The Best Things You Can Do for Your Dishwasher, According to Appliance Repair Pros

updated Jul 13, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

The dishwasher is easy to neglect. We stick our dirty dishes in and, with any luck and maybe a rinse aid, they come out clean. Our loading habits might be the source of frequent discussion, but giving the actual appliance any real attention is often low on the list of kitchen maintenance chores. 

This is exactly why talking to experts is so enlightening. By the time an appliance repair person is called for the dishwasher, the problem is probably pretty big. Most of the time, though, these issues don’t happen overnight. The pros have seen it all and so they have lots to say when it comes to taking care of dishwashers. You know, so that hopefully you never have to call them!

Here are the best things you can do for your dishwasher, according to appliance repair pros.

1. Use a dishwasher cleaner — at least every three months.

“I recommend running a dishwasher cleaner through the system every three months or so,” says Ben Wellington of Full House Appliance Repair in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. “I like Dishwasher Magic or Lemishine.”

Andreas of First Choice Appliance in Elk Grove, California, agreed, although he likes to see his customers use a cleaner every month: “If you use the dishwasher every day, then clean and sanitize it every month or so.” His cleaning tablet of choice is Affresh

Running a cycle with a cleaning tablet not only sanitizes your unit, which is important when you consider that your dishwasher is cleaning what you eat off of, but it also helps break down food particles and soap that may be building up in your unit and in the pipes. 

Credit: Kitchn

2. Consider switching to tablets.

Andreas is a staunch supporter of dishwashing detergent that comes in tablet form. He points out that gels and powders get washed away the first time the dishwasher basin fills with water. Tablets, on the other hand, dissolve slowly are effective throughout the dishwashing cycle. 

Related: 10 Surprising Things You Can Clean Using Dishwasher Tablets

3. More specifically, Finish tablets.

Ben is a big proponent of a certain brand of dishwashing detergent: “I only recommend Finish products, including Jet Dry, which is a rinse aid Finish product. These soaps seem to dissolve and perform better than others. Dissolving is important to prevent soap buildup, which can cause a leak.” 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani/Kitchn

4. Scrape your dishes and watch for broken pieces.

We’ve covered the fact that you shouldn’t pre-wash your dishes before they go in the dishwasher. But don’t make the mistake of putting dishes with too much food debris in the dishwasher, either. (Scrape your plates before you load them in!) Too much food can clog your dishwasher’s filter or damage the macerator. In addition, pay attention to what kind of food particles remain on your dishes. 

Andreas explains that there is a motor with a knife, called a choker or macerator, designed to chop up food particles — but if the particles are too big, the choker can get clogged. Certain food particles that are very small can also cause problems. For instance, small bone fragments and seeds can get through the filter and build up in pipes, eventually creating issues. Andreas explains, “The dishwasher filter only catches the big stuff, so small bits of glass or bones or seeds can go through the filter. Once they get through the filter, pieces can end up in the pump and cause the pump to stick.”

In addition, Andreas points out that items that break in the dishwasher can also cause a big problem. For instance, when people put plastic utensils in the dishwasher, fork tines often break off, go through the filter, and end up deep in pipes. Another important thing to note: “If you pull out your dishes and you see broken glass, make sure you look inside the filter right away.” 

5. Clean the filter regularly.

According to our experts (and common sense!), cleaning out the filter is an important part of dishwasher maintenance. A full filter will eventually lead to food getting stuck in your pipes — it also means that your dishwasher has to work harder. And an appliance that has to work hard is an appliance that won’t last as long. Ben suggests, “Clean the filtration out roughly once a week with normal use, which is running the dishwasher about once a day.” Andreas thinks checking the filter every couple of weeks is sufficient. Either way, definitely add this important dishwasher maintenance task to your regular cleaning routine. 

Read more: How to Clean a Dishwasher