We just got a top of the line dishwasher and I’m nothing short of in love. It’s sleek looking, cleans like the dickens, and best of all, uber quiet. (I swear while in wash cycle I could cuddle up to this thing and take a nap.)

With all of the Thanksgiving festivities and ensuing Christmas baking, we’ve really given our new addition quite a workout. To my chagrin, after its umpteenth load, I noticed a powdery yet slimy white residue accumulating on the inside door and tub of my stainless steel baby.

Oh, no! I must get to the bottom of this problem on the, well, bottom of my darling dishwasher!

Here’s what I’ve learned to keep a dishwasher looking and performing like new. And as for the slimy white deposit, I did the hula dance when I opened up the dishwasher and saw how sparkling it was after using one effortless, cheap, and clever cleaning method…

The Cleaning Power of Vinegar

To clean residue and sanitize the inside of your dishwasher pour 2 cups of white vinegar in a deep glass measuring cup or bowl, place it in the lower rack of an empty dishwasher and run a normal cycle with any “heat dry” option turned off. Do not use any detergent. The results are stunning!


Cleaning the Spray Arm
If the spray arm becomes clogged or cracked, water won’t disperse properly, which will make for dirty dishes.

  • Shut off the electricity to the dishwasher from the power source.
  • Remove the lower dish rack and examine the spray arm. (Now is also a good time to clean the food trap.)
  • There should be a screw that holds the spray arm in place. Unscrew it—likely turning clockwise. (Note that while lefty-loosey, righty-tighty is a good general rule, spinning parts are often reverse threaded, meaning righty loosey.) If there’s no screw, rock the arm back and forth while pulling it up and out.
  • Soak the arm in white vinegar and water. Scrub the holes with a brush and clean them with pipe cleaners. Rinse water through it.

dishwasher arm

Regular Dishwasher Tips and Maintenance

  • Regularly remove any debris that has accumulated on the strainer or anywhere in the dishwasher.
  • Repair any cracked or missing plastic coating on the dish racks with a vinyl touch-up paint made specifically for dishwasher racks. Worn racks with exposed metal can corrode and rust, which will eventually get rust on your dishes and flatware.
  • If your dishwasher sits unused for over a week or has developed a musty smell, pour in a cup of white vinegar and run it on a light cycle.
  • To boost hot water, run the hot water at your sink until it’s good and hot, and then start the dishwasher.
  • If you have a food disposal, always run it to clean out any stagnant debris before starting a dishwasher load.
  • Always use a rinse aid and never use an excessive amount of detergent. (I’m notorious for overfilling the detergent cups, thinking doing so will make the unit clean better, NOT! The extra foam or suds will actually muck things up.)

My last tip, and I can’t stress this enough, READ THE USER INSTRUCTIONS. They are loaded with specific and invaluable information about your dishwasher that the manufacturer’s R&D department spent big money on to detail proper use, care, and efficiency of that particular unit. If you don’t have the user manual, contact the manufacturer and they can usually email you it, or use an online manual site to find it.

Now go and have some good clean fun with your dishwasher…

Norma sig

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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.