Wait, What?

Oh, God — Your Dishwasher Has A Filter You Should Be Cleaning

Definitely haven’t been doing that.

Cleaning your dishwasher filter regularly helps it perform more efficiently.
Donald Iain Smith/Getty Images

Listen, you can love something and still be perplexed by it. Take reality TV. Or, you know, your kid. And while the dishwasher may seem like a funny item to lump into this category, hear me out: Dishwashers are fantastic. But there are still some things about them shrouded in mystery. For example, you are technically supposed to "wash" dishes before popping them in the device, but wouldn't that make them dish sanitizers instead of washers? (Not that most of us actually pre-wash....) Also, did you know your dishwasher has a filter that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis? Many people don't.

It's easy to assume that dishwashers are "self-cleaning" appliances, but the truth is, they aren't. Food particles and grease tend to build up in the filter, and if it isn't cleaned out fairly often, your dishes won't get very clean. So, how often should you clean your filter? Welp, it's probably more often than you're doing it now. Keep reading for step-by-step directions to help you tackle this basic home maintenance task.

How do you clean a dishwasher filter?

Cleaning your dishwasher filter is easier than you might think, even if you consider yourself less than handy. It's also one of those tasks you can do when you've got five or 10 minutes to spare. You definitely don't need a whole afternoon devoted to getting your dishwasher spic and span.

Supplies needed:

  • Dish soap
  • Soft-bristled cleaning brush (or an old toothbrush will do the trick)

Step 1: Find your owner's manual. Don't worry if you don't have it (does anyone save the paper copy anymore?). It's easy to look up online if you know your make and model. Read through the instructions because they'll vary depending on the brand of dishwasher you own.

Step 2: Remove the bottom rack in your dishwasher. If there's a screen, be sure to remove that part too.

Step 3: Find the dishwasher filter. It usually is shaped like a cylinder with fine mesh around the sides. Once you find the filter, remove it from the dishwasher. Often, you can do this by twisting and carefully pulling upward.

Step 4: Once the filter is removed, it's time to clean it. The dishwasher filter can be washed by hand in your sink with dish soap and a soft scrub brush. If the gunk on the filter is hard to remove, soak it for a while in soapy water. Then, scrub gently with the cleaning brush and a little dish soap. Rinse well, return the filter to the dishwasher, and replace the bottom rack.

How often should you clean your dishwasher filter?

You should clean your dishwasher filter regularly to prevent the buildup of food particles and grease. Otherwise, your dishes will come out dirty or with a sticky film left behind from the detergent not getting adequately rinsed.

If you want to keep your dishwasher in tip-top shape, cleaning your filter at least once a month is essential. Need help remembering? Set a reminder on your calendar to go off on the first of every month. Once you get in the habit, it will be an easy task to check off your list.

How else can I keep my dishwasher (and dishes) clean?

While you're in a cleaning groove, why not take some time to freshen up the rest of your dishwasher? Give the inside a good wipe-down, paying particular attention to the edges and corners where food splatters and detergent residue can build up over time.

Lastly, if you want to go the extra mile, run a cycle with a cup of vinegar in a dishwasher-safe bowl on the top rack. Then, when that load is finished, sprinkle a cup of baking soda all over the bottom of the dishwasher and run another empty load. When you're through, your dishwasher will look and smell clean and run so much more efficiently.

Of course, as a last reminder, be sure to defer to your owner's manual when cleaning your dishwasher. The instructions given here are generalized and may not work for every situation.