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How to Clean a Dishwasher - Get Rid of the Science Project Festering in the Bottom and the Smelly Dishes

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How to Clean a Dishwasher – Get Rid of the Science Project Festering in the Bottom and the Smelly Dishes

For years I had been using the “quick wash” cycle on my dishwasher as most of our dishes were pre-rinsed right away under the tap and since I had a houseful of people at any one time living there, the dishwasher was always running.  The instruction manual actually suggests using this cycle if the dishes are not baked on or crusty as an “energy saving” option.

Also opening the dishwasher to let the dishes air dry was another great energy saving option that was suggested, which dried the dishes quickly but I noticed the bottom of the appliance was still damp.

On the quick wash cycle, the dishes were coming out very clean and we only had to fill one side of the cup of detergent.  But fast forward a year, and my son is complaining that the mugs had a “pond” smell, or that the dishes smell fishy.

Clean a Dishwasher

So, it was time to stick my head in there and find out what was wrong.  After much research I discovered that there is less water used in a quick cycle and the drain was simply not being flushed as well as it should be.  Plus I really had not given this overly used dependable machine much of a second thought.

I mean, you clean the stove if you spill food, and you wipe out the fridge to keep it clean, but I had to admit, I did not pay much attention to that poor old dishwasher.

No matter what cycle you use, you may find that over time, it just doesn’t have a nice smell, and it is time to give it some attention.

Start with an Inspection

Before you start calling repair people thinking it is a broken machine, do some inspecting yourself.  It doesn’t take much and sometimes a good clean out is all it needs.

So before you start another load of dishes, pull out the bottom rack and get a flashlight and have a really good look.

Some models have filters in the bottom that chop up food scraps.  Find your owner’s manual and figure out how to clean this out, as it may be full of rotting food debris, gross I know!

My appliance doesn’t have this option but it does have a plastic grid to trap large particles.  Many times bits and pieces will be stuck to this, and if there are enough blockages, water may be sitting in the bottom of your machine as it cannot escape in the allowed time on the cycle which can also fester.

how to clean a dishwasher
ArmorAll AA255 Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum, 2.5 gallon, 2 HP
Amazon Price: $49.99 $33.49 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 18, 2016)

Wet/Dry Vacuum

This is where a wet dry vacuum cleaner can really come in handy.  I was not thrilled with the idea of sticking my hand in any guck, so I got this out and then sucked up any food debris, even the wet stuff.  Just make sure it is a vacuum designed for wet as well as dry.

how to clean a dishwasher
OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set
Amazon Price: $7.99 $4.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 18, 2016)

Small Cleaning Brushes

Sometimes you need to give the grating in your machine a bit of a scrub to get dried on food debris off.  You can do this while you are vacuuming the bottom out.  Don’t scrub to hard, but these dried bits can add to smelly dishes as they decay.  Check on the sides of the machine and the door for dried on debris.  These smaller cleaning brushes are handing for tight spots.

how to clean a dishwasher
Heinz Cleaning Vinegar, 1 gal
Amazon Price: $20.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 18, 2016)

White Vinegar - Help Dissolve the Science Project in the Bottom

This is a standby cleaner for most things in the house, and is a perfect food grade cleaner.   This will disinfect your machine and clean out the drains.

It is always handy to have a jug of this around the house as it is also perfect for getting rid of hard water in coffee pots and kettles.  So, try adding a cup of vinegar after you have removed any obvious food scraps or crusty unknown things that have been living there for a long time, festering.

Run the dishwasher on a FULL HOT cycle for maximum benefit, and that should be enough to get rid of smelly dishes.

how to clean a dishwasher
Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover
Amazon Price: $22.22 $5.77 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 18, 2016)

Rust Remover

If you have a lot of iron in your water, and you just can’t swing a water treatment system, then you will find sometimes the inside of the machine will have a brownish or reddish tone.  This can leave dishes clean but with an added iron smell.

We had that until we were able to put in a water treatment system that truly does save the appliances, but still had to get rid of this rust look.  We didn’t want to replace the machine, but it didn’t look all white and sparkly, so I used a rust remover that was safe to run through the dishwasher. 

I ran the machine on FULL HOT cycle and was amazed how white and sparkly it became.  So my dishwasher was back in business.

How to clean a dishwasher
Affresh W10282479 Dishwasher Cleaner, 6 Tablets
Amazon Price: $6.99 $4.77 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 18, 2016)

Natural Once a Month Cleaner

Once a month you could run some vinegar through your machine without dishes inside, but if you prefer something more convenient, you can get this citric tabs that you simply throw in the machine to stay on top of build up.

Running a Full Hot Cycle

Once a month you could run some vinegar through your machine without dishes inside, but if you prefer something more convenient, you can get this citric tabs that you simply throw in the machine to stay on top of build up.

Read Your Dishwasher Manual - Boring I Know!

If you are like me, the manual ends up neatly with other manuals in a bag on a shelf.  Take it out and see if there is a “regular cleaning” or “regular maintenance” section and see if there are processes you are meant to be following to keep your machine happy and smelling great. 

You don’t want your first sign of trouble to be when the dishwasher leaves dishes smelling bad.  So try these steps.  I know they worked for me.

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Comments

Feb 20, 2016 1:26am
alenaedwin
Thanks for the nice information. It can works
Mar 2, 2016 8:42am
Sookie
your welcome, I know it helped my dishwasher!
Feb 23, 2016 6:44pm
benedictross
Great tips! Thanks!
Mar 2, 2016 8:42am
Sookie
your welcome, thanks for reading :)
Mar 1, 2016 10:54pm
Flowers2Korea
This comment has been deleted.
Mar 2, 2016 8:42am
Sookie
spam not allowed
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