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The Easy Way To Clean Dishwasher Filter – Quick Steps And Video

Everything to know about How To Clean Dishwasher Filters, When They Need To Be Replaced, Using Vinegar & More Dishwasher Cleaning Tips!

Do You Need To Clean Dishwasher Filters?

Yes, you do need to clean your dishwasher filters regularly. Your dishwasher filter catches any little bits (and big bits) of food left on your dishes, preventing that food from clogging up the dishwasher drain.

Even tiny bits of food, fats, and oils left on your dishes can build up and clog your dishwasher. So, the dishwasher filter is key to keeping your dishwasher working properly.

Image of a dirty dishwater filter before cleaning.
You can see little bits of food and pink mildew buildup on these dishwasher filters.

That means you’ll need to clean the filter in a dishwasher to remove anything that’s collected on the dishwasher filters.

Most dishwasher filters should be cleaned once a month. BUT, if you use your dishwasher more than once a day, your filter will need to be cleaned more often.

Since some dishwashers are different, check your dishwasher manual to find out how often the manufacturer recommends filter cleaning.

If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find it online with a quick google search. Just type in the make and model number of your dishwasher with the word “manual” in the search box.

Image of dirty dishwasher filters before cleaning with vinegar. In a post about best tips for cleaning a dishwasher filter.
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How Do I Clean The Filter In My Dishwasher?

Let’s start with the quick and easy steps I use to clean my dishwasher filters. Then I’ll go into more details you might need to clean dishwasher filters, with answers to common questions.

Image of vinegar in a cup on the top rack of a dishwasher. Vinegar used to clean the dishwasher.
Pour 2 cups of white distilled vinegar into an upright dish or cup on the top rack of the dishwasher.

How To Clean Dishwasher and Dishwasher Filters

  1. Remove all dishes from the dishwasher. Then run a hot water, normal wash cycle in the dishwasher with 2 cups of vinegar sitting in a cup in the top rack of your dishwasher. This vinegar and hot water will loosen the mildew and grime in the dishwasher and on the filters.
  2. Once that wash cycle finishes, open the dishwasher up and wipe away any mildew and dirt left in the dishwasher with a dry paper towel. Most of it will be at the bottom of the dishwasher. Don’t remove the filters until you’ve wiped away all mildew and stains inside the dishwasher.
  3. Once the visible mildew and stains are gone, remove the dishwasher filters. Wipe away all goop, mildew, soap scum, and food residue with dry paper towels.
  4. Once you’ve wiped away as much as possible, wash the filters in a sink of hot water and dish soap to remove more of the residue on the filters. I use old tooth brushes and scrubbing sponges to get my dishwasher filters clean.
  5. Once the filters are cleaned and rinsed, you can put them back in the bottom of the dishwasher. That’s it, your dishwasher is ready to be used again.
Using a scrub sponge to clean a dishwasher filter.
A scrub sponge is great at wiping away all that pink mildew. Check out How to Caulk A Kitchen Counter is you have crumbling grout.

More Tips For Cleaning Dishwasher Filters

If you have stains or scum built up in the dishwasher or in the dishwasher filter area that is hard to remove, try a scrub sponge (like a Scrub Daddy) with hot water to loosen and remove dirt.

Remember, don’t use normal dish soap to clean the inside of a dishwasher. That sudsy, or bubbling, type of soap cannot be used in a dishwasher.

If you have any questions about the steps to clean your dishwasher filters, watch this video to see me clean my dishwasher.

Easiest Way To Clean A Dishwasher Filter (With Vinegar)

How Do I Remove My Dishwasher Filters?

It depends on the design of your dishwasher. My top dishwasher filter comes out by twisting it counterclockwise.

The bottom dishwasher filter lifts out of clips holding it down. Check your dishwasher manual to see how to remove your filter(s).

Image of the bottom of a dishwasher. For a post about how to clean dishwasher filters.
The top filter, shaped like a cylinder, on this dishwasher twists out counter-clockwise.

How Often Do You Need To Clean Your Dishwasher Filters?

Generally, you should clean your dishwasher filters once a month. But, some dishwashers are different. So, it’s always best to check your dishwasher manual for cleaning recommendations.

When Do I Need To Replace My Dishwasher Filter?

If you have any rips, worn out areas, or broken spots in your dishwasher filter, it should be replaced.

You can usually find replacement dishwasher filters on Amazon or other online stores that specialize in replacement parts.

Just type your dishwashers make and model number into search with the words “dishwasher filter” to see available options.

Image of the make and model label on a dishwasher.
If you don’t know what model number your dishwasher is, check inside for a label! Check out my Kitchen Makeover Photos to see more of my kitchen.

Can I Run The Dishwasher Empty To Clean It?

Of course, you can run a dishwasher empty to clean it. That’s actually the recommended way to clean a dirty dishwasher.

You can run a hot water wash cycle in an empty dishwasher to help loosen dirt, mildew, food, and fat residue in the dishwasher. Then wipe the dishwasher clean after the cycle runs.

BUT, you adding white vinegar to the dishwasher adds more cleaning power than just hot water alone. Check out the next question to see how to use vinegar to clean a dishwasher.

Image of someone cleaning the bottom of a dishwasher and the filters.
Running a hot water cycle with vinegar makes wiping away all the gross bits, goo, and mildew super easy, even with just a paper towel.

Can I Clean A Dishwasher With Vinegar?

You can clean a dishwasher with vinegar. Just be sure to put the vinegar in a bowl or cup on the top dishwasher rack. Leave the vinegar in that container while the dishwasher runs.

With the vinegar in a cup, run a normal, hot water wash cycle to clean the dishwasher and filters. My dishwasher manual recommends using 2 cups of vinegar to clean the dishwasher.

That vinegar is great at breaking down the fats, oils, and mildew that builds up in a dishwasher.

After the wash cycle finishes, open the dishwasher and wipe away any food residue and mildew with a dry paper towel. Be sure to do that while the inside of the dishwasher is still wet, it’ll be easier!

Hot Water and a little dish soap will get those filters clean pretty quickly. Check out Where To Put A Kitchen Sink And Appliances: 10 Super Helpful Tips if you’re planning a new kitchen.

Should I Put Vinegar In The Bottom Of My Dishwasher?

No, you shouldn’t put vinegar or any other liquid cleaners in the bottom of the dishwasher.

That’s because most dishwashers start a normal wash cycle by DRAINING any liquid that is in the bottom of the dishwasher.

That means that vinegar poured directly in the bottom of a dishwasher will immediately be drained before it can be used by the dishwasher.

Using an old tooth brush to scrub my dirty dishwasher filter.
Using an old tooth brush to scrub my dirty dishwasher filter. Check out How To Clean A Clogged Sink Drain for more DIY tips.

Should I Use Vinegar To Clean Dishes In My Dishwasher?

Vinegar is great for cleaning the dishwasher and filter, once every month or so. BUT, vinegar isn’t great for daily dishwasher cycles.

That vinegar is an acid that can eventually wear out the rubber parts inside the dishwasher. So, avoid using it daily. That will prolong the life of the dishwasher.

Vinegar is not strong enough to clean most residue on dishes anyway. Dishwasher soap is better for cleaning.

A very dirty dishwasher filter in a post about why you should clean your dishwasher filter.
This is what happens when you forget to clean your dishwasher filter. That’s built up slime and goo.

RECOMMENDED: Fix Your Rusty Dishwasher Rack: Super Easy DIY Steps & Video

What Happens If Your Dishwasher Filter Is Clogged Or Dirty?

If you forget to clean your dishwasher filter, the filter can get clogged up with bits of food, grease, and oils. You might notice little bits of food residue stuck to your dishes after the dishwasher runs.

Or, your “clean dishes” might look greasy or spotted after running your dishwasher with a dirty filter.

And, a dirty and clogged dishwasher filter can prevent your dishwasher from draining properly. So, you might have water sitting in the bottom of the dishwasher, above the filter.

If you have any of these dishwasher problems, follow the steps below to clean the dishwasher and filters to see if that fixes the issues.

If cleaning the dishwasher filter doesn’t fix your problems, the dishwasher drain line might be clogged or the sink’s disposal might be full.

Make sure that the disposal under your sink has been used to clear any food in the disposal. If that doesn’t work, you might need to call a repairmen or follow steps online for clearing a dishwasher drain line.

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