9 Dishwasher Maintenance and Cleaning Tips

Mr. Appliance service specialist inspecting a dishwasher.

Dishwasher maintenance and cleaning don't have to be intense chores. Perform monthly maintenance by cleaning your filter, wiping down door seals, cleaning the spray arms, and tackling rust issues. Every few months, deep clean the dishwasher by running a hot cycle with an open container of white vinegar on the top rack.

Staying on top of dishwasher maintenance is essential if you want one of your most frequently used kitchen appliances to continue working. You count on it to keep your favorite coffee mug stain-free and your pans sparkling, so don't let it fall into disrepair. There is nothing worse than a dishwasher that’s not getting the job done.

Considering you probably haven’t taken the time to perform some thorough dishwasher maintenance. It’s time to give back to your dishwasher with the following maintenance and cleaning tips from our appliance experts. Your dishwasher will love the attention and pay you back by giving you more years of faithful service and save you money too!

1. Clean the Filter

Your dishwasher's filter catches loose bits of food and debris, preventing them from going down your drain. Locate and remove the dishwasher filter from the bottom of the dishwasher — many unlock from their spot by turning them. Once removed, rinse loose debris from the filter and scrub it with soap and hot water. Cleaning the filter is also a potential fix for a dishwasher that’s giving off unpleasant odors.

2. Clean the door seals

As your dishwasher ages, the rubber seal or door gasket may weaken, allowing water to leak. Inspect the condition of the gasket often and replace it if necessary. There should be no tears or cuts. Help ensure the gaskets seal the door securely by wiping them down with a damp cloth, keeping them clean.

3. Clean the Spray Arm

Your dishwasher spray arm is the propeller or fan-looking object at the bottom of your dishwasher — you likely also have a second at the top of your appliance. These are what spray down your dishes and other wares within your dishwasher. Wipe the spray arms down with warm, soapy water. Use a toothpick or Q-Tip to help clean the spray holes, allowing for better water flow.

A removed dishwasher filter and bottom spray arm.

4. Scrape Off Excess Food

Putting super-dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher can be tempting; scraping away food particles first can help with dishwasher maintenance. Too much solid food and greasy residue can clog the appliance’s drain, spray arm, and other components. Even worse, pieces of food can continue to recirculate and stick to dishes. Make it a habit to scrape each dish before loading your dishwasher to avoid overburdening your appliance.

5. Deep Clean the Interior

You should deep clean your dishwasher every few months. A straightforward method is to place a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe, open-top container on the top rack of the dishwasher. Then, set it to run through a hot water cycle. The vinegar effectively washes away greasy residue and musty odors.

6. Run Cycles Regularly

You should run your dishwasher at least once a week to prevent deterioration. Failing to run your dishwasher regularly can cause seals to dry out and mechanical components to seize. So don't feel guilty about running your dishwasher, even if it's only a short weekly wash; it's essential to help keep your appliance operating. Plus, a dishwasher uses less water than handwashing the same load of dishes.

Two kids loading dishes into a dishwasher properly.

7. Tackle Rust Issues

Over time, the rack in your dishwasher may show signs of wear and tear. Chips and cracks are unsightly and can also cause rust and harbor bacteria. Purchase special dishwasher rack paint online or at your local home improvement store to reseal the worn-out areas of the rack. If you notice rust, it's critical to tackle the issue immediately before it spreads.

8. Clean the Exterior

Don't just focus on the interior of your dishwasher; keeping the exterior in good condition is just as important. We recommend using a mixture of white vinegar and water or simple dish soap and warm water, along with a soft cloth, to wipe it down. Appliance stores also sell specific stainless steel cleaners for a greater shine.

9. Schedule Your Cleaning

Most people don't get excited about cleaning, and dishwasher maintenance isn't usually at the top of your weekly priority list. So, set a reminder to schedule a monthly cleaning to ensure your dishwasher stays in top shape and lasts many years to come. Essential maintenance tasks, such as cleaning the filter, spray arms, and door seals, should be completed monthly.

How To Know If It’s Time for Dishwasher Maintenance

Scheduling regular maintenance for your dishwasher is the best way to keep it running efficiently. Taking a proactive approach can help prevent unwelcome surprises, such as a flooded kitchen, from occurring in your home. Following these maintenance and cleaning tips from our experts should keep your dishwasher operating efficiently for many years — a well-maintained dishwasher should last for well over a decade.

Here are a few reasons your dishwasher may need regular maintenance:

  • Decreased effectiveness: If the dishes don't look 100% clean after a cycle or you see detergent residue, your dishwasher probably needs cleaning and other care.
  • Unpleasant odors: With all your dishwasher's hard work, it can get stinky occasionally. But spoiled food odor and mustiness are not a good sign.
  • Wear and tear: Visible damage and rust on dish racks, utensil baskets, or the door gasket indicate that regular use without maintenance is taking a toll.
  • Leaks: If water leaks outside the dishwasher, you likely need to replace the gasket or get professional dishwasher maintenance and repair.
  • Drain problems: Does water pool inside the dishwasher instead of draining? It may be a pump or plumbing issue.

If your dishwasher begins to leak or make unusual noises while running, it’s time to call a service professional. Other than essential maintenance, dishwasher repairs should only be performed by an experienced appliance service professional. Depending on the age of your dishwasher and the type of repair needed, it’s often more cost-effective to have it fixed rather than replaced.

 An appliance service professional working on the top rack of a dishwasher.

Dishwasher Maintenance FAQ

Regular dishwasher maintenance and cleaning shouldn't feel intimidating, but you may have questions about the process. Here are a few of the most common dishwasher maintenance questions and answers.

What Maintenance Should I Do on My Dishwasher?

Perform regular maintenance to keep your dishwasher performing optimally, including cleaning out the filter, inspecting the quality of the door seals, cleaning the spray arms, and deep cleaning the appliance monthly.

Does a Dishwasher Need To Be Serviced?

Professional servicing is generally only required if the appliance isn't operating as expected. Signs your dishwasher may need to be serviced include water leakage, failed components, or the wash stopping mid-cycle.

What Is the Best Way To Clean a Dishwasher?

The best way to clean a dishwasher is to start with the filter. Remove the filter from your dishwasher, clean out any trapped food, and rinse it in soapy water. Wipe down the door seals and spray the arms with a damp cloth.

How Often Should You Deep Clean Your Dishwasher?

You should deep clean your dishwasher every three months; this process will help promote optimal operation. Deep clean your dishwasher by placing an open, dishwasher-safe container filled with white vinegar on the top rack and running a hot cleaning cycle.

Keep Your Dishwasher Maintenance or Repair with Mr. Appliance

When your dishwasher shuts down unexpectedly, it’s time to schedule professional dishwasher repair with your local Mr. Appliance professional. Our Mr. Appliance teams across the country know exactly how to solve various dishwasher problems — from leaks to bothersome noises. We can also perform regular dishwasher maintenance to save you time and hassle and help extend the life of your appliance.

Whether your dishwasher is running inefficiently or not at all, your local Mr. Appliance team has the experience to find a quick solution. All work is backed by the Neighborly Done Right™️ promise, so you can relax knowing the job will get done right.

Contact your local Mr. Appliance team or schedule an appointment online today.