Our dishwashers are one of the most valuable yet most taken-for-granted appliances in our homes, and we often forget to give it a little TLC. Giving it a clean will rid it of bacteria and food residue, as well as possibly improving its performance.

Here are some tips on the most efficient way to clean your dishwasher.

Tools:

• White vinegar • Baking soda • Dish soap • Paper towels or cloth rags • Scrubbing brush

1. Wash the Exterior

If your dishwasher has a plastic front, soak a cleaning rag in hot, soapy water and wipe the front down. Use a paper towel or clean, dry rag to dry it. If your dishwasher exterior is stainless steel, fill an empty spray bottle with a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water. Spray on the front and immediately wipe dry with a soft cloth. This will get rid of the fingerprints and water stains too.

2. Clean the Filter

If you put your dishes in the dishwasher without giving them a rinse first, all those food particles will collect and you’ll end up with a clogged filter.

Unscrew your filter – it will either be a detachable one on the bottom, or a removable screen filter – and remove the food particles. Run the filter under hot water, then soak the filter in warm, soapy water for ten minutes. If there’s still residue, use a scrubbing brush to remove it and give the filter a good rinse before putting it back in the machine.

3. Remove and Clean the Accessories

Don’t forget to clean the racks, spray arms or utensil holder. Remove them and wipe down with warm soapy water. Give the spray arm a little extra attention, using a scrubbing brush to remove any bits of food. Rinse the accessories and return them to the dishwasher.

4. Wash with Vinegar

Vinegar is a common staple in most people’s food cupboards, and it’s also an antibacterial and anti-odor agent, which makes it ideal to fix discoloration and unpleasant odors that are common in dishwashers.

Pour two cups of white vinegar into a bowl and put in the center of the bottom rack. Without adding any detergent, run a normal cycle with the vinegar in. You’ll get a sparkling and fresh smelling dishwasher.

5. Deodorize

For extra deodorizing after the vinegar wash, add some baking soda. Sprinkle one cup of baking soda over the bottom of the dishwasher, and if you can, leave it overnight to give it a chance to kill germs and bacteria. Run an empty cycle the next morning.

Dishwasher Tips

• Use an old toothbrush to clean out door seals and other hard to reach places.

• When you load dirty utensils, put half of them in upward, and half downwards. This keeps them separated for a better clean.

• Use steel picture wire to clean out the openings in the spray arm.

• Don’t forget to refill your rinse-aid dispenser once a month for sparkling glassware.