Cleaning the Dishwasher

I really lived it up this weekend. Nobody can accuse me of not being glamorous. Even when I’m wrestling on the kitchen floor with disgusting gel goo and swearing impolitely.

My dishwasher had kind of stopped cleaning dishes. I tried to ignore it. I’d run a load twice once in a while and had even started putting glasses on the bottom rack to get them clean. This week, I realized that nothing was coming clean. The glasses especially were disgusting with this grainy crud stuck in the corners. I don’t want to admit how many times I drank an entire mug of tea just to find that gross crust at the bottom of the glass. That’ll make you gag. Enough that I had to do something about it.

Because the dishwasher sounded fine and things seemed to be mechanically working, I thought it was probably just a matter of cleaning out the dishwasher. I could see goop around the edges and had made attempts to clean that area up but it never lasted for long and I knew there were probably other areas that were worse.

I know that there are filters, food traps, and nooks that need to be cleared of food and debris but when I looked up the maintenance information on my dishwasher model, nothing was identified as an area to clean out. Other models have filters that are easy to get to and clean out but my dishwasher’s parts are all fastened down and hidden from view. I tried to get in there once but found I couldn’t open it up without a special tool. That small obstacle was enough to help me ignore this problem for as long as possible.

Until this weekend. I couldn’t stand the thought of paying someone just to clean it out. I looked around online to learn more about the tool. I found some good online videos of a similar model machine that told me clearly what I would need. A T20 and a T10 star-shaped screwdriver. This is great information but I was hoping to avoid making a trip to the hardware store just to buy these special screwdrivers.

After experimenting a bit with different tips to see if anything could be used in place of these specialized tips, I remembered that my favorite screwdriver has some alternative tips in it (it was a very groovy stocking stuffer a few years ago that has different tips in the handle I can switch out as needed) and when I looked, I was thrilled to find that it had some star-shaped ones! One of them was the right size.

What a lucky break! So I started taking things apart. It was far more disgusting than I thought it would be but I’m going to share a few photos here for anyone who might be facing a similar task.

If you don’t like looking at gross photos, turn back now. I’ll give you a cute kitty picture for your trouble. Scarlet came to help as soon as I sat on the floor. I don’t know how she knows when I’m working on a project but she always likes to be in the middle of everything. She isn’t a big help but don’t tell her I said so.

It wasn’t easy to find a YouTube video for a dishwasher like mine but there was one out there and I did find it helped a lot to see someone else take one apart.

The initial nut was on way too tight to get off by hand so I tried the rubber thing that opens jars and that did the trick. First hurdle overcome.

Once I got the top nut off, I could pull off the arm and see what it looked like underneath. Gross. This was clearly just the tip of the iceberg.

Oh my god how did it ever clean any dishes? This is where I had to pull on my big girl pants and power through. This HAD to come out of the dishwasher.

I gritted my teeth and started cleaning it out and scrubbing it up. I used a very soft small brush that wouldn’t damage the surface of the pieces but would get in the nooks and crannies and clean it all out. It was mostly paper I think. Gelatinous paper at this point but a lot of bits of paper. I suspect all those times a fork or spoon had been set down on a napkin and dried played a big part. This is what can happen when you’re lazy, you create more work for yourself. I hate that.

After pulling all the pieces out, the bottom was full of grody, filmy, icky water that hadn’t drained. I fished out the biggest pieces of grossness possible and got that water out.

There was also grainy muck along the seal of the door. It looks a lot like what was always left on the dishes so I broke out my secret cleaning weapon: the electric toothbrush. I know that makes me sound like a clean freak but it actually makes nook and cranny cleaning a lot easier so it fits the criteria of a cleaning tool for the lazy person.

The toothbrush got the shmutz right off.

Once things looked like they were going to be as clean as they could be, I started re-assembling everything. Also, I just threw away everything I used to clean this. Too disgusting to keep. The result was worth it though!

It was a little trickier getting things back but that was mainly because of the awkward positions I had while leaning across (but not on) the dishwasher door. My left hip is still feeling it. It actually really helps a lot to take photos all along the way. Whether you are writing about it or not, it can be invaluable to see the order of how things came apart. I referred back to it several times.


Most of the dishes have been put through the dishwasher again and everything is coming out sparkly clean! This was well worth the four hours and the sore hip. No money out and I’m sure I added some years to the life of the dishwasher because what could keep running in that muck? I love chores that make me feel clever in the end.

Sites I used for reference:

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5 Responses to Cleaning the Dishwasher

  1. Amy says:

    Empowering! I had no idea cleaning out schmootsies could be done instead of replacing the whole dishwasher.

  2. Scaloot says:

    When I bought my house it had a dishwasher – high on my must have list after years without one- pity I forgot to specify ‘working dishwasher’. It was yuckier than yours (yes that can happen) racks were ‘chipped’ and the seals were shot. Was about 12 years old $299 ‘special’. It has left the area. Hopefully next week renovation will be ready to install really nice new one! So glad yours is functioning again. BTW I bought several electric toothbrushes at dollar store, great little cleaners! and if you clip the bristles you can turn it into a tiny little sander. A bit of glue and some sandpaper, cheap cheap (I do miniatures, always making new power tools for projects)

  3. Brandi says:

    The first time I cleaned my dishwasher I forgot to take pics and couldn’t remember how to put everything back in place. Your tips were great and so helpful. Youtube is a great source.

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