6 tips for maintaining a dishwasher

A dishwasher needs to be maintained to function optimally. When the machine starts to look and smell grimy or act up, there are a few things you can do. Here's a quick list of handy tips.

6 tips for maintaining a dishwasher

1. Cleaning the dishwasher out

  • The most ingenious dishwasher cleaning secret we know of is to use a scoop of powdered lemonade mix.
  • If you don't have that on hand, give it a rinse with a 250 millilitres (one cup) of white vinegar.
  • Whichever cleaner you choose, be sure to run it through an empty dishwasher.

2. Cleaning food or mineral deposits

  • Food and mineral deposits may clog the holes in your dishwasher's rotating spray arm. To clear the holes, remove the dish racks, then unscrew the screws that hold the spray tower or hubcap arm in place.
  • Lift off the arm and clear clogs with a toothpick or nail.
  • Remove mineral deposits with vinegar and a scrub brush.

3. Deal with rust spots

  • Scour rust spots on dish racks with steel wool, then touch them up with a rack repair product. Epoxy-style paint that's used to fix chips in porcelain sinks will also work.
  • If your rack "fingers" are damaged, cap them with rubber dishwasher "tine caps."

4. Change the hose

  • If your washer has a standard reinforced rubber hose, replace it every two years Also consider upgrading to a braided stainless steel hose, which lasts longer.
  • Be sure to change out the dishwasher drain hose every few years; use a worm-screw clamp instead of a spring clamp to attach it. (The worm-screw clamp connection is more secure than the spring clamp.)
  • Always use new hoses when replacing a dishwasher.

5. Watch your seals

  • If the seals on your dishwasher door went kaput, your kitchen island would look like Noah's ark! To prevent leaks and keep that seal as tight as can be, regularly clean the gasket (it may be on the tub, or it may be on the door — some dishwashers also have an extra gasket along the bottom of the tub, so look for that, too) with warm, soapy water, give it a light coat of petroleum jelly, and check it visually.
  • In most cases, a bad gasket is easy to replace; again, just order it online or from your local appliance-parts store.

6. Getting peak performance

  • Dishwashers do their best cleaning when the combination of water quality, water temperature, and detergent are in perfect balance. If your appliance just isn't performing up to par, adjust your detergent based on water hardness. Your utility company should be able to tell you how hard your water is (measured in grains per U.S. gallon, or simply "grains"). Use five millilitres (one teaspoon) of detergent per grain.
  • Check your water temperature with a kitchen thermometer. Some dishwashers require water that's hotter than 60°C(140°F). If your dishwasher doesn't have a built-in water heater (check the manual), adjust your home's water heater. Always run hot water from the faucet nearest your dishwasher before starting a cycle to flush cold water from pipes.
  • Experiment with different types of detergents. Some households swear by gel-style detergents, while others find that they gum things up.
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