How to clean a dishwasher – plus how to add dishwasher salt and rinse aid

You can't expect a filthy dishwasher to produce pristine dishes
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  • No doubt your dishwasher has seen a lot of action in the last few days, and is possibly in need of a good clean. Yes, because although some assume this hard-working appliance looks after itself, it will collect food debris and soap residue over time. Did you know, for example, that each month, 1kg of greasy residue passes through a dishwasher. That’s why our guide to how to clean a dishwasher is essential.

    Related: How to clean a kettle with lemon, vinegar and other easy-to-implement methods

    Clean your dishwasher regularly and this will prevent mucky stuff building up and causing problems. Our guide touches on the importance of dishwasher salt and rinse aid, and we’ve thrown in some extra tips on how to keep your washer pristine between MOTs.

    How to clean a dishwasher

    Each area of your dishwasher will need to be cleaned meticulously to ensure that your dishwasher continues to run efficiently and produce your desired cleaning results.

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    How to clean a dishwasher – the kit you’ll need

    • Sheets of old newspaper
    • Hot, soapy water or a vinegar-water solution
    • A pointed implement, such as a skewer, toothpick or tweezers
    • Old toothbrush
    • Multipurpose cleaner
    • Microfibre cloth

    How to clean a dishwasher — preparing your machine

    Preparation, preparation, preparation is the key to a successful dishwasher clean, and the first two steps below will lay the groundwork nicely.

    1. Start by cleaning your dishwasher with a hot wash

    Turn on your dishwasher, remove any dirty dishes or cutlery and run a hot-wash cycle. When it has finished, turn the dishwasher off at the mains and open the door fully. Spread newspaper on the floor in front of it to catch any drips.

    2. Empty the dishwasher

    Take out any baskets and cutlery holders/trays that can be removed, and soak them in hot, soapy water. If they are very greasy, use a solution that’s one part vinegar to five parts water.

    How to clean a dishwasher filter

    • Choose a small pointed tool, such as a toothpick or tweezers, to clear debris from the water holes on the spinning arms, as blocked rotators will affect water circulation.
    • If your machine has a filter, pull it out and clean off any debris.
    • Soak it in soapy water, then rinse it through.

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    How to clean a dishwasher drain

    • Pull out the bottom rack and look at the dishwasher floor, especially the drain, and remove any build-up.
    • Using a toothbrush and a multipurpose cleaner, scrub the drain well, then rinse.
    • Check the sides and hinge areas, including the rubber gasket around the door.
    • Wipe down the door with a cloth and multipurpose cleaner, taking care to clean around the buttons.

    How to clean a dishwasher with vinegar

    If you aren’t putting the machine on immediately, rinse crockery before loading so that food doesn’t dry onto it. Cleaning expert Lynsey Crombie recommends giving the dishwasher a spray with vinegar when it’s empty.

    Alternatively, pour a cup of vinegar into the bottom and run on a normal cycle every so often to clean out any food particles that have built up.

    How to clean a dishwasher — the final step

    Place the clean removable racks back inside the dishwasher and pour a cupful of dishwasher salt into the filter and run it on a rinse cycle to finish the deep clean.

    How to change the dishwasher salt – and why

    dishwasher

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    Are your dishes not coming out as sparkling as you’d expect? The solution could be to add more dishwasher salt to the machine. Dishwasher salt softens the water running your machine and stops limescale – the cause of those pesky marks – from building up.

    Your machine may well have a light that comes on when your salt needs to be topped up, so look out for this.

    Where do I put dishwasher salt?

    Dishwasher salt can be added into the softener compartment. This is usually located next to the drain in the base of your dishwasher (rather than the door). It’s often accessed via a screw cap.

    How much dishwasher salt do I add?

    Some machines come with a special piece of paper that you can use to test the hardness of your water. From the results of that test, your instruction manual will recommend how much salt to add each time.

    If not, simply add the right amount of salt as recommended on the salt packaging. Use a funnel to make the job easier.

    Before your next wash, run a pre-wash to get rid of any salt that may have escaped the softener compartment. Now you’re ready to go!

    How to change the dishwasher rinse aid – and why

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    Image credit: Colin Poole

    While salt shifts limescale, rinse aid basically makes sure no water is left behind on your dishes and glassware. Any leftover water can leave marks, but rinse aid prevents this by stopping water droplets from ‘sticking’ to your crockery.

    Where do I put dishwasher rinse aid?

    You’ll usually find the compartment for rinse aid in the door of the machine, near to where you add your tablets. Slowly pour in the rinse aid until the compartment is full. And that’s it. Your machine will do the rest of the work, controlling how much rinse aid it adds to the wash depending on the cycle.

    Best dishwasher cleaners

    If donning a pair of marigolds isn’t up your street, these brilliant products will do the hard work for you.

    Best dishwasher cleaner for odours and grease
    Fairy-dishwasher-cleaner-How-to-clean-a-dishwasher

    Buy now: Fairy active dishwasher cleaner, £4, Ocado

    Best dishwasher cleaner for scent and shine

    Finish-Lemon-dishwasher-cleaner-How-to-clean-a-dishwasher
    Buy now: Finish dishwasher cleaner, £2, Wilko

    Best antibacterial dishwasher cleaner
    Dr-Beckmann-Service-It-dishwasher-cleaner-How-to-clean-a-dishwasher

    Buy now: Dr Beckmann Service-it Deep Clean, £2.50, Tesco 

    Sure, it takes some elbow grease, but put a little effort in and you’ll be rewarded with a dishwasher that will run efficiently for longer.

    Will you try out one of the dishwasher cleaning tips above in your home?

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