How to clean a dish­washer

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Con­sumer Re­ports

The dish­washer is your goto clean­ing ma­chine, es­pe­cially af­ter a big fam­ily meal. Now and then, you need to re­turn the fa­vor by giv­ing your dish­washer a thor­ough clean­ing. This will keep the ma­chine run­ning smoothly and look­ing its best, while also pre­vent­ing nasty odors from waft­ing into the kitchen.

Con­sumer Re­ports of­fers these ex­pert tips.

Step 1: Clean the ex­te­rior. If your dish­washer front is made of plas­tic, use a sponge and hot, soapy wa­ter to wipe it down. For stain­less steel dish­wash­ers, glass cleaner is ef­fec­tive at re­mov­ing built-up grime, smudges and fin­ger­prints. Avoid spray­ing the cleaner di­rectly onto the dish­washer front, since the mois­ture could dam­age its elec­tronic controls. In­stead, spray the cleaner onto a pa­per towel or soft cloth, then ap­ply the cloth to the dish­washer.

Step 2: Clear the fil­ter. This step is vi­tal if you have a man­ual-clean fil­ter, which are com­mon on newer ma­chines. These fil­ters elim­i­nate the grinder on self-clean­ing dish­wash­ers that pul­ver­ize food scraps and send them down the drain. The re­sult is much qui­eter op­er­a­tion, but it also means more scraps get­ting trapped in the fil­ter, lead­ing to funky smells. That’s es­pe­cially true if you fol­low Con­sumer Re­ports’ ad­vice and don’t pre-rinse dishes; most new dish­wash­ers de­liver solid re­sults with­out the ex­tra wa­ter-wast­ing step. As for the fil­ter clean­ing, once a week or so, pull out the bot­tom rack and re­move the fil­ter sys­tem, which usu­ally con­sists of sev­eral

in­ter­lock­ing parts. There’s of­ten a cen­ter cylin­der that un­screws, al­low­ing you to lift out the sys­tem and take it apart. Clean the parts in­di­vid­u­ally at the sink, us­ing the spray on your faucet or a sponge; Con­sumer Re­ports’ testers also keep a small brush handy to dis­lodge cof­fee grounds and other grainy

soil that can clog the mesh fil­ter ma­te­rial.

This is also a good time to check the spray arm for trapped food scraps. It usu­ally lifts off its base with a gen­tle tug. Rinse the arm un­der the faucet, in­spect­ing for clogged holes, which can be cleared with a tooth­pick or wooden skewer. Some spray arms have an ad­di­tional hole on their un­der­side that’s meant to shoot wa­ter into the fil­ter, keep­ing it clean. Check it for

clogs be­fore re­in­stalling the spray arm and fil­ter sys­tem.

Step 3: San­i­tize and de­odor­ize. Over time, dis­col­orations can form through­out a dish­washer’s in­te­rior, es­pe­cially in homes with hard wa­ter. Odors will also pen­e­trate the ma­te­rial. White vine­gar is a rem­edy for both is­sues. Con­sumer Re­ports sug­gests plac­ing a clean bowl with a cou­ple cups of vine­gar to­ward the cen­ter of the bot­tom rack. Run

the dish­washer on the nor­mal cy­cle with­out de­ter­gent. The dis­per­sal of vine­gar through­out the cy­cle should leave your dish­washer san­i­tized and de­odor­ized.

If the dis­col­oration per­sists be­cause of se­vere min­eral de­posits from your home’s hard wa­ter, you’ll need to switch to a tougher store-bought dish­washer cleaner.

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