Most dishwashers have filters, and some are easier to access than others. If your dishwasher was manufactured after 2010, it should have a removable filter, which only needs to be turned counterclockwise to remove it. If you have an older dishwasher, you may need to remove screws that secure the sump cover to access the self-cleaning filter assembly.
The filter does a great job of stopping food debris and foreign objects, like glass, from damaging your pump or causing a blockage. However, the filter needs to be cleaned sometimes; otherwise, the debris it collects can end up on your dishes and also clog the drainage system.
Giving the dishwasher a deep clean will also ensure your dishes come out looking clean and ready to use.
What to clean the filter with
Cleaning the filter with dish soap and warm water is usually all that’s required. However, a particularly dirty filter will benefit from being soaked in vinegar. Vinegar has sanitizing properties and it deodorizes and cuts through grease.
If the dishwasher filter is covered in mold and mildew that won’t come off, soaking it in bleach will do the job. Just don’t use bleach if the filter is stainless steel or it has stainless steel components.
Properly cleaning the dishwasher filter also requires:
- a toothbrush
- a soft-bristle nylon brush
- a dishcloth or sponge
Where is the dishwasher filter?
If the dishwasher has a removable filter, you should see it in the dishwasher basin underneath the spray arm. It’s usually a cylinder and it may have an additional coarse filter that’s typically a flat half-circle.
If the dishwasher doesn’t have a removable filter, the self-cleaning filter assembly is located underneath the sump cover.
How to access the removable filter
- Remove the bottom dish rack.
- If necessary, remove the bottom spray arm (it depends on the dishwasher model). The spray arm will either lift off or need to be unscrewed.
- Locate the cylindrical filter and turn it a quarter-circle counterclockwise to unlock it. Some dishwasher filters have two arrows next to them that indicate where to turn the filter to unlock it.
- Lift the filter out of the dishwasher.
- If a coarse filter is also present, lift it out of the dishwasher (typically, it won’t be secured).
How to clean the removable filter
- Soak the filter in either hot water and dish soap or a 50/50 mix of vinegar and hot water. (For a more powerful solution, increase the ratio of vinegar.)
- Carefully scrub the filter (you don’t want to damage it). If you also have a coarse filter, clean it with a dishcloth or sponge.
- Use a toothbrush to clean the filter’s nooks and crannies.
- Rinse the filter under running water.
If the filter is still dirty, soak it in vinegar for longer, or soak it in bleach and then scrub and rinse with water.
Clean the pump impeller
The filter usually sits above the pump, which can also get clogged with food debris and foreign objects. Depending on the type of dishwasher, when the filter is removed, you may see the pump impeller or the pump impeller cover.
The pump impeller cover usually has a tab that can be pulled to remove it. You may need a knife, spoon, or flat-edge screwdriver to move the tab so that you can lift it out with your fingers.
Sometimes, debris accumulates around the pump impeller, which causes a blockage or damage to the impeller. Carefully clean the area (there may be glass shards) and make sure the impeller can turn freely. Replace the pump impeller cover when done.
How to reinstall the removable filter
- If you have a coarse filter, put it back first.
- Fit the filter into its slot or the circle in the coarse filter.
- Turn the filter clockwise to lock it into place. If the model has arrows, you’ll see how far the filter needs to be turned to secure it.
- Return the spray arm (if it was removed) and the bottom dish rack.
How to access and clean the self-cleaning filter assembly
Accessing the sump cover requires the removal of the spray arm. Depending on the type of dishwasher, you may need to remove the spray arm assembly, which runs up the back wall of the dishwasher.
The assembly usually clips onto the dishwasher wall; with some models, it may need to be unscrewed. Unclipping the assembly requires some force so be careful not to break it. Typically, the spray arm assembly needs to be removed to access all four of the sump cover screws.
- Disconnect the power to the dishwasher and turn the water supply off.
- Remove the bottom dish rack.
- Depending on the type of dishwasher, you may need to remove the spray arm assembly or just the bottom spray arm. The spray arm will either lift off or need to be unscrewed.
- Remove the sump cover screws. You should find four screws. A screw may be hidden under the spray arm assembly.
- Once the screws are removed, lift the sump cover off.
- If water is in the sump, remove as much as you can.
- Remove any foreign objects. Be careful of sharp objects like broken glass.
- Clean the sump with dish soap and a wet sponge or a vinegar and water solution in a spray bottle.
Depending on the dishwasher type, you may see covers or components that can be removed to further clean the sump and the self-cleaning filter assembly. (See pump impeller cleaning instructions above.)
When the area is clean, put the covers back on and rescrew the sump cover screws. Reinstall the spray arm assembly and the bottom spray arm. The spray arm assembly should clip back in the same way it was removed.
Deep clean the dishwasher
After cleaning the filter and returning it to the dishwasher, either vinegar or baking soda can be used to deep clean the dishwasher.
- A sponge rinsed in vinegar, and a little water, should remove any stains and clean the interior of the dishwasher.
- Baking soda can be sprinkled in the dishwasher and left overnight to sanitize and deodorize the dishwasher. Run a short wash cycle to remove the baking soda residue.
- Running a long, hot wash cycle with vinegar will also sanitize, deodorize, and help to unblock any clogs in the drainage system.
- Put a cup of vinegar on the top dish rack of an empty dishwasher. Next, run a long, hot wash cycle.
You should now have a very clean dishwasher.