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How to Clean a Dishwasher: 5 Eco-Conscious Tips

6 minute read / For your home

Our dishwashers do a lot for us. They can make our plates squeaky clean in a flash, give the baby’s teethers a much-needed shine, and most importantly, save our hands from a lot of scrubbing when all we want to do is sink into the couch and relax

If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher in your kitchen, you might be faced with a conundrum that occurs to many—how do you clean the thing that does all the cleaning? 

It’s a good question—and while we can hope that one day dishwashers will be able to give themselves a self-care cleaning day alongside your silverware, we can tell you how to clean a dishwasher with sustainable cleaners.

#1 Use the Right Dishwashing Detergent (And Skip the Pre-Wash)

When it comes to giving your dishwasher a pristine power-up, one of the first questions to ask is, what are you putting in that thing?

No, we’re not talking about the unrinsed alfredo sauce or broccoli food particles on your plates. Believe it or not, small amounts of food residue aren’t as much of a problem as you may think. Most dishwashers can handle some debris as long as you scrape off the big stuff.

In fact, Consumer Reports suggests that not rinsing even allows your dishwasher’s sensors to work better.

Skipping that extra rinse before you pop in the plates is good for the planet. Why? For every minute you spend pre-washing dishes, you use between 1.7–6 gallons of water, plus any energy required to run the hot water. 

Instead, the most important thing to consider when loading your dishwasher is what detergent you’re using. For best results, use a dishwasher detergent that  has a readily biodegradable formula, is effective on grease, avoids harsh chemicals, and won’t leave harmful residues on your plates or the dishwasher, such as our ECOS Wave Dishwasher Gel.

open dishwasher with clean dishes at home kitchen

#2 Don’t Skip the Rinse Aid

Nothing puts a damper on a night of toasts and celebrations than taking those crystal-clear glasses out of the dishwasher to find them practically opaque with water spots.

Tap water that contains higher levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium can react with your soap and cause residue that leaves dishes looking less-than-fresh. 

It can also result in multiple problems for you and your dishwasher, including:

All of this can make it more difficult to keep both your dishes and your dishwasher sparkling. 

Using a rinse aid can be a big help in keeping your tableware spotless and the inside of your dishwasher equally shining, especially when you’re skeptical about your water quality. Try an eco-conscious option like the ECOS WaveJet Rinse Aid, which uses natural lemon oil to dissolve buildup and prevent spots. Plus, it uses a 100% biodegradable formula.

#3 Care For Your Dishwasher After Each Wash

It can be oh-so-satisfying to unload your perfectly clean plates when they’re warm, dry, and sparkling clean. 

However, you might miss an important step in keeping a clean dishwasher—checking the inside after each wash.

Much of the debris that comes off your dishes will be caught by the filter. But if there are any bits of food it doesn’t catch or that are too big for the filter, those bits of food debris can cause buildup as they dry. The result? A less-than-refreshing odor.

To save yourself from having to clean this later on, we suggest giving your dishwasher a visual check after you’ve unloaded everything and using a damp cloth to wipe up any leftovers before yesterday’s meal becomes tomorrow’s smell. 

#4 Clean the Outside of the Dishwasher Each Week

Much like the fridge, stove, and microwave, the outsides of our dishwashers see a lot of traffic when it comes to fingerprints and smudges. To keep your dishwasher as spotless on the outside as it is on the inside, we recommend these steps on a weekly basis or as often as needed:

African Young Woman Fixing Dishwasher In Kitchen

#5 Do a Dishwasher Deep Clean Every Month

Every so often, it’s important to give your whole house a deep clean. An essential item that should be on your deep cleaning checklist is the dishwasher. If you haven’t deep-cleaned your dishwasher in a while, the first time might be a bit more time-consuming. With regular upkeep and attention to a few specific areas, however, it’ll be much easier over time.

Follow these steps to give your dishwasher the inside-out deep clean of its dreams:

Keep Your Dishwasher Safe, Clean, and Green

When you’re cleaning an appliance, it may be tempting to reach for the most powerful cleaners. You know, the ones that use harsh chemicals or strong fragrances to cover up unwelcome odors. However, before you reach for these solutions, you should know that not all of them are worth the results.

Some of the chemicals in common household cleaning solutions can be harmful to your dishwasher, your plates, yourself, and the planet. These include:

Instead of reaching for harsh cleaning solutions, look for soaps and cleaners that have a Safer Choice label, like those from ECOS. This label means the product has met standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and contains safer ingredients for your health and the environment. 

ECOS: Cleaning Solutions for a Cleaner Planet

Given how much they take off our plates, dishwashers can be a lifesaver in our deep cleaning routines. Before you feel guilty loading up those spaghetti-splattered bowls instead of washing them yourself, you might be surprised to learn that dishwashers can also help reduce our impact on the planet. 

Compared to washing your dirty dishes by hand, studies show that our modern dishwashing machine can reduce our water usage by half and reduce the energy output you need for hot water.

If our dishwashers are making such efforts to help the environment, it only makes sense for us to do the same. To expand your efficient cleaning habits with tips on how to clean a shower and how to clean a sink, ECOS is here to help. Keep your home and our planet safer from harsh chemicals by opting for eco-conscious cleaners formulated with plant-powered ingredients and 100% biodegradable formulas, like those from ECOS. 

Consumer Reports. Pre-Rinsing Your Dishes Before Putting Them in the Dishwasher.  
US Geological Survey. Hardness of Water. 
ECOS. The Nasties. 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Learn About the Safer Choice Label. 


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