keeping your dishwasher in excellent shape with regular maintenance and care.




Images used with permission, courtesy of Tina Jepson and

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