The Green Life

How & Why To Clean The Dishwasher

Clean the dishwasher?!

Yes, yes you should!

And NO. No you don’t clean it every time you run it.  Think about it… do you clean a dish towel every time you use it?  What about a washcloth?

But those things are actually cleaning other things.  Yeah, I hear ya.  And I get it… Kinda, kinda not.  Because isn’t the dishwasher (and the washing machine) actually cleaning other things too? And especially for non-rinsers, where do you think all the food goes that you don’t actually clean off the dishes first?  Hmmmm.

News flash:  soap (or detergent) & water alone do not make ANYthing clean.  As a matter of fact, your soap or detergent could be making things worse.  You may not see dirt, but there could still be build up, bacteria, or other things lurking.  Sometimes you just gotta get in there, use some elbow grease, and “git ‘er done”.

You may be thinking “where in the h*%$ did she get that from?  Clean the dishwasher?!  Who does that? Who cleans machines that clean things?”  Lots of people, including me and so should you.  I’ll tell you why.

About a month or 2 ago, I was washing clothes and noticed that a pair of white shorts came out of the washer dirtier (I thought) than they went in.  I have my days (and my wine) so immediately I thought I must have forgotten to put the detergent in.  So I rewashed the whites with an EXtra scoop of detergent.  Same result.

WTH?!  I’m not that crazy!  I know you are probably thinking “well you use that natural stuff and it’s just not going to clean the same”.  And you would be right – it doesn’t clean the same.  It leaves NOTHING behind – not scents, not chemicals, and not DIRT.  Moving on….

I don’t know why but something made me look into the machine.  I mean really look – I didn’t know what for but something had to be up and sure enough, the agitator was dirty.  I mean I could see the dirt dirty.  So I went about my way spraying and scrubbing and wiping down until that machine sparkled like new.

(BTW, yes I did say agitator.  Yes I am old school and there is something about an agitator that just makes me feel like something is happening inside that machine.  Something has to do the “work” and I’d rather it be my old school top loader than my beautiful brown woman muscles.  Don’t judge.)

Fast forward to today…. recently I’ve noticed my dishwasher being a little “off”.  Again it’s not the detergent – I ran a little “test” (okay really I just slipped off the green wagon, got a little lazy for minute and used a few tabs – shame on me) and there was no difference.  I thought about the washing machine debacle and decided I should clean the dishwasher. Not with those products you can just buy and run through a wash cycle, but actually get in there (not literally physically, but you know what I mean) and clean it.

There were a few things that made me want to try to clean the dishwasher; it was:

  • running longer than normal
  • running louder than normal
  • cleaning but not as well as I expect it to

I don’t know if I can list this s a reason, because I hadn’t noticed it before cleaning but…  For some reason the “walls” and “ceiling” of my dishwasher were slightly blue before this cleaning.  I’m guessing that’s from the commercial (chemical) tabs that I used when I fell off the wagon.  You know they all (or mostly all) have that blue stuff in them that no one seems to know what it is.  Maybe it’s Bluing, maybe it’s dye.  Who the heck knows?!  Who cares, I won’t be using those anymore.

To do a really thorough job I used the following tools:

  • liquid castile soap in a spray bottle – peppermint (because I love the smell), diluted 3:1
  • borax – for scrubbing power
  • a scrub brush (or a towel – microfiber works great but any will work fine)
  • a small bottle brush or toothbrush – for hard to reach places

And finally, the all important technical steps to clean the dishwasher:

  1. Remove the racks (top & bottom if you can)
  2. Remove the spray arms and make sure there’s no food particles caught up in them.  I used a pipe cleaner for that (this would be the perfect job for the kiddos).
  3. Check for gunk in and around the filter and flapper.  It’s great if you can remove them to do this.
  4. Sprinkle a little borax in the bottom and inside the door.  Spray it down with soap (enough to make it pasty), scrub with brush (or towel), and rinse.
  5. Repeat. Multiple times, everywhere – even the rollers for the top rack are dirty.  Ick. For this, my old baby bottle brush finally came in handy – I knew it would someday!
  6. Run the dishwasher through a rinse cycle with plain white vinegar.

And DONE!

Seriously, where do y’all think all the food goes that you don’t clean off the dishes first?  I make folks clean their plates around here so steps 2 & 3 were pretty uneventful.  And I really think that’s the hard part – the rest is just like anything else, except for the super tight squeeze in the dishwasher.  But unless you’re anal like me, you don’t really have to get ALL up in there.  Again, don’t judge.

This is SO worth the effort and seriously maybe a once a year thing – if that.  Plus the whole house smells divine from that peppermint castile soap!  LOVE!

The dishwasher probably wasn’t this clean when I bought it.  My mama would be proud!

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