Clean your dishwasher to improve performance, avoid costly repairs

February 10, 2022 by PEMCO Insurance
You wouldn’t think that an appliance you use to clean would need cleaning itself. But that’s the case with your dishwasher. Without routine cleanings, dishwashers can develop residue buildup that leads to odor, poor performance and even expensive repairs.

Before cleaning, check your owners manual for recommendations. Some newer models come with a self-cleaning cycle. For most models, though, a simple, nontoxic monthly ritual will keep your dishwasher running efficiently and your dishes sparkling.

How to clean your dishwasher

Check the spray arms

Remove any lodged food or buildup that may prevent them from spraying properly. If the holes looked plugged, you can use a toothbrush or even a toothpick to gently clean them.

Check the silverware basket

Remove trapped food particles and check for damage to the basket’s mesh.

Wipe the gasket

By cleaning away spills around the door, you help your dishwasher keep a watertight seal.

Wash the filter(s)

You’ll find them located at the bottom of your machine. Follow instructions in your owners manual to remove the filter (it may be one or two pieces, which may snap out or you may need to remove a screw). Rinse the filter thoroughly under hot running water. If you still notice residue, gently clean it with a sponge and liquid soap. This short video from GE shows how on one of its models.

Clean first with vinegar, then with baking soda

With the dishwasher completely empty, place a two-cup measuring pitcher filled with white vinegar in the top rack. Run a normal cycle, but don’t add detergent. Once it’s finished, remove the measuring pitcher and sprinkle one cup of baking soda over the bottom of the empty dishwasher. Run a short hot cycle. The two steps help break down soap residue and remove odors.

Extend your dishwasher’s life

Give your dishwasher more repair-free years with these tips from maintenance pros:

Scrape and lightly rinse dishes

Contrary to dishwasher soap commercials that encourage loading sauce-drenched plates straight into the dishwasher, remove food particles first. While you don’t have to scrub dishes until they’re spotless, wiping away food particles keeps debris out of your filter. You could even prevent expensive repairs if some of those particles escape the filter and clog the pump or drain hose. Your dishwasher will smell fresher between cleanings, too!

Use the detergent recommended by your manufacturer

Your owners manual may recommend a specific brand or style – powder, liquid or packet.

Talk to your appliance professional about a descaling cleaner or rinse aid 

If you live in an area with hard water, you may notice lime scale buildup inside your machine. Left unchecked, it can clog spray arms and filters. Your appliance professional can recommend a product to help.

Replace missing tine tips 

Over time, the plastic tips on your dishwasher rack tines can come off, leaving the exposed metal to corrode. Eventually, rusted metal pieces can flake off and lodge in your dishwasher’s drain. Look for replacement caps or ask your appliance professional about appliance-safe paint to cover the bare metal.

Run the dishwasher at least once a week 

If you rarely cook, you may generate few dirty dishes. Even so, try to run the dishwasher once a week to keep the motor seals in good shape and flush any stagnant water left in hoses. 

Consider home warranty protection

If you’re worried that your appliances will some day leave you on the hook for a big repair bill, consider a home warranty. PEMCO has partnered with Cinch to help homeowners worry less and live more. It takes just minutes to get a quote online, and as a PEMCO member, you’ll get the first month of your Cinch plan free. 

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