Getting Stuck-On Food on Clean Dishes? Maybe You Need to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter


Dishwashers are NOT self-cleaning, at all.  In fact, they are little storage containers for your dirty little secrets.  Further, you can’t get a good clean load through when your dishwasher is dirty.  They are known to harbour fungus, along with old food and proliferate bad odours throughout your clean dishware.  It’s actually downright nasty when you think about it.

I try to clean my dishwasher filter out at least twice per year, if not more, depending on how cruddy my dishes get.  Admittedly, I don’t spend too much time rinsing my dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.  I try my best, but sometimes I just shove them in the ol’ thing and turn a blind eye, hoping the little troll in my dishwasher will eat up all the crustiness that lives on my dishes and not affect my filter.  But, this fantasy of mine never does come true.  I just want to state clearly that I don’t throw full on dirty dishes and cutlery into the dishwasher, they get a preliminary rinse, but nothing too thorough.

Now if you forget to rinse your dishes once in a blue moon it  isn’t terrible, but day-by-day it builds up.  Your dishwasher filter does its best, but it just can’t keep up. What ends up happening is you start to get random bits of food (and it’s even grosser when you can identify the exact meal the food came from) stuck on your dishes and glasses.  For example, I eat chia seeds and ground flax seeds whit my breakfast, and if every single little seed is not cleared out of my plate, it will re-appear on another dish or glass once the load is finished.

I won’t get into the gory details, but I did wear gloves and there was a substantial amount of rinsing required.  I should have taken pictures, I really should have, but I didn’t, so please use your imaginations or watch the dishwasher video.

Here’s what I did to clean out the dishwasher filter:

  1. Emptied the dishwasher (kind of a given).
  2. Removed the filter and mesh cover, mine is threaded and unscrews easily.  They are a little different, and removing the filter can be determined by reviewing your user manual or Googling it (yep, Googling).
  3. Pick out any clumps (yeah) and discard, then place the filter and filter cover in a sink filled with warm water and a squirt of dish soap.  Let this soak for at least an hour (I left mine overnight).
  4. Use a cleaning toothbrush to brush out any remaining debris stuck in the filter of mesh cover. Rinse while doing this.  You really can’t do it without a cleaning toothbrush.
  5. Kind of a bonus step here, fill your sink with warm water and add a cup of vinegar.  This is the final cleansing hurrah, just to kill any odours remaining, leave it for 10 minutes.
  6. Replace

Maybe it seems daunting because of the multiple steps required,  but takes only a few moments in total (aside from soak time).

You’ll look at your dishwasher filter with pride and be very excited to unload your next load of clean dishes.  They’ll actually be clean!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent this filter from getting clogged up with your sloppy seconds:

  • Rinse your dishes well, removing essentially all debris, grease and sauce before loading.
  • For stubborn stuck-on food bits, soak the dish with water (really simple) for an hour, then rinse with water and a sponge and load.  The water will get rid of most things, and if the stuck-on food is really stubborn you can add some baking soda and dish soap into the mix to assist in the process.
  • It is always easiest to rinse dishes right after a meal so that food does not have a chance to harden onto a dish.

So, I hope you have been motivated to check out your own dishwasher filter and see what’s lurking.  It’s easy to do, just requires some courage, a pair of gloves and about 5 minutes of your time.

Cruddy Dishes Post-Wash? Here's the fix!

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Melissa Maker is the host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube, editor-at-large of, and founder of Clean My Space (a well-known Toronto-based cleaning service). She's been knee-deep in the cleaning game since 2006. Follow Melissa: @MelissaMaker on Instagram, SnapChat & Twitter!


  1. You dont need to say Mother Fu*%&$! In this or any of your videos. It’s very unprofessional, and the general public will get your point without your “I think I’m soo awesome” attitude and curse words.

  2. What is the purpose of the F bomb? Do you even know what it means? That word is without a doubt the the foulest word anyone can use, especially a woman. Look it up. If someone, anyone used that word in my home, they would be told to leave.

  3. Obviously some people are too serious about their cleaning tips! I on the other hand didn’t mind the f bomb because unlike other people I can admit that it is verbalized pretty often around my home…LOL a filthy mouth giving tips on cleaning a filthy machine! Thanks for the information Melissa.

  4. Melissa, i’ve just moved into an apartment that has a dishwasher that the plastic filter in the bottom catches all the food particals but it is starting to not drain unless i run vinegar or bleach a cycle before my dishes this can run up my water bill, now im worried what can i do?

  5. Is there a way to keep the washer arms clean? Mine have crumb-like crud stuck in the holes. It looks like I will need to take them out and soak them. How can I keep them clean? Thanks

  6. Cleaning tip was helpful, but I won’t be subscribing b/c of the f-bomb. This is supposed to be a professional video, and that showed lack of maturity and disrespect for viewers. 🙁

  7. Loved it! Won’t subscribe tho cuz of the f-bomb…I mean, seriously. Can’t ANYONE have a clean mouth anymore, especially when doing such an everyday thing as giving cleaning tips??? Tacky…

  8. I agree with Faye Rahman. I was loving this until the F bomb. Such a beautiful girl to be so comfortable with such an ugly word.

  9. Awsome article about cleaning the dishwasher. I had a client with very dirty and smelly dishwasher. I will share your article to read it.

  10. The only white vinegar I can find is white wine vinegar and I don’t know if I can use this for the washer, the dishwasher and all the uses you make in your cleaning routine.

  11. Hi Melissa, do I need distilled white vinegar for this or can I use the common white vinegar used for cooking? Where I live, I can’t find distilled white vinegar

  12. Good article and helpful. One thing that I realized with my machine was that I had the hot-water too cold, the manual stated that it needed to be a particular temperature and that would aid the cleaners. To check, see if your machine instructions states the required temperature. Then run your hot water into a cup, bowl, or glass and leave running, then check the running water with a meat thermometer. After I increasing the water temperature I saw a definite improvement in the cleanliness of the dishes and washer.

  13. Hi Melissa, i’ve noticed that my glaases have marks like scratches on them after using them on the dishwasher, is that normal after some time? How can this be avoided? Help!

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