The Single Most Important Thing You Should Do on the 1st of Every Month

updated May 28, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

You wouldn’t scrub your floors with dirty mop water, right? And the very thought of wiping down a counter with a germ-laden rag is enough to send you running for the laundry room, we’re guessing? And you know to switch out your sponge on a very regular basis, yeah? Why are we asking you all of these questions? To illustrate the importance of maintaining and washing our cleaning tools! This includes our dishwashers. See, the dishwasher also requires regular attention in order to churn out clean and sanitary dishes.

The single best thing you can reliably do for your dishwasher: Clean out the filter. The filter traps those bits of leftover food and keeps them from getting into your pipes and clogging them. Collecting food, and possibly some occasional broken glass, eventually creates a mess that’s, well, not great. Pieces of food can recirculate within your dishwasher and make their way back onto your dishes. You want to get that stuff out there, and making it a first-of-the-month chore ensures it’ll happen regularly.

Clean Your Dishwasher’s Filter on the 1st of Every Month

Your first step is to locate the filter and determine if it’s self-cleaning or if it needs manual cleaning. If your dishwasher is on the newer side (you got it within the last 10 years or so), it likely needs manual cleaning. Older dishwashers mostly came with a mechanism that can pulverize food before washing it down the drain. If that’s what you have, you can still check to see if any lingering food remains and pull it out.

For newer units, you’ll want to pull out the filter. Your manual can help, but know that filters are usually at the bottom of the unit. They’re often covered by a twist-off or snap-off cap. Remove the filter, and wash it. You may need to use a soft brush to remove stuck-on debris. If hard water is an issue where you live, soak the filter in white vinegar for 20 minutes or an hour. Then rinse it and replace it securely before running your dishwasher again.

If you wait too long to do this or you really put your machine through the wringer, there are a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to check your filter: Your unit could start to drain slowly, smell, or produce still-grimy dishes after a cycle runs. Of course, it’s best to perform regular maintenance, rather than waiting for SOS signals. Which is why we suggest doing this on the first of each month — just so that you remember and give the dishwasher the regular maintenance it needs.

When was the last time you cleaned your dishwasher’s filter?