As anyone without a dishwasher will be quick to attest: Scrubbing, scraping, and sudsing a sink full of dirty dishes is not fun. A dishwasher, if you are lucky enough to have one, does all the hard work. But you have to help it help you—specifically, by cleaning the dishwasher filter (yes, this is a thing). It’s the part of the machine that ensures crumbs and crusties don’t recirculate onto clean dishes or clog the dishwasher drain, and a clean one is key to getting the most out of this superstar appliance. A regular dishwasher filter cleaning routine means that your dishes come out spotless after every cycle.
Some dishwasher filter basics:
All dishwashers are different, but most have a filter that can be located on the bottom of the inside of the dishwasher, underneath the spinning sprayer. If you’re having trouble finding it, a google of the make and model of your dishwasher (it should be located on a sticker on the front inside lip of the dishwasher) should lead you to a user’s manual.
While some older dishwashers may have a self-cleaning filter, most newer models are not self-cleaning and will need to be cleaned by hand periodically. Depending on your dishwasher model, many dishwasher filters will have two pieces—one cylindrical and one flat—and both should be cleaned. Removing the cylindrical filter is usually as easy as twisting it to unlock the mechanism keeping it in place, and lifting it out. The second flat filter will then also lift out for quick access.
How will I know if it’s dirty?
If you haven’t cleaned your dishwasher filter in a while—or ever—it’s a good idea to check in on it. Here are a few telltale signs that you should give your filters a scrub:
Any kind of funky smell in your dishwasher can most likely be attributed to a dirty filter. If you’re seeing little bits of food and buildup left on your dishes even after a cleaning cycle, or some clogging or pooling water after a wash cycle, that also signifies that your filter isn’t working properly and should be cleaned.
How do you clean a dishwasher filter?
Cleaning dishwasher filters is relatively simple, all things considered—you likely don’t need to purchase any specific dishwasher cleaner or special equipment. To start, pull out the bottom rack so that you’ll have access to the filter on the bottom of the dishwasher. Remove both the cylindrical filter and the flat one.
From here, your best friends are going to be dish soap and hot water. Scrub both filters to remove any gunk or other food particles that have accumulated—an old toothbrush is a good tool for the job, or grab a wire brush if the food debris is especially stubborn. If you don’t want to apply as much elbow grease, give the filters a soak in some soapy water before you get scrubbing to loosen some of the grime. Or, soak the filters in a DIY solution of 2 Tbsp. white vinegar or 2 Tbsp. baking soda in 2 cups warm water.
Once both your filters are sparkling clean, it’s worth taking a few minutes to scrub the filter slots with a soft brush to make sure everything is spick-and-span. Once you’re satisfied, the only thing left to do is replace your dishwasher filters—first the flat, and then the cylindrical, and pop the dish rack back in. You’re all ready to enjoy a more efficient dishwasher and even sparklier clean dishes.
And now that you’ve scrubbed your dishwasher clean, give your garbage disposal some attention while you’re at it.