Cleaning the Dishwasher

Home Inspector with Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

Cleaning the Dishwasher

When I was a youth, I spent a lot of time at my house washing dishes by hand. So I became a big fan of the dishwasher when I rented my first apartment in college. The love affair with the dishwasher has continued all these years later.


But as much as I do love the convenience, there is a problem: when any of us wash dishes, lots of debris gets stuck in and around the dishwasher. Over a period of time, these tiny pieces of old food, cooking grease, and... stuff that is sometimes hard to identify kind of join together and get take over the hard-to-get-to spaces of the unit.

Of course, if these buildups aren't cleaned, they soon become a source of nasty stink.


What's The Solution?

In general, if the water smells funny in your dishwasher, it is time to clean the unit. If the water smells funny in other areas of your house, there may be a bacteria or pH imbalance that is causing the odor. In a case like this, call your local water department and ask for their help.

Check out the filter and remove any food particles stuck there.

Remove the dish racks and take an old toothbrush and soapy water and hit the rubber seal and the hard-to-get spots. Use a sponge for all the other areas.

Vinegar is nature's version of duct tape... it does about everything. In this case, it helps sanitize and remove the cruddy odors inside the dishwasher. Once everything has been scrubbed down, put the dish racks back in and place a cup of white vinegar in the top rack. Go to your sink and turn on the hot water, then run it until you are at the maximum temperature. Turn off the faucet, and turn on your dishwasher for a cycle.


Other Options:

If you are in a pinch for time, you can try the vinegar trick without the full clean.

Baking soda almost falls into the "nature's duct tape" category. Simply put baking soda in that little pocket where the detergent usually goes. Run a cycle and the baking soda will help get rid of the odors.


Water Temps:

Typically, a water temperature of no less than 135 degrees F is required to appropriately breakdown most dishwasher and to provide a sanitary wash.

Some dishwasher manufacturers, like Whirlpool, recommend 145 degrees F as the lowest temperature to use when washing.

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Jason Channell     Twitter - Home Inspection LinkedIn Twitter - Home Inspection

Diadem Property Inspections
(888) 699-8710

Learn more:

Learn more:

Michigan Builder's License 2101198700
Environmental Solutions Association 3818 -- Certified Mold Inspector & Assessor, Certified Allergen Inspector
International Indoor Air Quality Commission CC1983 --  Indoor Environmental Certified Consultant


Comments (6)

Adell Forbes (REALTORĀ®)
eXp Realty - Atlanta, GA
"Knowledge & Experience Working for You"

Hello Jason;

The dishwasher is a wonderful invention, and even though I have one; I prefer to "hand-wash" my dishes. Yip; every last one of the boring, & tedious buggers!

As for the dishwasher it self; I put away the dishes (I use the dishwasher for storage & to drip dry dishes), and add a bit of clorox bleach, and run the washer.

It works really well, and leave an awesome crisp; clean smell.

"Happy Cleaning!"


Feb 13, 2011 12:22 PM
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

I’ve always wondered about the temperature of the water in the dishwasher. We washed dishes by hand and the water was nowhere near that hot. I suspect it was a mere 110° at the most. Are today’s bacteria more resistant to warm water so that we have to heat it higher?

Feb 13, 2011 12:34 PM
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

I came back to let you know that you inspired my latest post, and I gave you a shout-out, too!

Feb 13, 2011 12:57 PM
Richard Strahm
American Foursquare Realty - Lansdale, PA
Lansdale and North Penn Real Estate

Good advice.  I use vinegar for everything.  A true miracle of nature!

Feb 13, 2011 01:03 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Jason -- do you have any thoughts on the dishwasher cleaners on the market?    Do they work?  Or are they just a marketing gimmick when get old-fashioned cleaning will work the same or better?

Feb 13, 2011 05:40 PM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

I’ve always wondered why 135°F is the minimum temperature for washing dishes. I guess all those people who still don’t have dishwashers are dying by using 100°F water. I even wash dishes by hand sometimes depending on what the dishes are. Soup and cereal bowls are easy to wash by hand. Frying pans, not so much.

Mar 07, 2011 02:09 PM