Dishwasher Maintenance Basics for Homeowners in Ohio

A dishwasher is an important appliance to many Cincinnati area homeowners. Just like any other household machine, dishwashers need maintenance care and cleaning regularly to maintain their performance and prevent possible repairs in the future. If you fail to maintain your dishwasher and clean your dishwasher, you could face problems such as hard water deposits, buildup of food debris and odors, leaks around the door of the dishwasher, a clog in the drain or pump, holes and rust, and damage to the stainless-steel exterior.

Routine dishwasher maintenance allows you to protect your dishwasher and its important parts, such as the spinning arms, spray arm, dishwasher door gasket seals, dish racks, pump, and drain. Thomas & Galbraith shares dishwasher maintenance tips so you can service your dishwasher, as well as tips to help you best run your dishwasher whenever you need to clean a load of dishes.

1. Clear Out the Filter

Food debris is tracked into dishwashers on dirty dishes if you don’t rinse them thoroughly before you load the racks. The dishwasher filter works to capture these particles so they do not clog the dishwasher’s drain or water pump, which could cause damage and the need for a repair. Often, older dishwasher models have self-cleaning filters, while newer dishwashers have filters that require you to perform manual cleaning.

You should complete a manual clean-out of your dishwasher filter at least once a month. When you manual clean the filter, food bits are removed before they start to break down and cause the dishwasher to develop foul odors. To clean the dishwasher filter, follow these tips:

  1. Identify where the filter sits in the bottom of the dishwasher. It’s usually underneath the lower rack and spinning arms at the bottom of the unit.
  2. You’ll need to determine the filter type your dishwasher uses, whether it is self-cleaning or not. Check your owner’s manual if available. If you don’t have the dishwasher manual, take a look at the filter – self-cleaning filters are circular with a plastic covering filled with holes, manual cleaning filters are round and resemble the cylinder filters used in water filter pitchers or faucet systems.
  3. Empty dishwasher contents and pull out the lower rack to access the filter.
  4. Take a damp cloth and wipe down the area surrounding the filter to remove any food bits left behind after the last cleaning cycle. Use an old toothbrush if there is tough buildup to remove.
  5. Twist the filter to unlock the unit and pull it out of its housing.
  6. Run the hot water from your kitchen sink faucet and rinse the filter. Use the old toothbrush or a cloth to clean off any soap scum or food deposits trapped within the filter.
  7. When the filter is clean, put it back into its housing and rotate the filter to lock it into place. Reinsert the lower rack into the dishwasher so the appliance is ready for use when needed.

2. Maintain the Gasket and Dishwasher Door Seal

A rubber gasket fits around the door of your dishwasher. The gasket seals the door shut when closed, keeping water and dishwasher soap inside. The seal can be broken due to damage on the gasket or if food debris sticks along the gasket – if the seal isn’t strong, water and detergent could leak out of your machine when you run the dishwasher.

Each month, maintain the dishwasher door seal components:

  1. Inspect the gasket. Check for cracks, tears, and other damage that could prevent a strong seal. If the gasket seals have damage, repair it by replacing the gasket yourself or call your plumber for repairs.
  2. Use a cleaning rag to wipe down the gasket on the door. Add a small amount of soap to clean away food as well as bacteria growing along the door seal.

3. Clean Your Dishwasher Spray Arm and Spinning Arms

The dishwasher’s spinning arms spray and rinse dirty dishes with hot water during a cycle. The small holes on these spinning arms can become clogged by food debris that get loose and float around inside when you run the dishwasher cleaning cycle. If your home has hard water, the spray arm jets can also clog due to mineral deposits and buildup that accumulates over time. When the jets on the spray arm are blocked, the dishwasher is unable to effectively wash and rinse your dishes.

There is typically an upper spray arm that will be underneath the upper rack, as well as a spray arm at the bottom of the dishwasher. Care for the dishwasher’s spinning arms with these maintenance tips:

  1. Each month, take a damp cloth and wipe down each spray arm to remove food, soap scum, and other deposits.
  2. About every six months, remove the spinning arms so you can carefully clean out the spray arm jet holes. Check your appliance manual for instructions that tell you how to take off the spray arm and replace it. A toothpick can be used to clear out buildup of food, soap, or minerals in each hole. Clean out the spray arm holes so your dishwasher is able to properly rinse dishes with hot water during a wash load cycle, providing a better clean.

4. Avoid a Clog to the Drain

The bottom of your dishwasher could accumulate quite a bit of food debris, especially when a dirty cup, bowl, or dish isn’t thoroughly rinsed before you load it onto the rack. These debris tend to gather near the drain as water exiting the dishwasher washes food bits in the direction of the drain. When food falls into the drain and collects, the drain will clog. If the drain is clogged, the dishwasher will drain water slowly and lose some energy efficiency as it operates – plus, your dishes won’t appear as clean.

Each month, clean your dishwasher drain to remove debris buildup and prevent a future clog. Follow these tips to get the job done:

  1. Unplug the dishwasher cord from its outlet to prevent shocks.
  2. Open the door and remove the bottom rack.
  3. Wipe down the bottom of the dishwasher with a cleaning cloth to remove food particles.
  4. Unscrew the cover of the drain and remove it.
  5. Remove all food debris from the drain and the area around it. Be careful not to accidently send debris into the drain as you do so.
  6. Scrub the area with an old toothbrush or cleaning brush to remove caked-on food deposits, soap scum, and mineral buildup.
  7. Replace the drain cover and tighten its screws.
  8. Replace lower racks and plug the appliance back into the wall outlet.

5. Clean Your Dishwasher Appliance

The dishwasher can accumulate a lot of filth as it handles food when you run a routine clean cycle. If your home has hard water, mineral scale buildup also occurs inside the dishwasher, and these deposits could cause your clean dishes to look less sparkly after a wash cycle. Regularly clean your dishwasher to remove deposits of food and mineral or soap buildup inside the appliance. You should also clean the dishwasher’s exterior to protect stainless steel finishes.

Once a month, clean your dishwasher as you follow these tips:

  1. Add one cup of white vinegar to a dishwasher-safe bowl.
  2. Set the bowl of vinegar in the lower rack of the dishwasher.
  3. Run the dishwasher using a short cycle on hot water. As you run your dishwasher, the vinegar cleans the appliance by breaking down soap and mineral deposits and buildup.
  4. Use a dishwasher-safe rust remover to treat any rust spots you find inside the dishwasher or on its exterior.
  5. Use a clean cloth to wipe down the door of the dishwasher. Add a bit of dish soap from your sink or another mild cleaning detergent to the cloth or use baking soda to clean the surfaces of your dishwasher.

Additional Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

On top of the regular maintenance processes described above, you can also maintain your dishwasher as you use it – when you use it properly. These tips explain best practices for dishwasher use to prevent repair problems down the road.

  • Regularly run your dishwasher. You need to regularly run your dishwasher to keep its motor seals in good shape. Run the dishwasher at least once per week, even if you do not have a full load of dishes to wash.
  • Choose your cycle wisely. Most dishwashers have several cycle options, which vary the cycle length, intensity, water use, and other factors. Carefully choose your cycle based on what you need to wash. The appliance manual will tell you which cycle setting is appropriate for different tasks – there is typically a heavy cycle for washing pots and pans and something like a light cycle for delicate items.
  • Prep your dishes before loading. Before sticking a dish or cup into the rack of your dishwasher, be sure to scrape any leftover food into the trashcan. Rinse off debris at the sink when needed. Doing so keeps more food particles out of your dishwasher to prevent a clog.
  • Properly load your racks. Check your appliance manual to find out how racks should be loaded and where different types of dishes are best placed. Do not overfill your dishwasher racks, or else dishes may not be properly cleaned at the end of the cycle.
  • Load your dishwasher efficiently. Dishwashers don’t vary the amount of water they use when there is only a dish and cup loaded versus two full racks – the same amount of water and energy is used according to the cycle type each time you run it. Try to run a cycle only when your racks are efficiently loaded rather than only washing an item or two at a time.
  • Use the right detergent. Only fill the dishwasher with a detergent made for dishwashers, not regular dish soap. Add a rinse aid if hard water spots are an issue in your home.

Plumbing Help for Cincinnati Homeowners

Dishwasher maintenance keeps your appliance in good shape and helps prevent plumbing problems that could warrant a call to us for repairs. Whenever you have a kitchen plumbing problem in Cincinnati, call Thomas & Galbraith for fast, reliable repairs.

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