February 2, 2012

How To Clean Your Dishwasher (without gagging too much)

   

Note: This is how I clean my dishwasher, but I'm clearly not a professional dishwasher cleaner. To the contrary, I'm a crazy woman mixing up homemade cleaning products in her kitchen while the children nap.  I'm probably going to blow myself up some day.  All this to say that you should read your dishwasher's manual and be careful and use common sense, etc etc. 

Step 1: Remove the bottom rack and any visible food debris in the bottom of the dishwasher.

Step 2: Remover the filter(s). This is the cage thingy that catches your food bits. My dishwasher has two. Removing them will involve removing some screws or bolts.  Be careful once you remove the filter not to drop the screws (or anything else, for that matter) down the now uncovered drain hole.

The underside of these filters are likely mighty gross. Clean the filters in a sink full of warm water and vinegar.  Wear rubber gloves.  And a haz-mat suit. Just kidding. Sort of.

Step 3: Use a wet vac to remove all the water and debris in the bottom of your dishwasher and down the drain hole (If you don't own a wet vac, you can just sop it up with paper towel and clean it by hand).

Step 4: Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray any stuck on sediment or visible dirt.  Also clean the inside bottom lip just below the door.  That seems to be a place where ickyness thrives.  

Step 5: Screw filters back in place.

Step 6: Use tweezers to remove any debris that may be clogging up the spray holes in the spinning arm.



Step 7: Use Q-tips to clean the hot air vent.  I read once that the hot air vent normally comes right off, so I tried desperately to pull mine off with a butter knife. The moral of that story is that not all of them are meant to come off. So unless you are sure that yours is removable, just clean it with some Q-tips right where she is.


Step 8: Clean door edges and gasket with vinegar or your favorite mild cleaning solution.

Step 9: If there are rust stains in your dishwasher you can clean them quite easily by combining baking soda with hydrogen peroxide to make  a paste.  Apply the paste with a sponge and then remove it with a cloth.  You'll want to be wearing rubber gloves, especially if your skin is sensitive.  It is shocking how easily this solution lifts the rust stain.

 Step 10: Return the bottom rack to it's place in the dishwasher.  Turn the flatware caddy upside down.  Fill the detergent trap with vinegar and place a bowl full of vinegar sitting in the top rack.  Put the dishwasher through it's warmest cycle.  The bowl  full of vinegar will fill with water, overflow, and dispense vinegar throughout the cycle.

Ta-da!


I like to give my dishwasher a good clean a couple times a year.  If I was in the habit of rinsing my dishes it would be less often, but lets face it...that's just not going to happen.

Thanks for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

79 comments:

  1. Thank you!! Makes the task seem less horrible. :)

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  2. I have never cleaned my dishwasher before... yikes! This will motivate me to do so.

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    1. I know it seems ridiculous but I clean all the food off the plates and don't ever leave any food particles on them before I put them into the dishwasher soooo there is never any gunk in my dishwasher to do all of this. I have checked it and its kind of like the bar of soap someone commented about... Always clean. Since I wipe all the food off just with hot water and a scrup pad then when you put it in the dishwasher, it sanitizes the dishes, gets germs and bacteria off plus doesn't make all this discusting stuff IN my dishwasher. Just a suggestion....

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    2. I always rinse before I load, but my family doesn't! (husband, grown daughter)! Mine doesn't get too bad, but I loved the tip regarding rust! Thanks?

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    3. To Anonymous...It is NOT ridiculous at all to rinse your dishes first, I do the same thing. Then I don't have a dishwasher that has to have the food particles removed. It is my rule in my home. My extended family thinks it is silly as they do not. My dishwasher, my rules. I do like the idea of cleaning it though.

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    4. I plan to try these techniques!

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    5. I know this is an old thread, but I do have to chime in to say it matters how old your dishwasher is in terms of pre-rinsing. Most newer ones are designed to work w/o prerinsing. It's like having a garbage disposal in your dishwasher. In fact, the detergent will etch your glasses if it doesn't have food particles to "attack." You shouldn't be throwing in chicken bones and fish skins, but they don't have to sparkle before being sanitized.

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    6. This is true! I read this in my manual plus read another article on it. Only if you have a newer model though. Read your manuals!

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    7. So that's why my glasses are etched and look horrible! Too late for the ones I have so a reason to throw them out and get some new ones. Thanks! ;-)

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  3. What?! You're supposed to clean that?! I thought it would be inherently clean... You know. Like a bar of soap. Sorta.

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  4. I love your writing style - makes me laugh! (Although a tiny part of me "hates" you for being so clean. Oh, and yeah...I did read your Comparison post, whoops!) :-) It's late...I need to go to bed and now I'm itching to take a Magic Eraser to my dishwasher.

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  5. My brother works for a water softening company, and they sell and install dishwashers, so when I have a dishwasher question, I call him. My dishwasher was stinking a few times, and he told me to pour about a cup of bleach in the bottom every once in awhile, (especially when it stinks), then run a cycle. It works. One trick I have found, is when I have dishes sitting in there for a day or two (just two of us here, I will run the rinse and hold cycle, then I will turn it to rinse and hold again, listening to the dishwasher sucking out the water, then I will turn the dw to off again. I think what stinks is standing water in the bottom and lack of use. I go in streaks where I use the dw all the time, and then I go in streaks where I will wash the dishes in the sink, using the racks as a draining rack. When I do that, I always turn on the r&h cycle to suck the water out of it (from the dishes draining). Kudos on keeping your dishwasher so clean. It sounds like an ugly job. =-)

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    1. Pouring bleach down a season will kill the good bacteria inside. That bacteria keeps the drain from stinking or clogging. I would just but a dishwasher cleaner from walmart or target.

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    2. A drain, not a season. Silly auto correct.

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  6. I WISH I had a DW to clean!!! Well, I actually do, but the washer is S.U.P.E.R. old and if it was clean I still wouldn't use it...

    Someday!! :)

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  7. Thanks for posting this. My dishwasher looks terrible inside, but I wasn't sure where to start.

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  8. Ha ha. Looks like a chore for my husband this weekend!! Thanks for posting.

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  9. Can I give you my address? I'd LOVE for you to clean my dishwasher so well! (ha ha ha)

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  10. What?!? I had no idea! There is a filter in there? Crap! Now, I won't be able to stand knowing it's probably icky in there and needs cleaning. Gee thanks... *wink*
    Kerrye @ http://www.impossiblecleanliness.blogspot.com/

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  11. I had no clue that there was a filter. I guess its common sense though. Every time I run my dishwasher it backs up into my disposal so I'm going to try this for sure!

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  12. What a practical amd amusing post! thanks!!

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  13. How did you know I needed to clean my dishwasher?!? I've seriously been planning to do this! Thanks for the light-hearted and practical blogs--really enjoy them!

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  14. If you have hard water, it can also be helpful to pull the float switch apart and clean the gunk and sediment off that component too. I had one freeze once, from mineral deposits. We were new to the area and I had no idea hard water could do that. (With the float switch frozen in the "no more water flow" position, I wasn't getting the dishwasher to start and deliver water.)

    The float switch is found on the floor of the dishwasher, and has a semi-loose float that you can wiggle up and down.

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  15. Every once in a while we will run our dishwasher empty with vinegar in the soap dispenser....it's an easy way to get a quick clean.
    Amy
    crazyclutterlady.blogspot.com

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  16. YUCK! I just followed these directions...I was horrified at how gross the dishwaher that is supposed to clean my dishes was. Thanks for these steps. I had no idea I could remove the drains.
    P.S. I have a dishwasher almost identical to yours and I have a question about it--the water in mine never fully drains the landlord says that's normal, but I think it's discusting. Does your dishwasher drain dry after a cycle?

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    Replies
    1. No, my dishwasher doesn't drain completely dry either. I've read that it's not supposed to drain all the way, but I also think it's gross. I find that there is a lot LESS water pooling in the bottom if I allow it to go through the heat-dry stage each time I use it.

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    2. You would think it is a lot more gross if it did drain completely and you started smelling sewer fumes backing up into your dishwasher every time you open it. Ew! ALL sink, tubs, etc. have a that U-trap thing for a reason. The standing water creates a fume block. Same for your dishwasher.

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  17. I cannot get the food trap out to clean underneath! I've tried everything. I even tried to break it off at one point because I was so frustrated with the thing, but I could not remove it. I figured if it came come off than forget it! Maybe I'll trying running some CLR or something stronger down there some time.... Thanks for being so candid!
    I've just recently found you, and all this week I've been going through my kids toys, getting rid of some, organizing the others into bins!!! I'm SOOOO tired of stuff everyone. Thanks for the inspiration and the ideas!!

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    Replies
    1. I wouldn't run anything you're not okay with ingesting in your dishwasher...

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  18. thank you for this. i keep hoping a miracle will just clean the dishwasher.... Doesn't the baking soda just fizz instead of paste? i am going to do this today.
    i am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

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  19. There are some good tips here, but be careful when using harsh cleaners. For one thing, the rubber seals on the door & elsewhere, as well as some of the thinner plastic (drain tubing on some models) does not hold up well to alot of strong cleaners like bleach & CLR. If you're going to use those, do it sparingly & rinse extra thoroughly afterward. (same reason you don't want to use bleach in your toilet tank - eats up the flapper,etc.)

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  20. Or you can put a cup of any dry citrus drink mix (tang, lemonade)on the bottom, run the cycle and it will be SPOTLESS. I did not believe this until my daughter bought a house with the grossest DW I have ever seen and before replacing it, we tried this. It looked like new, Gunk AND rust...gone! Saved a lot of money! and no sweat equity!

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  21. Thank you, this is great. I love how you have used only green, non chemical products. I have the same dishwasher too and ran into the same problem trying to get the hot air vent off :)

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  22. Você tem uma nota sobre um pouco para dar uma idéia. E isso é muito
    interessante e muito útil para nós. Muito obrigado por compartilhar este.

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  23. You have a note on a little to give an idea. And that is very
    interesting and very useful for us. Thank you for sharing this.

    {Translation for the above comment via Google}

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  24. Okay, so I have this dishwasher in my apartment and I have no clue as to the last time it was cleaned (I highly doubt it has been) and it started to smell like rotten meat *mega gag* GROSS! So I did what I thought would get rid of any germs and or odors that were in there. Turned it on to the hottest wash cycle and let it go. After it was done I opened it up and nearly passed out from the stench! After reading this post I'm gonna attack my dishwasher tomorrow with a restored vigor. I am bound and determined to not have my dishes smell worse coming out of it then when I put them in!

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  25. To all the people who rinse your dishes first: You're actually supposed to scrape excess food off in the trash and put the dishes in the dishwasher as is. It is a waste of water to rinse them before you put them in the dishwasher.

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  26. A friend told me that a repairman said the worst thing for a dishwasher is corn! Def. Scrape dishes before putting them in dishwasher.

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    1. That cracks me up. I am almost done cleaning he dw (missing a screw, so we have to go get another one before I run it with vinegar), and there were SO many kernels of corn on the bottom! We haven't had corn in a week....EeeeEw. I feel thoroughly gross and told my husband we are definitely gonna start scraping our dishes clean.

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  27. I don't even have a dishwasher, but my mother does. I feel like I should go clean hers now, just do use this how-to. My mom has had that thing since I was in highschool, and I can almost gaurantee it has never been cleaned...I'm also sure the filters have never been cleaned either. I think it's a little sad at how exciting cleaning something gross can be!

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  28. Excellent tips that will get any dishwasher clean! I cannot wait to do this at home as my dishwasher has been developing a noticeable smell to it.

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  29. Thanks for sharing - I think we have the same exact dishwasher. This was much more helpful than the GE manual. Thanks!

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  30. Thank you for this! I just moved into a new house and the dishwasher really needs a good clean. Your descriptions are really going to help.
    Cheers!

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    Replies
    1. Gross! I never thought about other people's crud getting on my dishes! Hope it wasn't too nasty of a job, Ayesha!

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  31. I'm giving this a try. Our dishwasher STINKS right now. I hope this helps.

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  32. The Bosch repairman told me you should never vacuum all of the water out of the drain at the bottom of your dishwasher...if it's too dry it can ruin it! Who knew? A wine glass broke in my dishwasher and fragments had blocked the drain so I used a shop vac to try to remove the larger shards without slicing my hands up...when my dishwasher wasn't draining properly I called in the repairman and he said it was a good thing there was still some water in the drain or I'd be needing a new one. He solved the problem by somehow creating a geyser that blew the glass back out of the hole. So, yeah...things aren't always as simple as they seem. :)

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  33. I always scrape the dishes before filling the d/w, and I clean it every couple of months. Remove the tray, remove any other fittings/filters and wash in warm soapy water - rinse well. In my d/w there is an area where the filter sits, it gets filled with water & bits of debris - i use a dry cloth to soak up the excess water. With a clean damp cloth and a splash of vinegar wipe around the areas where the door closes - dirt and grease collects in these areas. I usually wipe around the inside of the d/w - especially the top (ceiling) area. Put a cup of vinegar into the dishwasher and run on a hot wash. At the end of the cycle place about half a cup of bi-carbonate of soda in the bottom of the dishwasher - it acts as a disinfectant and deodorises the d/w too.

    Love some of the great ideas posted here! Very useful site!
    Lucy

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  34. I clean it with tang. Fill the tray and turn it on! Spotless!

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  35. These instructions are so complete. In Step 2. By unscrewing and removing the filters you find some amazing junk/gunk. But something else I found under the filter, was a broken part. It is called a piston. I unscrewed it from the bottom of the tub and the rubber gasket it contained was crumbling. Lukily I was able to order a new one and Kenmore sent it the next day. Once in, and all parts cleaned and reasembled my dishwasher looks like new. No wonder there was so much junk in the bottom of the dishwasher, even a repairman didn't find this 6 months ago. You are so much better off to do these jobs yourself instead of paying someone to just stick their head in and charge $75.00. Hey and I'm a 72 year old grandma. If I can do it so can you!!

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  36. Gah this post should come with a parental warning! After cracking open the first filter I wanted my Mom!
    But I'm proud of myself for only gagging once!

    My husband ended up doing some of the work too... we are an awesome team!

    Hopefully now there won't be so much crud on my dishes!

    I've used the dishwasher cleaners in the past but without actually getting behind the filters it's not going to be a deep clean like this. I'm definitely going to try the Tang thing for in between deep cleans... I also heard unsweetened Kool-Aid lemonade works. But I'm not sure I can get that here in Canada?

    Thank you thank you thank you for this informative disgusting post... grossest job ever! And I've changed adult diapers for a living! Ha!

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  37. I always get stuck with cleaning our dishwasher, so it is awful inside. It seems, your method is really very tranquil. Let me try this.

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  38. I have stainless steal insides...not sure if I can clean w/vinegar or baking soda...??? any suggestions?

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  39. Im glad I found this, but scared to see what I find in my dishwasher!

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  40. I wish I had seen this last year. I had to pay a repairman to see why my dishwasher wasn't cleaning properly, I had been using liquid soap and it had built up. The repairman suggested I get a commercial product to clean the dishwasher. I have been doing this about every 6 weeks: it was getting expensive. Thanks for the help

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  41. Let me bookmark this site. It was nice reading it

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  42. Hey that's really a great post and a wonderful description out here, I really like the way things are being executed and discussed here.

    Drain cleaning

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  43. Amazing post. I think this is the easy way to clean it. Keep posting.

    Cup & Saucer Dispensers

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  44. aaaaaaand done! Awesome advice how do I pin "How to clean your dishwasher"?

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  45. Can anyone help, my filter is stuck and I cant remove it. Has anyone got any ideas. Amanda

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  46. We must be quite lucky our machine never seems to smell at all, it may on the odd occasion not clean well
    but i just clean out the spray arms and presto all good, very interesting read thanks foe publishing.

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  47. I pulled out the detergent drawer on my washing machine today and found black and red mold on it. Gross. Keep that drawer pulled out in between loads. Seriously. I am doing the dishwasher right now! Yay! I love deep cleaning. Great tips. I was just planning on using vinegar but I am going to q-tip and tweeze it later and then run it again. Man it is going to smell good.

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  48. I just tried your rust removal tip on a black shirt that had a white design on it, part of the white design got rust on it in the wash a month or so ago. Your baking soda & peroxide paste tip removed it with the help of an old toothbrush!

    Jen

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  49. when i first arrived here i thought "that's my dishwasher". surely i can now clean my dishwasher properly. and then you showed me pictures of how gross it would be. i'm kind of scared. here i go.

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  50. I have been examinating out many of your posts and i can state nice stuff. I will surely bookmark your website.
    Grease traps Cincinnati Ohio

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  51. Absolutely loving this collection! Very wearable!
    and the indigo and mixed blues are beautiful!love it!

    Men Tang suit shirts

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  52. I just cleaned my dishwasher for the 1st time and now I am going to have to do a double take. I am renting and needless to say I think it would have been easier to replace the main filter....it was all covered underneath in mold (good thing I was wearing a mask due to working in a hospital). Thank you for the information!

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  53. I want to personally thank you for this post. I've recently started using a homemade dishwasher detergent for a few months now. my portable dishwasher for many years now and have never cleaned it this thoroughly which im now embarrassed to admit lol I found your post on Pinterest. Im so glad that you gave instructions on how to remove the filters. I honestly wonder how my family and I are alive after seeing all that build up. Smh i just spent over 3hrs thoroughly cleaning my dishwasher and filters, which i had so scrap & soak. My filters are now clean as new. Amazing! It also helped that your pics looked exactly the same as my dishwasher inside. Im now running it with vinegar like uve recommended and then will again with a LemiShine dishwasher cleaner. When I saw how bad the filters were I seriously considered taking my dishwasher to the dumpster! So glad I stuck with it and it now (almost) looks brand new. Thanks again!

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  54. Hi,

    Thanks for giving these tips , because I am using the dishwasher and it's take too much time to clean it. But now I have applied your tips on my owned dishwasher. Now I am enjoying also with the cleaning of dishwasher. :)

    I also heard that the portable and good quality dishwashers are also available at Appliance Connections.

    Thanks ...

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  55. I agree with you. If workplace or office will be clean, then clients and coming visitors will also impress with its clean environment. I am also a commercial cleaner and I know its importance. In my opinion, regular cleaning is best way to keep office clean for a long time.Office Cleaning Vancouver

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  56. Aseado commercial foodservice dishwashers, Aseado pass through, undercounter, potwashers, rack conveyors and glasswashers are manufactured in Europe to the highest specifications. Designed specifically to suit the Australian market. Models are Watermark approved.
    http://aseado.com.au

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  57. Aseado commercial foodservice dishwashers, Aseado pass through, undercounter, potwashers, rack conveyors and glasswashers are manufactured in Europe to the highest specifications. Designed specifically to suit the Australian market. Models are Watermark approved.
    http://aseado.com.au/

    ReplyDelete
  58. Hello, Thanks for the tips! What kind of screwdriver did you use to remove the screw-bolts? The screws are not the type that takes a philips head or a one-slit. Thank you!

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  59. Ok I have to add my two cents..lol
    I read quite a few comments but not all of them, so if mine is a repeat, I apologize. We have lived in this house for almost 3 years and have done the occasional vinegar cleaning...but without doing any deep cleaning by undressing anything, using tweezers or a wet vac, etc....
    Our dw recently needed a minor repair while my husband was out of state for work and so I asked my neighbor guy to take a look at it. He easily replaced a minor part for me (Thank you, Len!!) in about half an hour. He made the comment that he was expecting my dw to be dirtier than it was, plugged up with food and sediment (even with a water softener and rust-out salt pellets, our water here is HORRIBLE) and/or nasty filters. He asked me what my trick is to keep everything sparkling and smelling so nice. I told him a packet of Kool-Aid lemonade once a week. Pour it where the detergent goes and run your dw on the hottest/longest cycle. The citric acid in the lemonade powder is a disinfect and a deodorizer..not to mention a whitener. My dw was put into our home back in 1998 and it may look outdated on the outside, but it looks brand spankin' new on the inside. And when the lemonade cycle is done and you open that door.....mmm mmm gives the whole kitchen/dining room that wonderful fresh lemony smell!!
    P.s. I have also tried and had success with packets of pink lemonade and the new blue raspberry lemonade. Works beautifully..and the smell.....mmm mmm!

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  60. Ugh auto correct! I meant unscrewing..not undressing. Lol

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  61. I came across your site when searching for cleaning Dishwasher. Yours is very similar to mine. Have you ever cleaned the flood float! Yuck, how disgusting, it gets really dirty too. It's that round thingy in bottom front of dishwasher. To remove it you need to take out that hex head screw that also holds the heater clip. (pay attention how clip is mounted so you can replace it just as it was) My float had two removable parts plus a stick that was inside, I didn't mess with that. I cleaned the two gross parts and put it all back together the way it was. Now I have a perfectly clean washer. I wish I could get that steam vent out, but I found out it wasn't removable, so I did the toothbrush and Q-Tip thing. For those of you who don't want to take apart the flood float check out this link.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmHsyhAGrQA Now I'm happy, my dishwasher is deep cleaned!

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  62. I removed my steam vent & was shocked! Looked like it was full of hardened paper! I cleaned my DW with vinegar & it's so much better. I have yet tried to clean the filter in the bottom. Didn't know there was one!

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  63. Seemed as though it was loaded with solidified paper! I have yet attempted to clean the channel in the lowest part. blocked drain colchester

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  64. My dishwasher looks like a very similar model. I also pried and pried on the hot air vent with a flat head screwdriver to no avail so began looking online and found your post. Glad to know that others' vents don't come off either. I tried the Q-tips and worked much better than what I was trying originally. Thanks for the tips!

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