How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter So Your Dishes Shine Again

Your dishwasher does so much cleaning for you, it’s time you gave it a good cleaning in return — starting with the dishwasher filter.

Intelligent Clean

Intelligent Clean

The stainless steel dishwasher includes intelligent functions like a steam and sanitize option that can loosen tough messes before the wash cycle begins and reduces 99% of bacteria on dishes.

Photo by: Robert Peterson, Rustic White

Robert Peterson, Rustic White

Cleaning your dishwasher filter regularly is a crucial part of maintaining your dishwasher's cleaning power. If your dishwasher stinks or simply isn't cleaning dishes as well as it once did, the problem is likely a dirty dishwasher filter. Food debris and calcium buildup will clog the filter, causing the dishwasher to clean poorly. Not only does the food waste in the filter stink, but the clogged dishwasher filter will cause waste to accumulate throughout the dishwasher by preventing proper draining. Keep reading to learn how to quickly clean your dishwasher's filter so your dishes shine again.

Why You Should Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Keeping your dishwasher filter clean helps your dishwasher clean more effectively. For your dishwasher to properly clean your dishes, you must clean the dishwasher filter regularly. Sure, some dishwashers feature self-cleaning filters, but this technology is mostly limited to older dishwashers, as manual filter cleaning has proven to be more effective. Odds are your dishwasher features a removable filter that must be emptied and cleaned by hand.

Cleaning dirty filter detail of dishwasher. dirty dishwasher filter

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Cleaning dirty filter detail of dishwasher. dirty dishwasher filter

Photo by: Ekaterina 1525

Ekaterina 1525

If you don't clean your dishwasher filter, food debris and dirty water will circulate during the cleaning cycle, resulting in your dishes never really getting cleaned. Eventually, you'll notice your dishwasher and dishes stinking, and may even notice food residue on the dishes after the cycle.

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

Is your dishwasher not working as well as it used to? Follow these steps to clean your dishwasher's filter, allowing your dishwasher to clean your dishes more effectively and ridding your kitchen of foul odors.

1. Remove the bottom rack. Set it to the side to make it easier to access the filter.

2. Find the filter. It's likely on the bottom close to the front of the dishwasher and may have a metal screen over or around it. If you don't see it, it could be near the top or side. Some dishwashers even have both upper and lower filters. When in doubt, consult your manufacturer's instructions.

Concept maintenance service of home appliances. Worker cleans filter in dishwasher. Male repairman checking food residue filters.

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Concept maintenance service of home appliances. Worker cleans filter in dishwasher. Male repairman checking food residue filters.

Photo by: wertinio

wertinio

3. Remove the filter. Some models may simply pull out, while others may require you to twist and pull. If your filter features a metal screen, remove this and wash it as well.

Concept maintenance service of home appliances. Worker cleans filter in dishwasher. Male repairman checking food residue filters.

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Concept maintenance service of home appliances. Worker cleans filter in dishwasher. Male repairman checking food residue filters.

Photo by: wertinio

wertinio

4. Prepare a soapy water solution. Fill your sink or a large bowl with hot water and mix in a small amount of degreasing dish soap.

5. Soak the filter. Remove any large debris from the filter, then place it in the soapy water solution to soak for 10 to 30 minutes. While it soaks, take the time to scrub your dishwasher with a soft brush as well.

A man's hand brushes a dishwasher machine

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A man's hand brushes a dishwasher machine

Photo by: Volodymyr Nik

Volodymyr Nik

6. Scrub the filter with a soft brush. Once the debris and buildup have loosened, use a soft scrub brush or toothbrush to clean the filter.

Pro Tip: Refrain from using harsh scrubbers like steel wool, scouring pads and wire brushes as the material of the dishwasher filter is more delicate than it appears.

7. Rinse the filter. Once you've removed all debris and calcium buildup, rinse the filter with hot water. If any debris remains, repeat step 5.

Maintenance and repair of dishwashing mashine, hand holding a dirty drain filter.

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Maintenance and repair of dishwashing mashine, hand holding a dirty drain filter.

Photo by: Nadezhda Mikhalitskaia

Nadezhda Mikhalitskaia

8. Clean the housing. Use the scrub brush to loosen any built-up debris around the filter housing inside the dishwasher, then wipe the area clean.

9. Replace the filter and rack. Place the filter in the housing and slide the bottom rack back into place.

Concept maintenance service of home appliances. Worker cleans filter in the dishwasher. Male repairman checking food residue filters.

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Concept maintenance service of home appliances. Worker cleans filter in the dishwasher. Male repairman checking food residue filters.

Photo by: wertinio

wertinio

How Often to Clean Dishwasher Filter

Some of us should clean our dishwasher filters once a month, while others could only do it once a year. How often you should clean your dishwasher filter depends on how often you use your dishwasher and your level of “precleaning.” There's no reason to use your dishwasher less to avoid cleaning the filter. However, a little precleaning before loading the dishwasher can go a long way. Even simply giving your dishes a quick rinse before placing them in the dishwasher can greatly decrease the frequency at which you have to clean the dishwasher filter. The reason is simple: The less food there is on the dishes, the less food there is to accumulate in the filter.

Pro Tip: Stuck-on food only gets worse with time. Rinsing dishes immediately after use is the most effective way to prevent stuck-on food.

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How to Clean Dishwasher Filter With Vinegar

Looking for a natural way to clean and deodorize your dishwasher filter? Vinegar is very effective for breaking down buildup and debris and will deodorize the dishwasher and filter at the same time. Follow the steps above, but substitute degreasing dish soap for vinegar. Mix the vinegar and hot water at a 1:1 ratio.

How to Clean and Deodorize a Dishwasher With Vinegar

If your dishwasher is stinking even after cleaning the filter, cleaning it with vinegar will get rid of the odor while making it sparkle and shine again.

1. Fill a coffee cup with vinegar. Pour white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe coffee cup until it's around 2/3 full.

Warning: Only use the vinegar dishwasher cleaning method in an empty dishwasher and never as part of a normal loaded cycle, as the vinegar can damage some dishes. Additionally, always place your vinegar in an upright cup to protect the dishwasher's rubber gaskets and seals.

2. Place the cup in the dishwasher. Place the vinegar-filled cup on the top rack of the dishwasher, somewhere where it won't move or tip over.

Use vinegar to clean a dishwasher.

How to Clean a Dishwasher With Vinegar

Use vinegar to clean a dishwasher.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

3. Run a hot wash cycle. Run the dishwasher on a hot water cycle. The combination of hot water and vinegar will break down the dirt, debris and buildup in the dishwasher, making it look as sparkly as the day it was installed.

4. Check the filter. Check the filter for any debris that may have come from nooks and crannies in the dishwasher. Remove, rinse and replace the filter before running another cycle.

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