In 1886, Josephine Cochran decided that there had to be an easier way to wash dishes and she invented a rudimentary dishwasher. As a wealthy woman who entertained often, she wanted a machine that could wash dishes faster than her servants did, without breaking them. Her invention was a simple hand-operated machine that essentially splashed water on dishes, but later, in the 1950s, more sophisticated machines began to catch on.
These days, around nine out of 10 new homes in the U.S. have a dishwasher.
And while other kitchen appliances get a good cleaning as required, I think many of us consider our dishwashers self-cleaning. After all, it uses hot water and strong dishwashing soap, so cleaning the outside should be good enough, right?
But if that’s true, why do glasses sometimes come out looking cloudy and why does it sometimes have a funky smell, especially when the warmer months hit? The reason, according to Melissa Maker, host of the YouTube series “Clean My Space,” is that most dishwashers retain a buildup of tiny food particles in the filter that can keep your dishes and glasses from getting as clean as they should. Plus, she says, “The interior of many dishwashers are made of plastic,and plastic is porous, which means it can absorb dirt, odors, and mildew, and it can give off a funky smell that can be hard to get rid of.”
Which means–you guessed it–you do have to clean it. Here’s how to clean a dishwasher.
Step 1: Remove the junk
Maker says the very first thing to do is to remove the waste filter and filter tray from the bottom of the dishwasher by carefully unscrewing it and washing it in warm soapy water. “Be gentle,” she warns. “These pieces are delicate and you don’t want to have to replace the filter.”
Step 2: Deodorize
“Once any waste has been removed, it’s time to remove the buildup from the machine and rid it of any unwanted odors,” says Maker. She suggests pouring one cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher and running it, empty, on a deep cleaning cycle. Some dishwashers drain any liquid from the bottom of the machine before the cycle begins, so it is wise to set the cycle going and pour the vinegar in the machine a few minutes later, so that it doesn’t just get drained away.
Step 3: Deodorize some more
If you really want to make sure your dishwasher gets some loving, empty a cup of baking powder into the bottom of it and let it sit like that overnight. “Baking soda works wonders for absorbing smells,” says Maker. Then in the morning run an empty cycle and let the baking soda work its magic. She suggests deodorizing every four to six weeks.
Step 3: Clean the seal
The rubber seal of a dishwasher creates an air and water barrier between the machine and the door but it can also collect food particles or develop mildew, which can cause a stink. To keep things sanitary, clean this every few weeks with a clean sponge with a mild dishwashing soap, then get into the creases and the hard to reach areas by scrubbing it with a toothbrush. Wipe again with the sponge and your dishwasher will love you for it later.