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Is your dishwasher making you ill? Find out how to make sure your appliance is properly clean.

Is your dishwasher clean enough to properly wash your dishes? Learn how to keep this essential kitchen appliance running smoothly – and prevent it from becoming a health hazard for you and your family.

Updated

By Cleanipedia Team

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A dishwasher can be your best friend in the kitchen, helping you save time on your daily cleaning routine and even some money on your water bill. However, it does need proper care to keep it hygienic and working properly. Food debris can soon build up in the filter and mould spores can quickly spread along the rubber seal.

If you're worried about your dishwasher potentially making you ill, be reassured that they’re actually very safe to use, as long as you care for yours properly. To help you with that, the Cleanipedia team has prepared this guide on how to take good care of your dishwasher and keep it in tip-top shape for years to come.

How to take good care of your dishwasher

It's not unusual for people to completely overlook the hygiene of their dishwasher, thinking that it will naturally clean itself. But although these appliances become more efficient every year, they do still need maintaining.

Regardless of what type of dishwasher you own, it will need a regular deep clean. This can even be done using simple ingredients, like white vinegar and baking soda.

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If you want to make the cleaning process as easy as possible, here are some day-to-day tips to help reduce the amount of deep cleaning you have to do:

  • Don’t forget to remove bigger chunks of food from pots and plates before you put them in for a wash. Use the dirty cutlery to scrape off the food. This will make the washing cycle more efficient and avoid you having to pre-rinse the dishes in running water.

  • After each cycle, remove any bits of food left at the bottom of the dishwasher. Doing this helps to prevent the filters from getting clogged – and the sooner you get to those bits, the easier they will be to remove.

  • The external parts of your appliances also deserve your attention. It's normal for people to have grease on their hands while putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, so regularly wiping the handles, doors, and buttons down is always a good idea. Again, if you allow the grease to dry, the cleaning will end up being twice as hard.

  • Keep an eye out for black spots on the rubber seal, as this could be mould. If you spot any, clean it off straight away before it spreads.

  • Use high-quality, eco-friendly dishwasher capsules. Good-quality capsules will help your dishes come out completely clean every time – and reduce the amount of grease left in the dishwasher after each cycle. Low-quality detergents not only tend to leave your crockery less than properly clean, but will also end up costing you more when you have to re-wash items.

How often to clean your dishwasher

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It’s a good habit to make cleaning your appliances a regular part of your housekeeping routine. This will help them work at their optimum levels – and keep them hygienic. It could even extend their life. Left uncleaned, appliances such as the fridge and the dishwasher can all too easily become a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.

A general rule is that you should give your dishwasher a deep clean at least once a month. More superficial cleaning, like wiping down the surfaces, is something you will probably want to do more frequently.

As previously mentioned, it’s a good idea to clean up any bits of food that fall to the bottom of the dishwasher after each cycle. This helps to avoid bad smells and the spread of bacteria. A good scrub and rinse of the filter is also essential to keep your equipment running smoothly.

How to know if your dishwasher needs cleaning

If you use your dishwasher almost daily and can't remember giving it a good clean in the previous month or so, the chances are that your machine is in need of some TLC. And for those of us who don't use our dishwashers quite so often, here are some telltale signs that it's time to get scrubbing:

  • Do your utensils still seem grubby after a cleaning cycle? Though there could be other reasons for this happening, there's a possibility that the machine itself is just too dirty to get the job done. Take time to deep clean your dishwasher and then try again. If the problem persists, you might want to look at changing the type of detergent you use or even the type of washing cycle you usually select.

  • An obvious sign of a machine that hasn't been cleaned in a while is a filter with significant food or grease build-up. The same goes for the sprayer arms. If debris or limescale blocks the holes in the sprayer arms of your dishwasher, your dishes won’t get properly cleaned, even on the most intensive washing cycle. Checking the filter and the sprayer arms on a weekly basis will help to avoid any problems.

  • Trust your nose. If your recently washed crockery has a funny scent to it, it's a good idea to roll your sleeves up and prepare to give the dishwasher an extra-thorough clean.  Before you start, you’ll want to check our guide to removing the bad smell from your dishwasher. As time passes, food particles can get stuck in different parts of the equipment, and a fishy or funky smell will start to take over unless all the corners and crevices are adequately cleaned.

  • If your dishwasher shows any sign of limescale, mould or rust, you really should clean it straight away. Rust can damage kitchen appliances quite quickly. Limescale can affect your machine’s performance. And mould just isn’t hygienic. Use a torch to have a good look inside and make sure you're not missing anything. That rubber sealing on the doors, for example, needs checking regularly for limescale or mould.

  • Run your machine empty on its hottest wash, with a descaling dishwasher tablet, once a month. This will help to remove limescale from the parts you can’t reach.

Reducing the risk of fire

All electrical household appliances can pose a fire risk. Follow these tips to keep your dishwasher as safe as possible.

  • Register a new machine, so that you’re alerted if your model is recalled.

  • Only run a dishwasher when someone is at home. And never use it when the whole house is sleeping.

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidance and safety tips.

  • Check the power cord regularly for signs of wear or damage.

  • Have your dishwasher professionally serviced on a regular basis.

  • Quickly repair any broken components.

Do your kids stack the dishwasher?

It’s great to get kids doing chores, but there are some safety factors you need to keep in mind. Check out our top tips for keeping kids safe when they’re stacking the dishwasher.

And remember, always keep dishwasher tablets and capsules well out of the reach of young children.

More dishwasher guides

Now that you know how to take good care of your dishwasher, you can make the most of this handy kitchen appliance without any fear of it impacting your and your family's health.

But before you do, check which pots and pans are actually safe to put in the dishwasher, to avoid any damage to your favourite items. And read up on how to unblock your dishwasher so you know what to do when the time comes.

Originally published