The Things We've Forgotten [To Clean] PT 3: The Dishwasher

It's amazing how a little bit of sunshine motivates.  The second the days start to get longer and the sun starts to take on a rosier glow, people start thinking about polishing up the caves they've been hibernating in for the past three months.  It's a lovely time of hope, expectation and window cleaner.  

But all that cleaning CAN be overwhelming. Especially if you want to do a deep, deep clean (and if you have, you know, a life). 

So while we make plans for that all-inclusive spring cleaning spree, lighten the load by picking one overlooked item a day to knock off your list. 

Overlooked Item of the Day: 

The Dishwasher

I can hear you all now: "Ummmm... doesn't that kind of, ya know, wash itself?"  Believe it or not, No.  Many of our cleaners actually need a little cleaning to keep them in tip top shape. And the dishwasher is chief among that list, considering we EAT off of the things that it washes. If it's not clean... well, yuck. 

The dishwasher in particular has a tough job - and it can suffer for it.  The filters and bottom of the unit can gather food particles, bits of glass or plastic or various other goodies that will clog up and prevent proper cleaning and drainage.  (And really, I'd prefer my dishes not be washed in old food water.)  Ultimately, if the unit gets too clogged, it can cause the pump to say "Heck with this, I'm out." If your pump is from the Philly area, like mine, it may even throw in some expletives.  (And nobody likes a foul pump.)

Tools Needed: 

1 c. vinegar 
1 c. baking soda
dish soap   
Okay, Let's Do This. 

1. Nice Rack.  Remove the racks.  These will get cleaned when we run a cycle with vinegar, but currently, they're in the way. 

2a. Don't you have a filter? Well, it's time to remove it.  Many filters (typically located at the bottom of the dishwasher under the spray arm) simply lift out.  A few may require a screw driver to remove the screen over top.  Be prepared to potentially be grossed out. 

This is where the big chunks of grossness may come in (the good news, this is the yuckiest part of the process and it will be over shortly.).  Empty the filters and use a soapy paper towel to wipe down the  interior of the filter seat.  
Filters: The bottom right shows some flower particles that were gunking up the area. Ew.

3. Soak 'em.  Hot water + Dish Soap + 10 Minutes = Clean Filters.  Okay, you might want to give them a light scrub after the ten minutes, but still, the time soaking should remove a good amount of dirt and grime.  Once they're all clean, reassemble.  This is a good time to replace those Rack 'Em Up. (Put the racks back in.  Just trying to have a little fun, folks...) 

See the difference between the before and after?! 

4.  My good friend, White Vinegar.  Pour a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher safe cup or glass.  Place on the top rack.  

5. BEFORE YOU START THE DW: Run the garbage disposal!!! (Didn't see that one coming did you?).  Most dishwashers share a drainage line with the garbage disposal and if the sink drain is all gunked up, it can cause clogs in your soon-to-be-good-as-new dishwasher.  So this is a good everyday practice as well!

6.  Fire her up.  Run your dishwasher on the hottest cycle. The white vinegar will work to clean the walls, roof and bottom of the unit (YAY for no scrubbing!).  

7.  But wait! There's more!! Okay, so you COULD leave it at this step..but we've come so far together... how can you just walk away?  Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run it again.  Yes, it's mildly annoying to have to run it this many times, but considering the time your dishwasher saves you, some upkeep attention is worth it!  The baking soda will work to deodorize any remaining unwanted scents.  

That's it!  A quick wipe down of the outside with some all-purpose cleaning spray, and you're done! 

A Few Additional Tips: 

- *Stop rinsing your dishes. Yup. You heard me. Dish detergent is actually made to work WITH the grease and dirt that comes from dirty dishes.  If there isn't any for the detergent to utilize, it can foam up and make your glasses all cloudy.  So really, it's just a waste of water and effort.  (*The exception to this rule would be any products that could cause discoloration to your dishes if left on too long, for example, tomato sauce or egg yolk).  

- Run water in your sink until Hot before starting DW.  Why?  The heat of the water is what really works to cleanse your dishes.  But if the water in the pipes isn't hot when it first starts, it will start with cold water (until it warms up properly).  (Think about it. You don't jump in the shower immediately after turning on the water do you?)  Worried about wasting water? While you're heating the water, fill a watering can to use on flowers, or a drinking bottle that you can stick in the fridge to cool back down. 

- Load Properly. Don't overcrowd or the water won't be able to get all the goodies off.  On the other hand, running the DW with only a few things is a big waste of money and energy.  So make sure it's full but not crammed.

- Check your water heater's temperature settings.  Most DWs need to be between 120-130 degrees for proper washing.  More is a waste of energy. Less means you may not be getting the cleanest dishes. (Check your operating manual for exact temps.  Don't have your manual?  Most are available online.) 
Want more cleaning goodness?  Check out additional articles from my series The Things We've Forgotten [To Clean]: 
The Knife Block 
Coffee Maker

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