How to clean and descale a dishwasher

You might think that dishwasher's shouldn't need cleaning, because they are washing themselves and rinsing away the water. To some extent, that is true, but there are area of the dishwasher that can trap debris and also accumulate greasy build up. If left, they can affect the performance of your dishwasher and even provide a breeding ground for mould and bacteria.

If you have hard water, and much of the UK does you will want to descale your dishwasher, as well as other appliances such as washing machines and small appliances. Failure to do so can result in increased fuel bills at best and machine failure at worst.

Here is a simple guide to cleaning your dishwasher and an approximate calendar. This will need to be tailored to your individual circumstances, depending on aspects such as how often you use your dishwasher and how hard your water is.

Daily tasks

  1. Remove any food debris that has collected in the base of the dishwasher or 'traps' such as the cutlery basket.
  2. Clean the exterior of the dishwasher with a cloth and hot water whenever any food/liquid spills occur, paying particular attention to the base.

Weekly tasks

  1. Remove the filter in the base of the machine. Manually remove any solid food items and clean the filter under a hot running tap. It's likely to have a greasy build up, so use some washing up liquid to help shift it. It's fine to use a brush, but be careful not to damage the filter. You may want to consider using liquid soda crystals which are particularly effective at removing grease.
  2. The door hinges do not get cleaned by the water in the chamber, so need to be cleaned regularly. They are likely to have a greasy residue, so you can use hot water and washing up liquid or white vinegar to remove light build up or liquid soda crystals for heavy/stubborn build up.

Monthly tasks

  1. Remove the spray arms and check for any trapped items of food. Most are easy to remove and most are plastic allowing you to unclip the two halves and remove any blockages. If they don't, use some tweezers.
  2. Use a specialist dishwasher cleaner to provide a thorough clean of the inside and all components. These are available from a number of manufacturers as well as supermarket own brands. Although Soda Crystals are ideal for cleaning the insides of washing machines, they are not suited to cleaning out dishwashers. Some cleaners have added anti-bacterial properties and these will be indicated on the packaging. Some cleaners may also claim to 'descale' your machine, but it's unlikely that a product claiming to clean, disinfect AND descale in one product is likely to do all three tasks effectively. We recommend a two step product that cleans and disinfects with one ingredient and descales with a more acidic second product.

Step 1: Clean debris from the base

Step 2: Clean the filter

Step 3: Remove debris from the filter bowl

Step 4: Remove debris from spray arms

Descaling with traditional products

There are a number of products available to help you clean your dishwasher. They aim to tackle grease & debris, in addition to limescale. These products tend to be of an acidic nature, of the required pH to dissolve limescale.

Some people prefer to clean and descale with traditional acidic products such as white vinegar and citric acid.

This video shows you how. Simply place a bowl on the top and bottom racks with either product and run an empty hot wash.

Video - cleaning a dishwasher