The Basics of Dishwasher Maintenance for Indiana Homeowners

Every appliance in your home benefits from a good cleaning regularly, as well as other care that helps to maintain the machine, allows it to run properly, and prevents repairs. The dishwasher in your kitchen is no different. Without this service, dishwashers could suffer deposits and buildup due to hard water, rust and holes, marks on stainless steel finishes, leaks around the door, and odors from food debris or even a drain clog due to old food bits.

When you clean your dishwasher and perform routine dishwasher maintenance, you protect important components like the spray arm or spinning arms, dishwasher door and gasket seals, racks, pump, and drain. Professional maintenance tips from Williams Comfort Air help you easily maintain your dishwasher. Learn how to run the dishwasher the right way, when to empty dishwasher filter parts, and preserve your dishwasher’s cleaning abilities for sparkling dishes with every wash or load.

1. Clean the Dishwasher Filter

Many dishwashers come equipped with a filter that catches food debris, preventing them from settling on a cup or dish, or forming a clog in the pump or drain. Some older dishwasher models have self-cleaning filters, but the filter on many new dishwasher plumbing appliances requires a manual cleaning. If food is left to sit in the filter, odors often develop as these bits break down.

Manual cleaning for your dishwasher filter should be done regularly, about once per month. To manual clean your dishwasher filter so it is free of buildup, follow these steps and tips:

  1. Locate the filter at the bottom of your dishwasher – it sits below the spinning arms or spray arm underneath the rack.
  2. Determine what type of filter your dishwasher has, whether it is self-cleaning or requires a manual clean. A self-cleaning filter typically looks like a circle-shaped plastic grid with holes across it. A filter that needs manual cleaning is usually rounded and looks similar to the water filters in home filtration pitchers. If you are unsure what type of filter your dishwasher has, check the owner’s manual for information.
  3. Empty any dishes in the lower rack and remove the rack from the dishwasher.
  4. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any debris found near the filter. For tough deposits, you could use an old toothbrush to scrub them away.
  5. Turn the filter to unlock it and remove it from the dishwasher.
  6. Turn on the hot water tap to your kitchen sink. Run water over the filter to rinse it. Use a cloth or old toothbrush to scrub away tough to remove food or soap deposits.
  7. Once the filter is clean, replace it and lock it in the dishwasher. Next, replace the rack before you run your dishwasher again.

2. Clean Door Gasket and Seals

Around the door, there is a rubber gasket that forms a seal when the dishwasher door is closed. This gasket seals in water and detergent so that it does not leak out while the dishwasher runs. Food particles can easily stick in the edges of the gasket and debris along the rubber can disrupt the seal which leads to leaks.

  • To make sure your dishwasher door seals properly, check the door seal once a month and look for damage that could cause leaks. If there is damage to the door gasket, a plumber can repair it by replacing the old component with a new gasket.
  • Wipe the door gasket down with a damp cloth and a small amount of mild dish soap.

3. Clean the Spray Arm

The spinning arms of your dishwasher are called the spray arm, which spray jets of hot water over your dishes to clean them during a wash cycle when you run the dishwasher. The water jets can become blocked by food particles or hard water deposits, forming a clog that stops the machine from correctly cleaning your dishes.

  • Monthly, wipe down the spray arm with a damp cloth to remove debris.
  • Every six months, remove the arms to carefully clean each of the jet holes. Check the appliance owner’s manual for instructions to remove and replace the arms. Use a toothpick to remove debris from each of the holes so water can freely spray out.

4. Prevent a Future Drain Clog

Food debris often settle in the bottom of the dishwasher, with heavy buildup around the drain. When too many food bits pile up, a clog will form. When there is a drain clog affecting your dishwasher, the energy efficiency of the appliance declines and the dishwasher doesn’t do as good of a job cleaning your dishes.

To remove debris that could cause a clog in your dishwasher drain, take these steps about once a month:

  1. Unplug your dishwasher.
  2. Remove large particles of food at the bottom of your dishwasher.
  3. Use a screwdriver to remove the drain cover.
  4. Carefully remove pieces of food, taking care not to knock pieces down into the drain.
  5. Use an old toothbrush or damp cloth to remove tough buildup.
  6. Replace the drain cover when finished and plug the dishwasher back into its outlet.

5. Clean Your Dishwasher

Mineral deposits in the dishwasher are a problem especially in homes using hard water. Hard water deposits and mineral scale can make your dishes appear less clean after you run a load. Cleaning the dishwasher with an acid will remove these deposits and help your dishwasher clean efficiently. Also, clean the exterior of your dishwasher to prevent rust that causes holes over time and to remove deposits that cause stainless steel finishes to appear dingy.

Clean your dishwasher about once every month using these tips:

  1. Fill a bowl with one cup of white vinegar.
  2. Place the bowl of vinegar on the bottom rack of the dishwasher.
  3. Run a short cycle with hot water. The vinegar breaks down mineral scale as well as soap deposits.
  4. Treat any rust buildup from hard water with a rust remover that is safe for use in dishwashers.
  5. Wipe down the door of your dishwasher with a wet cloth and mild detergent, sink dish soap, or baking soda.

More Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

In addition to regular maintenance steps that clean your dishwasher, proper use of the appliance will also help you maintain it. Follow these tips every time you run a cycle to prevent damage and future repairs.

Run Your Dishwasher Regularly

Run your dishwasher regularly to maintain your dishwasher, even if you don’t have dishes to do. Run your dishwasher at least one time each week to keep motor seals in good working order.

Use the Correct Cycle

Check your appliance manual to determine the best cleaning cycle for the type of dishes you need to clean. Dishwashers usually have heavy cycles for pans and pots as well as light cycles that protect fragile dishware. Prerinse and scrape off dishes that are covered in grease or food leftovers to prevent a clog in the drain.

Load Racks Properly

When you load dishwasher racks, take care not to overload them. Consult your appliance manual to determine the best placement for different items in your dishwasher. Too many dishes in a load can block other items from being properly cleaned.

It’s ok to run your dishwasher without completely filling it with dirty dishes. However, a dishwasher uses the same volume of water and amount of energy each cycle, no matter the size of the load. Load your dishwasher efficiently to ensure all items are cleaned properly and resources are not wasted.

Use the Right Detergent

Only use a detergent meant for use in dishwashers – don’t ever fill the detergent slot with regular dish soap. Regular dish soap creates too many bubbles which can cause your dishwasher to leak water and suds.

Use a rinse aid to prevent hard water buildup if you do not use a water softener at home. Fill the rinse aid dispenser about once per month or as needed.

Consider the Savings

When you run the dishwasher cleaning cycle, even without the appliance being totally filled, you’re able to save energy and water.

  • When you wash items in the kitchen sink, it could take as many as 27 gallons of water to clean the equivalent of a dishwasher’s full load.
  • As of 2013, new dishwashers can only use up to 5 gallons of water per load cycle. Dishwasher appliances made prior to 2013 could use as many as 10 gallons of water each load, while those manufactured before 1994 may be wasting more than 10 to 15 gallons of water on every load of dishes you clean.
  • Using an ENERGY STAR dishwasher that needs as few as 3 gallons of water per load can save you over 8,000 gallons of water every year versus washing by hand. An ENERGY STAR dishwasher requires less than a fourth of the energy used when handwashing dishes. These appliances reduce water and electrical utility costs by around $130 each year, plus about 230 hours of personal time that would otherwise be spent scrubbing!
  • An energy efficient dishwasher can save you about $1,500 over the lifetime of the appliance compared to washing your dishes by hand.

Kitchen Plumbing Help in Indianapolis

These dishwasher maintenance tips will help you care for your appliance as well as your kitchen’s plumbing. If you experience plumbing problems due to the dishwasher, call Williams Comfort Air for plumbing repairs. Our team of licensed Indiana plumbers are always available to repair a drain clog or other plumbing issue stemming from your dishwasher.

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