The Best Way to Clean a Dishwasher Filter — Plus, How Often You Should Actually Do It

published Aug 15, 2022
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Taking care of your appliances is an important part of keeping them in working order — and cleaning your dishwasher should be at the top of the list. A dirty dishwasher doesn’t just spread grime and germs around your dishes; over time, the appliance has to work harder to do its job, which means you may need to replace it sooner. 

While there are a lot of moving parts involved in your dishwasher (literally), one is especially important: the filter. “The job of this filter is to trap all the food particles and prevent them from getting back on the clean dishes,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer at Pro Housekeepers

Failing to clean your filter can lead to poor performance and gross smells — but luckily, keeping up with a cleaning routine isn’t as complicated as it sounds. 

How to clean a dishwasher filter

How often should you clean your dishwasher filter, you ask? The best time is when you can see food particles on it or when your dishes aren’t coming out clean after you run a cycle. If you use your dishwasher a lot, you’ll probably need to clean it sooner; those who primarily hand wash dishes can probably get by with cleaning theirs once a month or less.

To effectively clean your dishwasher filter, you’ll only need a few tools and a couple of minutes. Here’s how:

  1. First, remove the bottom rack from your dishwasher so you can find and remove the filter. Your filter is usually located under the bottom rack, at the base of the bottom spray arm, or in the corner of the tub. 
  2. Remove the filter from the bottom of the dishwasher. Newer dishwashers usually have two components: an upper filter that’s shaped like a cylinder and a flat lower filter that sits under it. Remove the upper filter by turning it clockwise, which should unlock it. If you have a lower filter, just pull it out. 
  3. Run water through the filter to remove the larger debris before you wash it. 
  4. Place the filter parts in a sink or large bowl filled with hot water and dishwashing detergent. “We recommend using a dishwashing detergent that contains a degreaser,” says Rodriguez. 
  5. Use a soft sponge or an old toothbrush to remove all the dirt and leftovers from both parts of the filter. Abrasive tools like scrubby pads or wire brushes can easily damage the filter and make it less effective. 
  6. Rinse the extra soap off the filter with hot water. 
  7. After cleaning, make sure the filter is spic and span by running water through it. Clear water means you’re done! 
  8. Place the filter back where it belongs. Make sure the filter is locked in place before you start a load in your washer to avoid damage to the appliance. You can tell it’s locked if it doesn’t move when you turn it. 

One last tip: To keep your dishwasher filter cleaner for longer, make sure to remove all big chunks of food from your dishes before putting them in to be washed.