5 Things You Can Do to Extend the Life of Your Dishwasher

Our guide to maintaining a dishwasher also features three big "don'ts."

When you're about to buy a dishwasher, you have lots of concerns: Will it fit? Is it eco-friendly? Will it get my dishes clean? Once you've had it a while, though, this appliance can fade into the woodwork. As long as it's doing its job, you probably don't give it much thought.

But like most things, dishwashers need some basic upkeep. The better we care for our appliances, the longer they'll perform at their best. So we asked the appliance experts at Maytag and Samsung to share their best advice on maintaining a dishwasher. Follow the pro-approved dos and don'ts listed below so your dishwasher continues performing at its peak.

Dishwasher "Do's"

Clean the dishwasher filter

Both the experts at Maytag and Samsung agree: Cleaning the filter is a must (especially if you notice dishes aren't coming out clean). To wash the filter by hand, just follow a few simple steps. All dishwashers are a little different (you can always check the manufacturer's instructions), but these basic guidelines work for most models:

1. Remove the lower rack to expose the bottom of the dishwasher—and you'll spot the filter. Turn the filter counterclockwise to remove the filter door, then take out the filter.

2. Run the filter and the filter door under clean water, using a toothbrush to dislodge any stuck food particles. Bonus: you can also give the filter a soak in white vinegar.

3. Once the filter is clean, reinstall it. Turn the filter door clockwise to make sure it locks in place.

Use a descaler if you have hard water

If you live in an area with hard water, you may see limescale building up on the inside walls of the dishwasher. It will look like a white or gray residue. "Over time, [these] minerals can build up in your water and cause issues for your dishwasher," says Mark Horton, brand manager at Maytag. Horton recommends using Affresh dishwasher cleaning tablets ($9, lowes.com) once a month to clear out limescale and mineral buildup.

Make sure the water running to your appliance is hot

If your dishes aren't getting completely clean, or if the dishwasher soap tablet doesn't dissolve all the way, the water going into your dishwasher may not be hot enough. Horton recommends checking that the water is 120 F. "If the water delivered to the dishwasher is cold, the unit will run longer to reach and maintain the optimal temperature," he warns.

Turn on the hot water faucet in the sink next to the dishwasher and check the water temperature with a meat thermometer. If the water doesn't reach 120 F, you may need to adjust your water heater. You also want the dishwasher to start the cycle with hot water. So, if it takes a few minutes for your water to warm up, let it run from the sink faucet until it's hot before turning on the dishwasher.

Load the dishwasher the right way

Both appliance experts stressed the importance of loading the dishwasher correctly—every single time. In fact, incorrectly loading a dishwasher is a mistake that can waste time, money, and energy. Here are a few basics to keep in mind.

  • Arrange dishes so the dirtiest surfaces face towards the center of the machine.
  • Place pots and cups facing down, so water can spray into them.
  • Remove food debris and any packaging scraps. "These things could damage the dishes, create noise, or even cause a product malfunction," according to the pros at Samsung.

Run full loads

Running the dishwasher when it's half empty is a waste of water. "Waiting for fuller loads can reduce the number of cycles that run on your dishwasher, which optimizes water usage and likely leads to a longer overall lifespan," says Horton.

Dishwasher "Don'ts"

Forget to check the spray nozzle

After loading the machine, spin the spray nozzle by hand to make sure it can move freely and doesn't collide with any dishes or pot handles that are sticking out.

Put these "do not wash" items in the dishwasher (seriously!)

There are some items you should never clean in the dishwasher because they could get destroyed, and then there are items you should never clean in the dishwasher because they will destroy the appliance. Here are a few items that fall into the latter category: candle jars, jars, cans with paper labels, fine china, and delicate glassware.

Ignore standing water

In some dishwashers, there will be a little bit of water left in the bottom of the appliance, but if you're noticing an inch of water, it could be a warning sign of a clog. Before you call in the pros, try these tips to unclog the appliance yourself.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles