Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are an important part of a kitchen as it saves hours of hunching over a sink full of soapy, gunky water scrubbing plates, cups and the piles of silverware.  They also sanitize the dishes, which is especially useful.  But dishwashers, like most appliances, need to be cleaned so they run more efficiently and don’t start to smell like rotten food or mildew.  Appliances which use water are susceptible to mineral build-up from the hard Phoenix water. But, how should that cleaning be done?  And with what?  All that is needed are two items that are most likely already in the pantry:  white vinegar and baking soda.

The kings of clean--vinegar and baking soda!

The kings of clean--vinegar and baking soda!

  • First, remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  This isn’t a hard job, but one that needs to be done on the dishwasher’s level.  If it is difficult to kneel for a short period of time, see if someone will take care of this for the promise of a dinner out.  (Score as the dishwasher won’t be needed to wash those dishes!)  Inspect the drain spout.  Remove any extra food debris that could be sticking to it or any small items that might have fallen down to the bottom of the washer.  
  •  If there are any other large debris items in the dishwasher, remove that as well.Silverware, toddler sippy cup lids and other skinny items are notorious for falling through the cracks of the racks.  Removing this debris from the bottom will make the dishwasher run more efficiently and prevent damage to the dishwasher.  It will also avoid standing water in the bottom of the dishwasher. There are simple baskets designed especially made to hold those smaller items safe for reasonable prices.  
  • Put the bottom rack back and reach for the household cleaner that everyone should stock in their house:  white vinegar.  
  • Place a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher safe container and run the dishwasher through a hot water cycle.  Reminder to skip the drying cycle here and save some energy as it is not needed for the third step.
  • Take ordinary baking soda and sprinkle a cup down on the bottom of the dishwasher.  It does not need to be exact here and if some is sprinkled on the rack it’s not a big deal and it will not ruin the dishwasher.  Run through a short cycle this time, once again omitting the drying feature.  The dishwasher will be crisp and fresh-smelling after these simple steps.
  • Use hot water and a sponge or microfiber towel to wipe down the outside of the dishwasher and any other spots that may be there.  Microfiber towels and a gentle dish soap (the same one used to wash large items that do not fit in the dishwasher or are not dishwasher safe) is the safest to use on the exterior to avoid scratches.  And help prevent the food buildup by rinsing dishes before placing them in the rack.  

These four steps,  performed on a monthly basis, will keep a dishwasher fresh. Each month when this is done, check underneath the kitchen sink and make sure no leaks have started where the dishwasher connects to the water line and the garbage disposal or drain line. Plumbers get a lot of calls for under-the-sink leaks, and, if caught early, can minimalize damage.

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