How to clean your dishwasher

Okay, seriously people, if you have a weak stomach you may not want to read any further.

I have a weak stomach and I don’t really want to write any further. 😉

But just in case there’s anyone else out there that is as completely clueless as I was about dishwasher cleaning, I’ll keep going.


When we bought our house six years ago, the dishwasher was listed as non-working.
Bummer, right?

Except that we decided to try it anyway, and guess what? It worked!
Not exceptionally well, but it did seem to get the dishes clean.

Occasionally there would be a plate or fork that still had food stuck to it, but I’m pretty good about doing a pre-rinse, so that didn’t happen often.

Then a little while ago we started smelling something gross whenever we’d turn our dishwasher on.
Kinda like rotten egg smell.

Sickening, huh?

And I noticed that the dishes weren’t as clean as before.

So I did something I’ve never really done before.
I looked inside of my dishwasher.

Okay, I promise that I’m not a super bad housekeeper.
I mean, if you walked in you wouldn’t think my house was dirty.
Lived in, yes, but dirty? I dont think so.
Or I hope not, anyway.

But for whatever reason, I just never considered cleaning out the inside of my dishwasher.

Am I alone here?

Because I seriously never even thought to look inside of my dishwasher, let alone clean it.

So now that I’ve confessed, it’s time for the gag-a-trocious part.

I pulled out the following parts (and no, I don’t know the technical names for any of this):

the sprayer rotating thing from the bottom
the thing that it sits in
the filter(?) that’s underneath all of that.
the filter-like thing that’s on the top of the door

And let me tell ya, nothing prepared me for all the decayed food, broken glass (yeah), dirt, and SLIME that I found up under there.

If you’ve never cleaned your dishwasher out, I’d recommend putting on some protective gear and gas masks before you attempt it.
I’m serious.

So anyway, here’s a photo so you can see exactly what I did.

Because if you’ve never cleaned this stuff out before and you’ve used your dishwasher for a while, you might want to check it out and make sure it doesn’t become what mine did.

#1 – Follow the instructions on the photo and clean up the toxic waste you discover underneath. My entire filter was completely clogged up. In fact, I didn’t even realize that there were holes in it when I first pulled it out. But that may have been due to the eye-watering and gagging going on.

#2 – Clean out the filter on the door (or whatever that thing is). It wasn’t nearly as bad but there was some buildup.

#3 – Put all the cleaned parts back and use a toothpick to make sure all of the little water spouts in the sprayer-thingy are clear. Oddly enough, mine didn’t seem to be clogged.

#4 – Run through a couple of cycles with vinegar before re-loading dishes into the washer. I considered using bleach, also, but settled for 2 vinegar cycles and then a soap cycle.

The result – smell is gone and my dishes are much cleaner when they come out.

I’ve got to say, though, that seeing all that gunk made me seriously consider whether I should hand-wash everything.

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50 thoughts on “How to clean your dishwasher”

  1. Good for you getting it cleaned out! I see how much builds up in our filter – and one time we got a rubber band (yep – don’t know how that got in with our dishes….) stuck and it cost us $150 to get the man out to take it apart and remove the band for us – stuck too deep to reach!!! so it’s definitely worth taking the time to clean it regularly!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  2. Haha….Bek….You’re SO funny! I need to do that to the one here on Post. I think they take pretty good care of things but I want to make sure that it’s not as bad when I leave if I keep it taken care of! Thanks for the post. You inspire me!!! I LOVE reading your posts!!!

  3. This is good to know! I bought and installed myself [:)] a dishwasher a few years ago. Lately, it’s not cleaning as well as it should. We have hard water here, so I thought it was that. It’s probably the gross stuff, though. Thanks for being brave and posting this!

  4. I use my dishwasher as the drainer for my hand washed dishes cause it doesn’t clean very well… I’m afraid. 😉

  5. I am saving my money to buy a new one instead, lol. Just kidding, ours is really old that’s why we will be getting new one. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I have a wonky dishwasher and this may just be what its problem is…am gonna grab some gloves and clean it tomorrow and we’ll see what happens! May save me from buying a new one in May if it works!!

  7. I have to try this… I didn’t realize all those parts would come out. M washer leaves some weird stuff inside the glasses that i always end up handwashing when they come out of the dishwasher. Thanks for the tip!

  8. THANK YOU!!!! Thank you thank you for posting this!!!

    I keep getting that rotten egg smell and my hubby keeps saying it’s in my head…

    I had no idea we could clean it! I’ve been buying the dishwasher cleaner thing they sell.. and it doesn’t seem to work.

    I’m going to try your tips 🙂

    Check out my blog too:

  9. I think this is what we need to do. What I want to to is buy a new one. But that is NOT going to happen. At least you have prepared me for the worst : ) I will be sure to mask my face well before I do this. Oooh, maybe I will press my husband to do it!! heeheehee! Who am I kidding…I am the handy one around here.

  10. I have never thought to take mine apart and clean it. I have to try it. I am afraid of what I’ll find.
    Thanks for the tip.

  11. Oh no!! Now I’m scared…my dishwasher has been leaking some and I have never cleaned it. Come to think of it, I didn’t know I was supposed to (figures). I may have to invest in a gas mask for this one 🙂

  12. Haha, my hubby always does this job for me (bless him), he always asks when the last time was that I did it and I say “oooh not for a while” and then he does it. He has NO idea that I never do it… so I’m not judging you!

  13. Ok. I did this amd even posted about it. I coudn’t remeber where I found the link to do this, now I do! I would love for you post a comment with a link to your blog so they all know where this idea came from.Wow it was so nasty.

    Thanks for sharing

  14. I never, ever thought of doing this! We’ve had ours for 11 years. I haven’t noticed a smell but the dishes are not getting as clean as they used to. I’ll make my husband do this! Sounds awful! Your picture with drawings made me laugh, though!

  15. Rebekah, I love all your warnings about proceeding into this post. I was excited to see that your dishwasher looks a lot like mine. I’ve got to try this and see if I can resurrect the beast!


  16. so THAT’S the problem! OK, reckon I’d better git er dun! Thanks for this – I had no idea how to even begin.

  17. Thank U so much! I need to do this too.

    I had a problem with that other round thing in the front of my dishwasher the other day (it was gag-o-licious too!). (The little round mushroom looking thing.) If it gets dirty, it will cause the water to over-fill and your dishwasher to leak underneath and you may not find it for a while because it will run back up under your cabinets! 😉

  18. Mine is doing a rotten milk smell and now I’m really scared to look under that filter!! Thanks for sharing, I hope I am brave enough to tackle this today 🙂 My mom also suggested running it with a packet of Lemonade flavor koolAid. Anyone tried this?

  19. Oh, my heavens …. I can attest …. IT IS BAD. Mine was nasty beyond nasty — even had some thing that looked like a stalagtite. Horrible.

    We’re in the process now of the vinegar/bleach kind of thing. (no, not together)

  20. OK, so I did this a few weeks ago. Found broken glass, pieces of paper from a jar I’d forgotten to take the label off of, and various and sundry other things. I cleaned it (the dishwasher, not the paper) really well and put it all back together.

    We’re getting a new dishwasher. Soon. I hope.

  21. We are putting our dishwasher back together, could not believe the junk we found mold included. Thank you! Tina

  22. hi there, my dw looks like yours “down there” but i could not remove those parts! what’s the trick here please? thanks!

    1. Mine just lifted out. It’s possible some models are made with parts that aren’t removeable.

  23. This was my morning search while eating breakfast today. im def going to do this, but I need to wait a few hours first for my breakfast to digest :/ otherwise I will have a whole other mess to clean out of there if you know what I mean :X Thanks for sharing, I never knew. Looking forward to CLEAN dishes without having some weird pepper looking stuff stuck to them after going thru a cycle..

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