How To Clean a Dishwasher Filter (And Why YOU Need To!)

How To Clean a Dishwasher Filter (And Why YOU Need To!)

Hey there Stain Solvers,

It’s Joe from Stain Solver here, and I’ve got a story for you… one that’s important if you wash your dishes in a dishwasher.

I moved into a new apartment recently, and was on the lookout for places where I could use Stain Solver to keep things sparkling. One of the places that I knew food debris and grime could get trapped was in the filter of dishwashers, so I went to check it out.

It was so much worse than I thought it would be.

Brace yourselves…

the center view of a dishwashing filter the side view of a dirty dishwasher filter

I was horrified! The plates, pans, silverware, and glasses that I eat off of go through that dishwasher, and who knows what kind of germs were growing in there.

It was a hardened mass of food particles, dirt, hair, detergent residue, a banana sticker, and who knows what else. Be glad that the geniuses over in silicon valley haven’t figured out how send smells over the internet because it was… not nice.

Luckily, here at Stain Solver we figured out the best way to clean your dishwasher filters, so you’ll never need to worry about food bits, calcium deposits, unpleasant odors, or other grossness lurking in your dishwasher.

So without further ado, let’s talk about how to clean your dishwasher filter with Stain Solver.

Do Dishwashers Have Filters That Need To Be Cleaned?

As you can see from the above photos the answer to this question is a resounding YES! Dishwasher filters are a critical part of the appliance, and are what makes it possible for it to get rid of the left over bits of food that stay on plates when they go in the dishwasher.

Just like any other part of your home, a little bit of maintenance goes a long way, and staying on top of keeping your dishwasher filter clean can help you avoid a situation like the one that I encountered with a truly disgusting filter that I had to clean.

A Telltale Sign Your Dishwasher Filter Needs Cleaning

Luckily, you’ll get a big clue that it’s time for a cleaning.

It’s pretty obvious when your newly cleaned dishes aren’t getting as clean as they used to. If your glasses are starting to look cloudy, or food debris isn’t coming off of plates, it might be time clean the filter. The filter is a big part of how your dishwasher cleans your dishes, and if it’s not cleaned properly it can impede the ability of the machine to clean dishes.

Why Is It Important To Clean Your Dishwasher Filter?

It’s important to clean your dishwasher filter for a few reasons, but the most important one is cleanliness and safety.

The warm, moist environment full of food particles that a dirty filter creates is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Not the kind of things you want near plates and glasses you eat and drink from.

Outside of the health concerns, we’ve already mentionde how a clogged filter can seriously impede the cleaning ability of your dishwasher. If your dishes aren’t coming out as clean as they used to, a dirty filter could be to blame.

Finally, a dirty filter can small BAD! If there’s a nasty odor coming from your dishwasher, a gross filter might be the cause.

How do I know what kind of dishwasher filter I have?

Dishwashers will have one of two kinds of filters in them, a self-cleaning filter, or a manual filter.

Older dishwashers (those made before 2010) will have the self-cleaning variety. There is one pretty important caveat here, as the self cleaning filters don’t really do that good of a job of cleaning! The dishwasher that held the mess you saw above was a self cleaning one, so even if that’s the kind you own, you should still clean your dishwasher filter.

Newer models will have manual filters that are explicitly designed to be taken out and cleaned. Manual filters require cleaning on a regular basis to keep your dishwasher working at top capacity, it’s just a part of the routine maintenance of those appliances.

If you’re not sure what kind of filter your dishwasher uses, a quick google search or perusal of the owner’s manual should be able to help you find out.

Finding and Accessing The Dishwasher Filter

For self-cleaning models you’ll have to remove the spray arms in order to get to the filter. Here is where I located mine:

the bottom portion of a dishwasher that holds the filter.

In newer models with manual filters you should be able to see it at the bottom of the dishwasher when you pull the lower dish rack out.

Take the filter out of the dishwasher (in some older models you’ll have to remove the center part from the circular plastic grid that surrounds it) and get ready to clean!

How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Now for the fun part, the cleaning! When I first pulled the filter out I tried to take a sponge to the outside of it and break up some of that dense junk on the inside with dish soap, but to no avail.

This is where Stain Solver came to the rescue.

Step-By-Step Instructions to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

Here’s how I used Stain Solver to give my dishwasher filter a thorough cleaning.

  1. Filled up a large bowl with hot water and added a half cup of Stain Solver, and stirred until completely dissolved.
  2. Removed the center portion of the flat filter from the apron and submerged it in the Stain Solver solution.
  3. Let sit for an hour, then removed from the solution.

If your filter isn’t as gross as mine was this might be all that you need to do, but this first soak was enough to get the gunk loosened, but not removed. Here’s what I did next.

  1. Used a sponge, hot soapy water, and the end of a fork to dislodge some of the debris from the center of the filter. I also was able to use a soft bristle brush (you could probably use an old toothbrush if you’d like) to start to remove some of the gunk stuck on the outside. Avoid using a wire brush here as it could damage the filter.
  2. Poured out the old Stain Solver solution and made up a fresh bowl, and put the filter into the new solution.
  3. Periodically rinsed the filter with warm water as new debris got dislodged, until all of the gunk and foreign objects were gone.
  4. Used a sponge with dish soap to gently scrub the remaining bits of gunk off (sometimes a little elbow grease goes a long way!) and then rinsed with warm water.

The Results

It’s a few more steps than some folks might like to take, but once you see the results I think you’ll agree it was worth it!

Check out how clean the filter looks:

the side view of a dishwashing filter after it was cleaned with Stain Solver the center view of a dishwasher filter after it has been cleaned with Stain Solver

It looks like a brand new filter! I’ve noticed a serious difference in the cleaning performance of my dishwasher as well.

More Dishwasher Cleaning Tips

While this article focuses on a deep clean of your dishwasher filter, there are some other things that you can do to ensure that you don’t have to do this sort of manual cleaning as often.

  • Scrape food left over off of your plates before you put them in the dishwasher. This helps avoid the kind of buildup that you saw in my filter! Extra points if you rinse your dirty dishes completely!

    It takes just a few minutes, but can really make a big difference in getting your dishes clean and and keeping your dishwasher running at its best!

  • We might sound like a broken record, but rinse your dishwasher filter often! A little bit of effort every few weeks helps you avoid a big job like the one I had.

  • Give your dishwasher a vinegar bath! Fill a bowl up with distilled white vinegar and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher, then run a wash cycle using hot water.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this helped you figure out how to clean the filter on your dishwasher, or maybe just inspired you to take a look under the hood and make sure there wasn’t a gross mess lurking there!

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