Has this ever happened to you? You walk into your kitchen and get hit right in the nose with “something” that’s definitely not tonight’s home-cooked supper. Your mind scrambles and your lips utter “Ewww! What’s that smell?” as you desperately scan and search to find the source. Garbage can? Something left on the counter? Sponge? Dish rag? Dish towel? Fridge-Monster on the loose? Nope, none of these. Oh my, it’s the dishwasher. Wait…why does an appliance designed to clean smell like it’s housing last week’s meal plan gone awry? Because it is.


Dishwashers clean our dishes of all the food bits left from the meals we’ve eaten and sanitizes them with very hot water and heat. But contrary to popular belief, dishwashers are not self-cleaning.  Oh, they do somewhat clean themselves while they clean our dishes but not all the food particles get completely whisked away to lands unknown every time we run a load of dishes through a wash cycle. Some of those food bits hang out in our machine along with grease and detergent or soap residue. In addition, small amounts of water remain in and around the drain and parts of the dishwasher to help keep them in working order. Then there’s the filter, the steam release vent, the inner door’s edges and the door seals where food particles, grease and grime goes and builds up over time if not removed and cleaned.


So what happens if you don’t clean you dishwasher regularly?  Water and food particles allow bacteria, mold and all sorts of unhealthy icky nasties to congregate, reproduce and form a small army of funk to attack our noses and degrade our expensive kitchen helper. Filters and steam release vents get gunked up and fail to work properly. I found out the hard way a number of years ago just what happens if you don’t clean the steam release vent/filter.  It gets clogged, your dishes don’t get cleaned well and it can cause water to leak from inside the machine when you use it. We just could not figure out why water was running out from the bottom of the door until we called a local repairman who told us to check the steam vent-filter, remove it and clean it. Can I just say Ewww? It was so nasty! Yes, that was a frustrating and expensive lesson because it caused some minor damage to our cherry flooring.  In my defense, I didn’t know that filter/vent thingie was removable or it needed to be cleaned regularly. How did I miss that in the manual? I knew about and have always been diligent to clean the door seals and around the inner edges of the machine where the door meets when it’s closed. These areas tend to grab bits and gunk I can only assume try to escape from their impending fate. The simple truth is the door-meets-machine area is not getting hit with water when the dishwasher runs through a cycle but wet debris seems to always make its way there to hold on for dear life. It not only gets icky but also can prevent the door from sealing very well when closed. This can lead to water leakage too. But the steam vent? Yeah, total oblivion.

Here’s the thing. We should be cleaning our dishwasher regularly to rid it of anything that will:

  1.  Start to stink
  2.  Reduce cleaning ability
  3.  Cause damage to the machine and speed its wear and tear
  4.  Lead to other damage in our kitchens from an improperly working dishwasher.
  5.  Cost us more money in the long run.

Sounds drastic and daunting, yes?  Well, take heart, dear ones. This is not a job for Superman. There are ways to clean the dishwasher safely and easily without breaking a sweat or our wallets. You can buy dishwasher cleaner products made especially for this job but I’m gonna share with you my own personal tried and true methods of cleaning the dishwasher that actually work. Follow these steps at least once per month up to weekly if your dishwasher gets a real workout with more than daily wash cycles being ran.


Step 1

Run the empty machine through a full wash cycle with one of the following:

  • Powdered lemon, lime or orange drink mix. Fill detergent reservior
  • 50:50 mix of baking soda, citric acid with a few drops citrus essential oil. Fill detergent reservoir
  • 1-4 cups white vinegar poured into the bottom of the empty machine

Step 2

To clean the inner door edge and rubber door seal, use a toothbrush or cloth, with soap and water, a paste of baking soda + lemon juice or white vinegar, or a quick and easy option is regular toothpaste . Wipe clean with a wet cloth.

Step 3

Remove filter and/or steam vent. Clean with hot soapy water, vinegar and/or baking soda and a brush as needed. You may find you need to soak it for a while before scrubbing. Put back in place.



See how easy it can be? You just run it through a full wash cycle while empty with an inexpensive cleaner option, swipe and scrub a little and done.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go study while I clean my dishwasher. Y’all let me know how you like these tips and if you want more, please suggest other tip topics you want to see.

Be good and enjoy the Ahhh moments!


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