How To Clean a Dishwasher Filter Easily (Step By Step)

The filter is one of the most important components in a dishwasher. It serves the purpose of preventing the recirculation of the dirt that the machine removes from dishes.

Without the filter, the food particles from the dishes would keep on recirculating.

The end result would be a less-than-perfect performance. It can actually get to a level where the dishwasher would be making dishes dirtier rather than cleaning them.


How To Clean a Dishwasher Filter

It is important for you to clean your dishwasher filter regularly in order to maintain optimal performance. That is the case unless your dishwasher filter happens to be one of those that have self-cleaning capabilities.

Regular cleaning of the filter also helps to prevent the development of unsanitary conditions within the dishwasher. And it can help in curbing the development of an unpleasant smell in the machine.

Nowadays, manufacturers of dishwashers seem to prefer filters that require manual cleaning over self-cleaning ones. That is mainly because the self-cleaning filters make the machines too noisy.

That is the reason behind the preference for dishwasher filters that require manual cleaning.


Steps For Cleaning Your Dishwater Filter

The cleaning task entails removing the filter from the dishwasher, scrubbing it gently, and rinsing it with water. It also entails cleaning the mounting where the filter attaches to the machine.

The final step is to put the filter back in the dishwasher. We will now proceed to look at each of those steps closely to understand what they entail.

Step 1: Find the filter and Remove It from the Dishwasher

remove the dishwasher filter

The first step in the process of cleaning the filter is removing it from the dishwasher. You cannot clean the filter while it is attached to the dishwasher. The specific location of the filter varies from one dishwasher to the next.

But it is almost always somewhere within the bottom part of the dishwasher. In case you are having difficulties locating it, refer to your dishwasher’s user manual.

Once you locate the filter, unlock it. You have to be gentle in the process of unlocking the filter from the dishwasher.

Otherwise, you may mess up either the filter itself or the mounting (within the machine) where the filter attaches.

Step 2: Soak the filter in warm soapy water

After getting the filter out of the dishwasher, the next step is to soak it in warm soapy water. You do this in order to make the debris in the filter easy to remove.

It may be ideal for preparing a large amount of warm soapy water to fully submerge the filter. Allow the filter to remain in the water for five or so minutes.

Ensure that the water is warm but not too hot. Also, ensure that the soap you add to the water is not very harsh. Ideally, you need to use dish soap.

The good thing about dish soap is that it has grease-removal power. And that is important because grease is one of the things you need to remove from the filter.

Don’t put too much soap: otherwise, rinsing the filter will be very hard. But also don’t go to the other extreme of putting too little soap. If you put too little soap, it won’t have good efficacy at removing debris from the filter.

So just soak the filter in water that has moderate warmth and soap. 

Step 3: Scrub the filter if necessary

srcub the dishwasher filter

Sometimes, the debris in the filter is so stubborn that soaking it in warm soapy water doesn’t remove it. In such cases, what you need to do is scrub the filter gently, to remove the stubborn debris.

The material with which you scrub the filter matters. The ideal thing with which to scrub the filter is a soft brush.

It can be tempting to use ‘tough’ scrubbing materials, like scouring pads or wire brushes.

But that is a temptation you need to resist. That is because such ‘tough’ scrubbing materials almost always end up damaging the filter.

Step 4: Rinse the filter

rinse dishwasher filter

Rinsing the filter mostly entails running water over it. So you just put it under a faucet, then allow water coming from the faucet to run over it.

The most important thing is to ensure that you do the rinsing in a thorough manner. Allow the filter to remain under running faucet water for as many as 2-3 minutes. 

Step 5: Clean the filter mounting and Put the Filter Back onto the Dishwasher.

return the dishwasher filter

Besides the filter itself, the mounting where it attaches to the dishwasher is also prone to accumulating debris. Therefore on top of cleaning the filter, you also need to be cleaning the mounting.

This you can easily do using a soft brush. Now place the filter back into the dishwasher.


Unclogging Your Dishwasher

Kitchen dishwashers make life easy for people. However, they can have mechanical problems that can be a nightmare to fix. One such problem is when your dishwasher becomes clogged, and the water isn’t draining.

Though this is not that big of a problem, it can cause other more serious problems if not taken care of early enough.

One way to know that your dishwasher is clogged is if water accumulates at the bottom. Baking soda and vinegar can help to unclog your dishwasher. 

Pour baking soda and vinegar into the dishwasher basket and run the machine for about 15 minutes. Rinse the entire contraption with hot water afterward.

Make sure to avoid corrosive cleaners, as they can damage your dishwasher’s pump and seals.

Cleaning Your Dishwasher’s Pump

Sometimes, clogs are so bad that you need to manually clean your pump to ensure that the machine is working well. If you want to avoid clogs, you need to keep your pump clean. Follow the steps below to clean your pump.

A. Take the Filter Out and Clean It

Remove the filter and rinse it with clean, soapy water. You can also use a soft brush to make sure that the stubborn stains and dirt are taken care of.

B. Remove the Pump Cover

Remove the pump cover to get to the pump. You will most likely find this very close to the filter that you have just taken out. Be gentle while removing the cover.

C. Clean the Pump

Rinse the pump with water and a clean, soft sponge. Make sure that you remove all the debris without using too much force. Rinse the pump again.

Other things that can cause your dishwasher to clog up include dirty dishwasher filters and clogged-up drain hoses.

Make sure to clean your filter regularly. As for the drain hose, disconnect it from the pump and blow through it after you’ve turned off the dishwasher.

If your dishwasher has a drain valve and is also clogged, then you should fix the valve. If broken, the valve will prevent water from going into the dishwasher tub.

Also, the valve can be frozen, especially if the electrical solenoid stops working.

The bottom line is to ensure that you clean out all the areas that drain water and debris.

Can You Clean Your Dishwasher with Vinegar?


Yes, you can, alongside baking soda. Your dishwasher will wear a new look with these cleansing agents. First, gather all of your cleaning products together.

They include water, vinegar, baking soda, a toothpick, a toothbrush, a microfiber cloth, and rubber gloves.

Next, remove the filter, utensil holders, dishwasher racks, and other extractable compartments in your dishwasher.

Doing this will allow you to get into the cracks and crevices around your dishwasher. Some dishwashers require tools to use unscrew them. 

The correct mixture of vinegar and water is 1:1, that is, 1 cup of vinegar to 1 cup of warm water.

Put every part you removed into the mixture and let them stay for 30 minutes before you rinse them. Now, you can deal with the dishwasher effectively.

Wipe down the spray arms and the side walls. Clean the top and bottom corners, and check the filters and dispensers.

Make sure to check the slots and holes from which water comes out. The toothpick and toothbrush will come in handy here.

Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup of white vinegar, then put it on the bottom of the empty dishwasher and close the door.

Hot water should be used when running the dishwasher, as it will help to break down any food, grease, soap scum, and other residue that is still there.

After you are done, use baking soda to run the dishwasher again. Take out the bowl at the end of the first cycle. Then, sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda on its bottom.

Run it for a short time. Baking soda will rid your dishwasher of stains and leave it smelling very good.

Finally, grab a cleaner made for your dishwasher’s surface.

Make sure the cleaning product you use is safe to use on stainless steel, like by looking for one with the word “stainless” in the name, as all-purpose cleaners can leave a streaky finish or even scratch steel.


How Do I Care for My Dishwasher?

A. Keep the dishwasher clean.

When you clean your dishwasher regularly, the machine not only smells better and looks better, but it’s also more effective.

Soap and water can spray through the dishwasher at full strength now that there is no more residue.

This means that your dishes will be cleaner. Because, in fact, if your dishes start to come out of the dishwasher with gunk still on them, that’s a sign that your dishwasher needs to be cleaned. 

B. Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

Every six months try to deep clean the inside of the dishwasher. This will keep it running at its best. If your dishwasher has a self-cleaning sanitizing cycle, you should run it every month.

The sanitizing cycle runs hotter and longer than a normal dishwashing cycle.

It can kill 99.9% of the bacteria and food soil that a normal wash cycle leaves behind. In the event that your dishwasher doesn’t have a sanitize mode, you can stock up on Afresh.

Afresh is a foaming tablet that fights residue and buildup in the dishwasher, and it’s meant to be used with a full cycle.

C. Check the Temperature Settings on Your Dishwasher

Your dishwasher’s temperature should be 120°–150°F. In order to clean dishes well, the water needs to be at least 120°. A cup of water should be filled with the hottest tap water you can get. Do this near your dishwasher.

Place a thermometer inside and check the temperature. Do this until you get the right answer.

If the temperature is below 120° or above 150°, you’ll need to change your water heater.


Do’s and Don’ts for Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are efficient and easy to use, so you don’t have to spend your time and energy washing your dishes by hand. They also save you money.

Most of the time, we take dishwashers for granted, which makes them less efficient. This list of do’s and don’ts for your dishwasher will help you get the best of it. Check it out:

The Do’s

1. Use the right detergents

Use the right detergents in the right amount for your dishwashers. The manufacturer’s manual can help you figure out which detergent is best for your utensil washer.

2. Scrape the leftovers off the plates before putting them into the dishwasher

You don’t need to rinse the dishes. All you need to do is scrape off the leftovers with a spoon or fork. Spray jets and drainage pipes can become clogged with food.

Bacteria grow better when there is food residue. Make sure that the filter is cleaned from time to time, and don’t forget.

3. Clean your dishwasher. 

You should clean your dishwasher at least once a month. Follow the instructions in the manual from the manufacturer. This will make sure that dishes that have been washed don’t have a bad smell.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t put too many dishes in the dishwasher.

Overfilling the dishes puts a strain on how well the utensils can be cleaned. In a dishwasher, if you put too many things in it, the water can’t get inside the dishes.

2. Don’t toss your dishes into the dishwasher.

Instead of tossing dishes, load the dishwasher the right way. Among other things, the wide racks are for flatware, and spoons, knives, and other cutlery go in the cutlery area.

3. Don’t wash your utensils before you put them in your dishwashing machine

Pre-rinsing is a waste of time and water. There’s nothing else you need to do. All you have to do is scrape off the extra food left over.

4. Don’t use the wrong cycle.

Some dishes may need a longer, deeper clean, and others may only need a short cycle. As a rule of thumb, it is best to separate your dishes based on their level of dirt or grime.

5. Don’t use too much detergent.

More is not always better when it comes to detergents. Use too much detergent, and it can leave behind a sticky residue that can be bad for your health.


Frequently asked questions

What happens if you don’t clean a dishwasher filter?

If you don’t clean a dishwasher filter, the machine’s performance deteriorates. That is because in the absence of regular cleaning, debris keeps on accumulating in the filter.

Remember, the filter’s role is that of preventing the recirculation of the food particles that the machine removes from dishes.

Now, if the filter is full of accumulated debris, it can’t perform this role effectively. Therefore the machine loses the capability to clean dishes thoroughly.

Furthermore, the dishes that are cleaned using a dishwasher whose filter is dirty may end up acquiring an unpleasant smell.

What soap can you use to clean a dishwasher filter?

Ideally, you should use dish soap to clean the filter.

How often should you clean a dishwasher filter?

The frequency with which a dishwasher filter should be cleaned depends on a couple of factors. Firstly, it depends on how intensively the machine is used (for instance, how many dish loads it gets per week).

Dishwashers that are used more intensively require more regular filter cleaning. Secondly, it depends on whether or not you scrape dishes before loading them onto the machine.

If you don’t scrape dishes before loading them onto the machine, the filter accumulates debris faster. It, therefore, requires more regular cleaning. 

Suppose you use the dishwasher more intensively (like 21 loads per month), and you don’t scrape dishes before loading. In that case, you may need to be cleaning the filter every month.

Take someone else who uses the dishwasher rarely and always scrapes dishes before loading. Such a person may only need to do filter cleaning once per two months…

Ultimately, you should avoid a situation where you go for more than three months without cleaning your dishwasher filter.

How do I know that my dishwasher filter requires manual cleaning (and is not of the self-cleaning type)?

There is one reliable way to establish whether your dishwasher filter is one of those that require manual cleaning. That is by referring to the dishwasher’s user manual.

Can I Make My Own Cleanser?

It’s easy to make your own dishwasher cleaner with dish soap, water, and white vinegar. This mixture is safe to use.

Swipe a microfiber cloth across the surface in the direction of its grain to clean it with soapy water. Rinse your cloth, and then make another pass over the surface to get a shiny, fingerprint-free finish.

This will make the surface look cleaner. Remember to clean the controls and handles with your damp cloth, too.

Final Thoughts

Unless the filter in your dishwasher is of the self-cleaning type, it is important for you to schedule a regular cleaning.

Cleaning the dishwasher filter ensures optimal performance. Conversely, without regular cleaning, the filter can end up performing poorly.

Further, if the filter is not cleaned, the dishwasher environment can become unsanitary and conducive to the growth of disease-causing pathogens.

If you follow the steps outlined in this article, you will have an easy time cleaning your dishwasher filter.