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How To Clean A Dishwasher Filter Properly: Step-by-step

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Maintaining your dishwasher can be the difference between dishes that come out slightly unsanitary, with stuck-on food and sparkling clean dishes may just be your dishwasher maintenance schedule. And the crazy part is that it only takes a few minutes for you to do.  Do you know the last time you cleaned any part of your dishwasher? 

It is so much easier than you might think to keep your major appliances in top shape. In the matter of 8 simple steps, you can have a completely clean tackle of some of these easy steps! And when it comes to an appliance that most people use regularly it is very important to keep up the maintenance to maintain sanitary dishes. 

What is a Dishwasher Filter and Why Do You Need to Clean It Regularly? 

Your filter, inside of your dishwater’s main purpose is to prevent small pieces of food from recirculating onto the dishes inside of the dishwasher. However, for the filter to successfully stop food pieces from moving around during the cycle, the filter itself must be free of any sort of buildup to perform well.  

Before You Start

Before you start, it Is important to understand that there are two different kinds of dishwasher filter assemblies:

Self-Cleaning Filters

These types of filters rely on having a grinder that is integrated. When a filter is integrated like this, it is similar to what you would see in a garbage disposal and is then washed away in a drain. These types of dishwashers tend to have no filter buildup due to this filter. Which makes way less work for you to keep up with! 

However, Beware, these can be a bit louder than your typical dishwasher. If you are unsure, these types were put into older modeled dishwashers, and you do not commonly see them in modern 

Manual Filters

These types of dishwasher filters require consistent cleaning. The amount of cleaning can be dependent on how much your dishwasher, and how well you pre-rinse your dishes. This is because the amount of times your dishwasher is used and the amount of remaining food going into the dishwasher will impact out much of the filter is trapping.

To determine which type of filter you have, it is best to look through your owner’s manual or look inside of your dishwasher to see if you can see a cylindrical piece that looks removable. A lot of these pieces have arrows that point towards the way it needs to be twisted. Once you have determined it is a manual filter, you can move on to the next steps!

Materials You Will Need

To get started with cleaning your filter, these are the tools you will need:

It is best to gather up all these materials before you get started with the cleaning process. The links above are all Amazon paid links.

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter: Step-by-step guide

1. Locate and Determine Dishwasher Filter Type

The filter of your dishwasher is located on the interior floor of your dishwasher. Begin this process by taking out at least the bottom dishwasher rack. A majority of manual dishwasher filters have round cylinders that lock in place with a twister motion. Most of these will also have arrows that indicate which way the filter needs to be twisted to remove it from the dishwasher. 

Depending on your type of filter, it can have a single-cylinder component, whereas others have a secondary flat filter that is located below the cylinder filter. These normally can just be lifted out, as in most cases they are not locked in place.

2. Remove the Filter From Dishwasher 

Follow the arrow guidelines on the filter, to twist it. Once you have twisted it will unlock (in most cases this will be counterclockwise). Once the filter is unlocked you can gently pull it up removing it from the dishwasher. If you can see the second, flat type of filter go ahead and remove that as well, you should be able to use the center, interior hole to pull this filter out.

3. Prepare the Cleaning Solution for Cleaning Filter 

In your sink or your large bowl, fill it with hot water and while it is filling up, add in the dishwashing liquid. Remember that this liquid must have a degreaser. The better the degreaser, the easier it will be to clean the filter.  

4. Soak Your Brush in the Cleaning Solution 

Now it is time to place your filter(s) into the sink or the large bowl with the cleaning solution and allow for it to soak for a few minutes to loosen up any of the debris in the filter. After you have allowed the filter to soak for a bit in the cleaning solution. 

You can then take a sponge, old toothbrush, or nylon brush and start scrubbing away at any of the debris that is trapped inside of the filter. In some cases, depending on the condition of the filter, you may need to use a combination of the three, in order to completely clean the filter. In other cases, one of the cleaning tools can work.

5. Drain Sink and Rinse the Filter 

Drain your sink or large bowl. Following this, using hot water start to rinse the filter. When you are rinsing the filter, make sure you get a small piece that you may have missed when you were scrubbing it. 

Feel free to repeat steps 3-5 if the filter doesn’t turn out clean after the first round.

6. Take Sponge and Wipe Down Where the Filter is Stored in Dishwasher

Before putting your nice clean filter(s) back into place. Take a sponge or a dishcloth with hot water and some soap to wipe down the opening of where the filter goes. This way you can get any oils or food particles that may have built up since you last cleaned your filter.

7. Place Filter Back in Dishwasher 

Now it is time to place the filter(s) back into place. Reversing the steps that you previously have done. If there was a flat filter that you pulled out, make sure to place this one in first. Then insert the cylinder filer locking it in place by twisting it in the opposite directions you did to take it out.

8. In Addition to Constantly Cleaning Your Dishwasher Filter

Now that you have cleaned the filter, you are almost there cleaning the entire dishwasher. If you wish to completely clean the dishwasher follow these next steps to complete your cleaning job!

Clean your Dishwasher Door 

Start with the outside of the dishwasher and clean off all those fingerprints that get onto the outside of the dishwashers. You can use a combination of water and baking soda to clean this off. Just mixed ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 quart of water. Once you have used the solution to clean the door, finish it off by wiping dry using a soft cloth. 

Use this baking soda and water solution for the outside to avoid using a harsh cleaning solution. This can help you prevent causing any damage to your dishwasher’s finish. 

When cleaning the dishwasher door, don’t forget to open it up so that you can get all sides of the door including the top and both sides. If the hinges on your door are super dirty you can use the toothbrush or nylon brush to scrub them to clean off the grooves. Wipe up the remaining grime and dry off.

Clean The Main Base of The Dishwasher

You have already cleaned off the filter at this point, so the next part you want to clean off before cleaning the entire inside is the drain. Using some paper towels wipe up any of the grime near the drain. If you see any other major grime, it would be a good time to just wipe that up as well.

Run a Cycle with Nothing but Vinegar 

Once all of the debris has been removed, you can move on to cleaning the inside of the dishwasher. There is a couple of different homemade solutions you can use for this:

  • Vinegar: Put some plain white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe cup. Then, place it on the top rack of the dishwasher somewhere in the center. Run using a full cycle. If you have the option to pick your heat type, select the highest heat setting possible. Using this higher heat cycle will disinfect the dishwasher while it is in the process of being cleaned.
  • Lemon: Using lemon juice, mix it together in a soap cup. You can place this on the top rack and run the dishwasher using the same cycle as the vinegar.
  • Baking Soda: Sprinkle about a cup of baking soda onto the bottle of the dishwasher. And then let it run its complete cycle on high. It is also good to run this cycle following both the lemon and the vinegar cycles. If you do it this way, the cycle can be shorter.  

When the cycle is done, all you need to do is wipe the inside of the dishwasher with a paper towel or a soft dry towel.

Eliminate Mineral Buildup 

If your dishwasher tends to have a lot of hard water spots of mineral buildup you help this with a simple cleaning solution. Depending on the type of water in your area, it could be way your dishwasher is more susceptible to this. 

All you have to do to remove a lot of these spots will be using lemon juice. Place a cup of lemon juice on the top track and run on a normal cycle. The acid that is in the lemon juice will work to remove those spots.

Clean the Accessories and Different Parts 

Take out all the different parts of the dishwashers, including the top and bottom racks. You will also want to take out any additional silverware holders that are in the dishwasher. Using a rag or a sponge, wipe, and scrub off any food particulars. If you have room in your sink, you can also place it in there and give it a large rinse to make sure that everything is off of it. 

This will also be the time to scrub the arm, using a toothbrush or the nylon brush you can remove any clogs or any debris that may be on this part. 

If your dishwasher has the rubber well at the bottom, now is the time to take a rag and wipe this down to remove any debris.

How Often to Clean Your Dishwasher?

It might be super surprising, but your dishwasher is one of the dirtiest areas in your home. In particular, the filter tends to be the dirtiest. This is why you need to be cleaning your filter at a minimum to keep it in the best operating condition that you can. It is recommended that you clean your dishwasher filter at least once a month.

Dishwashers Must Be Cleaned Too

Allowing cleaning the entire dishwasher is a lot of work or at least sounds like a lot of work, in the long run, taking the time to keep up the maintenance of the dishwasher can reduce your time cleaning your dishes after it has already been through an entire cycle. It can also save a lot of disappointment when it comes to the cleanliness of your dishes. 

If you do not have the time to be able to clean the entire dishwasher all the time, you should at least add it to your monthly routine to clean the filter of the dishwasher. After a couple of months of cleaning it monthly, you will be able to adjust the amount of time between cleans. And you should start to see an impact on the cleanliness of your dishes.

You can read more about using dishwasher cleaners here, or about eco-friendly dishwasher tablets here next.


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