How to care for and clean your dishwasher
A dishwasher should last more than a decade with reasonable use, but what can you do to help it reach this age?
Looking after your dishwasher will maximise its life and performance.
All that grease that’s left in your sink and food caught in the plug trap after handwashing dishes is also what goes through your dishwasher during a wash. It’s no surprise that a build-up of gunk is enemy number one to a dishwasher. This can clog filters and spray arms, strain pumps and reduce the effectiveness of sensors.
To keep your dishwasher running efficiently for as long as possible, make cleaning a priority:
- Keep your rinse aid dispense topped up to keep your glasses streak-free, especially if you use a powder that doesn’t contain rinse aid.
- Every month, check the door seal, particularly at the bottom, and clear out any grunge. Then run your dishwasher empty on its hottest cycle with dishwasher cleaner or vinegar. After the cycle, remove and clean the drain filter with a brush and hot soapy water.
- Every few months, check the spray arms as their holes can get clogged. Review your manual to see if you can remove and clean them (we suggest using a toothpick).
- If you get an error code on the control panel, check your manual or turn to Google. In many cases, these aren’t terminal — they just indicate the filter is clogged (so water can’t drain) or a sensor is dirty. Before calling for a repair, thoroughly clean the machine and see if that resolves things.
- Read the manual to find any other advice that the manufacturer suggests to keep your dishwasher in tip-top shape.
Dishwasher cleaner or vinegar?
There are plenty of products for cleaning your dishwasher available at the supermarket, but do you really need one or is there already a great cleaner in your pantry? Plain old white vinegar does a great job of cleaning dishwashers. Vinegar can remove foul smells and built-up grease in your pipes. It’s also cheap and readily available. That said, some manufacturers warn against using vinegar in their dishwashers (its acidity can potentially cause damage over time). Check your dishwasher manual first.
Cleaning with vinegar Pour two cups of vinegar into a bowl placed on the bottom rack of an otherwise empty dishwasher. Run it on the normal/default cycle, pausing halfway through for half an hour or so to let the inside get a good soaking. If the dishwasher still smells, throw in a generous handful of baking soda and run it again. That should give stubborn smells their marching orders. Putting the vinegar into a bowl, and not straight into the dishwasher, is important. Most dishwashers run their drain pump at the start of the cycle – which clears residual waste water left over from the previous run – but this would pump your vinegar straight down the drain. Using a bowl keeps your vinegar where it's needed.
Repair or replace?
Broken racks, seals and inlet valves can be swapped out – manufacturers keep spare parts for years. Electronic controls on older models are harder to fix, especially if there’s water damage, but at least get a quote.
While you might be able to repair a machine older than 10 years, keep in mind that newer models are quieter and more efficient.
Stay in the know
Keep up-to-date with Consumer's latest news, investigations and product and service reviews, plus join the Consumer panel with invitations to take part in surveys.
Thanks, you're now signed up. It's great to have you!
Fuel our fight for your rights
We’re working hard to keep big businesses and lawmakers in check on one-sided retirement village contracts, greenwashing claims, misleading supermarket prices and more. With your support, there’s power in numbers. Help us raise $50,000 in four weeks to stand up for your consumer rights.