How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

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If your dishwasher has a filter that needs to be cleaned manually, make sure you do so regularly.

Dishwasher filters prevent small, soggy bits of food from landing on your newly cleaned dishes or clogging your drain. Some filters are self-cleaning, but the ones in newer dishwashers generally need to be cleaned manually. You’ll know it’s time if your dishwasher begins to smell funky, or if your dishes come out feeling gritty or have bits of food stuck on them. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to correctly clean your dishwasher’s filter. But before you start, learn how to clean the rest of your dishwasher so it looks new.

Tools required

Materials required

  • Hot water

Project step-by-step

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Check your filter type

Interestingly, it’s the older dishwashers (made before 2010) that tend to have self-cleaning filters. These filters were typically equipped with noisy grinders, so manufacturers switched to quieter filters (without grinders) that need to be manually cleaned. To find out what kind you have, look at the bottom of the dishwasher under the spray arms. Self-cleaning filters sport a circular plastic grid or series of holes that cover the filter. Filters that need to be manually cleaned are round and look somewhat like the filters on popular water pitchers. See how you may be shortening the life of your dishwasher, and what to do instead.

Dishwasher2Aleksey Kurguzov/Shutterstock

Remove the lower rack

Empty and remove the lower rack. The top rack can remain in place unless it is in the way.

Inside of a dishwasherhamikus/Getty Images

Clean debris from the area near the filter

Once you spot the filter, wipe away any debris near it with a soft, damp cloth. Make sure you never put these things in a dishwasher.

cleaning a dishwasherBeykov Maksim/Shutterstock

Remove and clean filter

Unlock and remove the upper filter (the cylindrical piece) by turning it and pulling it out. There may be directional arrows on top. Rinse the filter under hot, running water. If any debris is stuck on, gently scrub it with a soft cloth or brush, such as a toothbrush. Do not use wire brushes or scrubby pads, as they may damage the filter. Here are the ways you’re loading your dishwasher all wrong.

High Angle View Of Weekly Cleaning Plan FormAndreyPopov/Getty Images

Create a cleaning schedule

Stay on top of your filter-cleaning by establishing a schedule. If you use your dishwasher daily and don’t scrape or rinse items before loading, clean your filter monthly. If you only use it a few times a week, and rinse or wash items before loading, you only need to clean your filter once or twice per year. Next, check out these surprising items you didn’t know you could clean in the dishwasher.

Melanie Radzicki McManus
Melanie Radzicki McManus is an outdoors enthusiast specializing in travel. She has won many awards for her writing, most notably four prestigious Lowell Thomas Awards, considered the Pultizers of travel writing. McManus is the author of "Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail." Her work has appeared in Backpacker, the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, How Stuff Works and dozens of other publications.