Cleaning Your Dishwasher

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Before we get started, I will have you know that cleaning your dishwasher isn’t something that only germaphobes with a free hour get into.  It’s actually a really good idea.  Seriously.  I’m not crazy.

Regularly cleaning your dishwasher (say, every six months or so) can make for a more efficient dishwasher, cleaner dishes, a nicer-smelling kitchen, and money saved on repair costs.  You may think that cleaning something that constantly runs soapy water through itself seems strange, but all that food residue it takes off your cutlery and plates has to go somewhere, and it doesn’t all make it down the drain.  Which, when I took the time to clean my own dishwasher, I found out, to my continuing disgust.

Many websites offering how-to tips on cleaning your dishwasher advise against using gel detergents in your machine, as many contain bleach, which can break down your rubber seals over time and damage stainless steel interiors.  While using a powdered detergent works, keep in mind that the powders don’t always dissolve completely in the wash, which can block your drains and such.  We use a gel detergent that is made up of natural ingredients, and which contains no parabens, petroleum products, or bleach.  They’re easy to find.  Even Martha Stewart makes a decent version.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Another important thing to remember when using your dishwasher is to use the hottest water possible.  The manual on my dishwasher recommends a temperature of around 120°F (about 49°C).  Unlike clothes washing machines, most dishwashers are not designed for cold-water washing.  If you want to save energy, select the air dry setting at the end, if you have one, instead of the heated dry setting.

Now while I say it’s a good idea to clean your dishwasher every six months, I have had this dishwasher since August 2008 (it was the Pie and my “negative-first” anniversary present to each other, how romantic) and I have never cleaned it.  Until now.  We did buy the cheapest model available, so we never expected magic performance, but lately (probably the past year or two, if I’m honest), we’ve been pulling more and more “casualties” out of the dishwasher.  These casualties are the Pie’s name for any dishes with food stuck to them.  Which he then leaves on the counter for someone (usually me) to wash by hand.  Personally, I don’t really care.  I figure if the food has been in water that hot for that long, it’s probably sterilized and will only add flavour to whatever I am eating next.  But sometimes you have to take one for the team.  Plus it would be nice to have all the glasses sparkling again.

So.  Cleaning the dishwasher.  Let’s get down to it.  Using a gentle cleaner, such as dish soap, and a soft cloth (don’t use abrasives in your dishwasher), get to cleaning the outside and all the goo left on the sides of the dishwasher doors.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

These are the parts that you don’t see when the dishwasher door is closed, but which don’t get exposed to the inside of the washer when it is in operation.  Make sure to thoroughly wipe down any gaskets and seals as well.  Crusty food on seals makes for crusty seals that don’t seal properly.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

If you have a dishwasher with a stainless steel interior/exterior, you should use a mild steel cleaner.  Method makes a good one.  I used this one by Seventh Generation on my plastic interior.  It’s a good grease cutter.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Give the interior of the dishwasher a light scrub as well.  Make sure you get the spot under the dishwasher door.  It can get pretty gross down there too.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Pull out your dish racks and clean them too.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Pay close attention to the cutlery baskets, as they can trap food.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Your bottom rack will come out easily, but the top one may have some stoppers in place that you will have to remove first.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now, that nifty propeller thing is the part that sprays hot water all over your dishes.  It also gets clogged with food.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a piece of bent wire, or a toothpick, carefully remove any debris from the holes on top without scratching the apparatus.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

I actually removed a small stick from one of the holes.  And quite a lot of my own hair.  Ew.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now for the drain.  Depending on your dishwasher, this could be under your washing arm or at the back of the machine.  First, remove any food that is stuck on top of the drain.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now pop that sucker out.  There might be screws holding it in place.  I wasn’t sure with mine (and didn’t want to break it by manhandling it out), so I looked up the model number (I have a Kenmore 665.17702K600 Portable Dishwasher) on the internet and found that you can just pop up the long side of it.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Then I just gave it a bit of a counter-clockwise twist and it popped right off.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

And then I had this to contend with.  Feel free to gag and shudder.  I definitely did.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

There was probably a litre of stagnant water lying in there.  I have never wanted a shop-vac as much as I did at that moment.  I tried scooping out the water in a shot glass but the glass was too wide for the wee hole.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

In the end I took the lid from a laundry-detergent bottle in the recycling.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

With a hefty knife and some swearing, I cut off the sticky-outy bit so it was narrow enough to fit through the hole.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Tada.  Gross water drained.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

I don’t want to know what this black stuff is, so please don’t tell me.  But I scrubbed at it with a dish brush.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

And a tooth brush.  And wiped up the majority of its slimy substance.  Good thing I didn’t bother to shower before doing this.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now you can take a deep breath because all the gross stuff is at an end.

Gren is notably relieved.  Or confused.  It’s hard to tell with him.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Now you have to put your racks back in and run the dishwasher on two empty cycles.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

For the first, put two cups white vinegar upright in the top rack of your dishwasher.  Run the machine on the shortest setting at the hottest temperature.  When that cycle is complete, remove the cups of water and sprinkle the bottom of the dishwasher (just sprinkle, mind you, we don’t want to clog our newly cleaned drain) with baking soda, and run it again.  Now you are officially done.

Cleaning the Dishwasher

Also I bet you are thinking more about what you put in your dishwasher than you were before, right?

To see where I got my know-how, check these places out:


Apartment Therapy


House Cleaning Central

Paderno Factory Sale!

Yesterday may have been a Tuesday for you.

For us, it was Manna day.

I dragged the Pie out of bed at the crack of nine-thirty and towed him the block and a half from our apartment to the ReMax Centre, home to the St. John’s Curling Club.

We had come to take advantage of the Paderno factory sale, a rare opportunity to purchase some quality Canadian cookware.  Yes, there is a Paderno Kitchen store in the city, but without a car, it’s practically in the middle of nowhere, so we don’t go often.  Plus, we hit this shindig last year and found some RIDICU-sales, even though we came at the end of the event.  This time we got there nice and early.

For those of you in St. John’s, the event runs from May 11th to May 16th, and is open from 9 to 9 during the week, 9 to 6 on Saturday, and 9 to 5 on Sunday.

Here are some of the things we saw that we’re thinking about going back for:

I am firmly of the opinion that you can never have too many mixing bowls.  Especially nice ones.  These two sets were especially alluring due to their cheapness. 

We might come back later and get this nice medium-sized cast-iron skillet.  We are trying to use cast-iron more often these days, and now we have a wee one and a huge one and it would be nice to have a medium one.

These are fish tongs.  I’m not going to buy them.  But I thought they looked ridiculous.

My parents have one of these oil sprayers, and it works really well.  It means you never have to buy aerosol cooking spray again.  I have to say that I am rather tempted.

These tiny wooden spoons were so cute!  There’s no way the Pie will let me have even one of them.

We probably won’t come back for this, but it was interesting.  An egg-toss pan, with a little bulge on one end to help you flip your egg.  The Pie might want it.

A selection of cheap serving spoons.  We really don’t have any serving spoons at all, so this is a definite maybe.

I thought these mugs are cute.  I am, however, banned from buying mugs.  Stupid husband and his RULES.

The Pie really, really wants this pizza cutter.  Like REALLY.

Here’s what we ended up with:

This little cast-iron pan is our triumph.  We picked it up from the salesmen’s sample table (basically, the scratch & dent) for ten dollars.  It’s a little dirty but we don’t think those scratches are permanent.  The ones that aren’t scratched are selling for twenty dollars, which is 50% off their original price.  So it’s a real steal.

Also from the scratch & dent table came these two wee darling cafe latte-style bowls.  The littlest was a dollar and the larger one was two.  You can pretty much justify anything for two dollars.

Our most expensive purchase was this pan liner for $10.99.  It makes a good alternative to parchment paper and as I’m planning to make a lot more bread these days I think it will come in handy.

I had to have this silicone spoon, merely because it was turquoise.  And it was only $2.99.  The Pie mocked my choice: “do we really need another spoon?”

Of course, that is coming from the man who insisted we get these miniature tongs (red to match our larger tongs) for $1.99.  So I can’t really trust his judgments.

The Pie is also exceedingly fond of egg mcmuffin-type breakfast foods, so we picked these up for $3.99.

A small icing spatula came away for $2.75.

I also picked up two 9″ pie plates, both deep dish.  This lovely ceramic one was only $7.50, and normally this vintage-style goes for $40 or more.

This nice clear one was only $5.49.

All this loot for a grand total (including HST) of $55.03.  Can’t beat it.

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