empty dishwasher

How To Clean Your Whirlpool Dishwasher

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Whirlpool is one of the most popular dishwasher brands in the US and many prudent owners want to know how to take care of their investment. After all, dishwashers are among the most expensive home appliances.

This cleaning guide is focused on dishwashers made by Whirlpool, but it can certainly be applied to most other dishwasher brands too (especially the ones that are owned by Whirlpool as well, like Maytag, KitchenAid, and Amana).

Why Clean Your Dishwasher?

Through normal use, bacteria, minerals, and odors start to build up in your dishwasher. Regular cleaning can clear these out, which can also prevent them from growing into bigger problems that might require expensive repairs or even shorten your dishwasher’s lifespan. By cleaning your dishwasher, you can help keep it running smoothly and thoroughly washing dishes for its entire life.

Related: How Long Will Your Dishwasher Last?

Whirpool recommends cleaning your dishwasher with baking soda and vinegar or with the Affresh® Dishwasher Cleaner.

Cleaning Your Whirlpool Dishwasher with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda are great for cleaning almost anything in your home. Both are cheap, readily-available, and will kill the bacteria and cut through the dirt.

  1. Start by wiping out your dishwasher. Remove the dish racks and clean out any large chunks of food or grime either by hand or with a tool like a sponge or brush. Next, take the filter out from the bottom of your dishwasher and rinse it out in the sink, again cleaning any visible mess. To finish the preparation, water down some white vinegar or cleaning vinegar, dip a sponge or rag into it and wipe down the door gasket of your dishwasher.
  2. Next, you need to run a wash cycle with vinegar. To do this, find a dishwasher-safe container like Tupperware and pour in 1-2 cups of vinegar. Replace the dishwasher racks and set the container on the top rack. You can now run a normal cycle, which will whip up the vinegar and spread it around the dishwasher. The vinegar will eliminate odors, cut through grease, and clear away any residual detergent.
  3. Now comes the baking soda. Once the vinegar cycle has finished, place 1 cup of baking soda in a dishwasher-safe container and set it on the bottom rack (be sure to remove the vinegar container). Then run a quick cycle. The baking soda will absorb any remaining food particulate, and because its graininess makes it abrasive, it will finish off any dirt or stains left in your dishwasher. After the cycle has finished you can use your dishwasher as normal.
  4. If vinegar and baking soda do not entirely clean out your dishwasher, consider running a cycle with bleach. Add 1/2-1 cup of bleach to a dishwasher-safe container, set it on the top rack, and run a cycle. However, be warned that dishwashers with stainless steel interiors do not react well to bleach, so if you own one of these machines, bleach cleaning is not recommended.

Important: Do not use vinegar and baking soda in the same cycle. As they mix they will react in their characteristic science-fair-volcano fashion, creating tons of foam that you will be left to clean up.

Pro tip: White vinegar or diluted apple cider vinegar are both great for cleaning dishwashers, but the best choice is distilled white vinegar, as it is made without coloring agents which could stain your dishwasher’s interior.

Watch the video below if you prefer a visual explanation.

Cleaning Your Whirlpool Dishwasher with Affresh® Dishwasher Cleaner

Whirlpool makes Affresh® tablets for a number of appliances, including dishwashers. You can use them with dishwashers from other manufacturers as well.

Affresh® Dishwasher Cleaner specializes in washing away mineral build-up in your dishwasher. It also targets limescale, which causes cloudiness on glass and can clog your dishwasher. You can throw an Affresh tablet in with a normal wash cycle and it will not only clean out your machine but will also remove limescale from dishes and glassware.

  1. First, take out the filter from the bottom of your dishwasher and clean out large pieces of food or grime. A quick rinse in the sink will do nicely. Some filters cannot be removed, but you can still clear them out by hand, or with a cleaning brush.
  2. If Cleaning Without Dishes: Put one tablet in the detergent tray. If your dishwasher is so dirty it looks unclean to the naked eye, consider using two tablets—set the second one in the bottom of the dishwasher. Then just run a normal wash cycle and let the Affresh tablet do its work.
  3. If Cleaning With Dishes: Put one tablet on the bottom of the dishwasher. Add detergent to the detergent tray as normal, and load dishes to normal capacity. Run a wash cycle and stand back as the Affresh tablet cleans out your dishwasher!

Check out the video instructions on how to use Affresh® Dishwasher Cleaner.

How to Clean the Whirlpool Dishwasher Filter?

When your dishes are being cleaned by the dishwasher, all the food particles and the grease that gets washed off need to go somewhere. Your dishwasher’s filter traps these extra bits to prevent them from landing back onto the clean dishes. With time, the filter gets filled up with bits of food and cannot do its job as well.

Older dishwasher models sometimes include a self-cleaning filter, almost like a garbage disposal. It includes a grinder to mash up chunks of food, but this often creates a lot of noise, so newer models phased out self-cleaning filters in favor of manual-clean filters. No matter which filter your dishwasher has, it should be located on the bottom of the machine, underneath the spray arm.

How to Clean the Filter

Whirlpool dishwasher filters can be cleaned by following these steps (but they also apply to other brands).

1. Remove the Filter

  • Take out your dishwasher’s bottom rack so you can get at the bottom of the dishwasher. The filter should be located just underneath the spray arm, but some models may have it in a back corner.
  • Most filters have two parts, the upper and lower filter sections. To remove the upper section, turn it 90° to unlock it and simply lift it out.
  • To remove the lower filter section, lift it up and pull forward slightly. The lower filter should just pop out.

2. Clean the Filter

  • Rinsing your filter in the sink should be enough to remove most debris and build-up. Rinse in hot water so as to also kill any bacteria.
  • Caked on muck and mineral deposits might need a bit more cleaning. Use a soft brush with dish soap to scrub these off. Avoid wire brushes, scouring pads, or anything similarly scratchy and rough, as these cleaning tools can damage your dishwasher filter.
  • Give the filter a final rinse to remove any soap used while cleaning.

3. Wipe Down the Filter Housing

  • Mix up hot, soapy water and use it to wipe down the opening where you removed the filter from. Use a sponge or cloth for this. Wiping this area down will clean away food remnants or built-up grease.

4. Replace the Filter

  • Put the lower filter section back first in the bottom of the dishwasher. Look for tabs in the filter housing and make sure the lower section slots in underneath them so that the upper section will align with the lip of the filter housing.
  • Replace the upper filter section. Ensure it is not jutting out above the dishwasher bottom, it should be mostly flush.
  • Twist the upper filter section clockwise until it slides into place and locks. If the filter can still rotate easily, you need to twist more until it snaps into position.
  • Do a double check to make sure both sections of the filter are locked. Running your dishwasher without the filter properly locked in could damage your dishwasher. You may notice arrows on both sections of the filter: these do not have to be lined up. Just make sure the filter does not rotate freely, which indicates it is locked, then you can run your dishwasher as normal.

Here’s a video of how to remove, clean, and replace the filter.

How to Clean an Old Whirlpool Dishwasher Filter?

Older models of Whirlpool dishwashers sometimes use a self-cleaning filter, also called hard food disposers. They filter by pulverizing food in their grinder and then flushing away the remains. The name “self-cleaning” comes from them not needing to be cleaned out by hand other than in exceptional circumstances.

To clean your filter, you need to know if you have a self-cleaning filter or a manual-clean filter. One easy indicator is the noise: the grinding of a self-cleaning filter is quite loud. Another way to check is by reading through the owner’s manual for your dishwasher, or by speaking to a sales rep from the manufacturer.

If all else fails, get on your hands and knees and take a look for yourself. A manual-clean filter is a removable cylindrical component under the spray arm, which can be twisted and removed. Check if your dishwasher has a filter like this. If not, it’s a self-cleaning filter and all you need to do is clean the dishwasher itself like in the steps above.

When to Clean the Dishwasher Filter?

Newer dishwashers with manual-clean filters should be cleaned about once a month. Keep an eye on your dishes after you run a cycle: if they still have food stuck on them, or if they have a “gritty” feel, your filter is likely due for a cleaning. Also watch for odors from your dishwasher, which indicates you need to clean your filter more often.

Tips to Help Keep Your Dishwasher Clean

  • Rinse dishes and scrape off large pieces of food before putting them in your dishwasher.
  • Perform a cleaning cycle (as described above) at least once a month to prevent the build-up of grease and mineral deposits in your dishwasher.
  • Make a routine of cleaning your dishwasher filter once a month. For instance, resolve that on the first of every month you will clean the filter.