How to clean a dishwasher

Written by clemie nye
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How to clean a dishwasher
White distilled vinegar can be used as an inexpensive cleaning agent for your dishwasher. (dishwashing time image by Wayne Abraham from

Nearly two in five UK households owned a dishwasher in 2008, according to the Office for National Statistics. With about 25 million homes in the United Kingdom, this equates to about 10 million dishwashers cleaning up dishes and pans, saving their owners time and effort. Since the dishwasher cleans dirt, it also needs to be cleaned to unclog its pipes and keep it in good working condition.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Identify the type of cleaning required in your dishwasher. If your dishwasher is not producing sparkling results after each wash cycle, it could be due to many things. Mould and food residue tend to cause the most concern. But if you live in a hard water area, your dishwasher is also likely to have a buildup of mineral deposits such as limescale on its heating element. Limescale acts as an insulator, causing the element to get much hotter than intended. This can lead to the premature breakdown of the appliance. It is estimated that 60 percent of houses in the UK are supplied hard water; which means you should clean your appliance regularly--about once a month--to maintain functionality.

  2. 2

    Clean with distilled vinegar. Pour a cupful of the vinegar at the bottom of your appliance, which should be empty and free of detergents, and run a full wash cycle on high temperature. White distilled vinegar is a natural disinfectant and stain remover that can help to reduce the buildup of grease and limescale in your dishwasher. Its high acidity makes it a favourite household cleaning product because it also efficiently kills mould and bacteria. It is also less harsh than most ammonium-based cleaning agents, which makes it environmentally friendly.

  3. 3

    Purchase a branded dishwasher cleaner to clean your appliance. Many dishwasher manuals provide cleaning instructions where manufacturers recommend certain branded products. For your own peace of mind, you may wish to purchase these products. However, bear in mind the marketing implications behind the recommendations. Although popular brands such as Finish and Fairy are favored by many manufacturers, other names -- even supermarkets' own brands -- can be just as effective in cleaning and unclogging your dishwasher. The secret is to clean on the highest temperature possible.

Tips and warnings

  • Dishwashers do not need to be cleaned more than once a month.
  • Using dishwasher salt as well as rinse-aid, along with your regular detergent, can help keep your dishwasher clean and in good working order.
  • Rinse or wipe clean your dishwasher-safe tableware before loading it into your dishwasher to reduce the risk of clogging pipes.

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