How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

A clean and properly maintained dishwasher filter is essential for ensuring your dishwasher runs efficiently and keeps your dishes sparkling clean. With regular use, dishwasher filters can get clogged with food particles, grease, and soap scum, which hampers water circulation and cleaning performance. Cleaning your dishwasher filter regularly is an easy process that doesn’t take much time or effort.

Why You Should Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Keeping your dishwasher filter clean provides several important benefits:

  • Improves cleaning performance – Removing built-up debris improves water flow and allows your dishwasher to work most effectively. Clean filters mean better cleaning results.
  • Saves energy – Clogged filters force your dishwasher to work harder during wash cycles, using more water and electricity. Regular filter cleaning improves efficiency.
  • Extends dishwasher lifespan – Letting debris accumulate can lead to clogs in pumps and other dishwasher parts. Regular filter cleaning reduces wear and tear.
  • Prevents bad odors – Leftover food in the filter can create unpleasant smells. Cleaning removes these food particles and odors.
  • Reduces noise – A clogged filter can cause the dishwasher to make loud noises or grinding sounds during operation. Keeping it clean reduces noise.
  • Avoids overflowing – Buildup in the filter can block proper water drainage, causing water to back up and overflow. Proper filter maintenance prevents this.

How Often Should You Clean the Dishwasher Filter?

Ideally, you should clean your dishwasher filter every 2-4 weeks for optimal performance. However, the following factors can influence how frequently your filter needs cleaning:

  • Hardness of water – Hard water causes more limescale buildup, requiring more frequent filter cleaning.
  • How often dishes are washed – Using your dishwasher daily means the filter gets clogged faster than occasional use.
  • Types of dishes washed – Washing dishes with lots of food debris like casserole pans creates more filter buildup.
  • Filtration system – Some dishwashers have advanced filtration requiring less frequent care. Check your manual.

To determine if your filter needs cleaning, remove it and check for food debris. If the filter is clogged, clean it. You’ll likely need to clean it more often if your dishes aren’t getting fully clean.

Dishwasher Filter Cleaning Tips

Follow these tips for effective dishwasher filter cleaning:

  • Remove large food pieces – Pick off any large debris like bones, fruit pits, etc. before scrubbing. This prevents clogging your drain.
  • Use a soft brush – Gently scrub the filter with a soft cleaning brush to remove stuck-on debris. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
  • Rinse thoroughly – Rinse the filter until the water runs clear to wash away all loosened food and grime.
  • Clean filter housing – Use a sponge to wipe down the filter housing area inside the dishwasher.
  • Wash detergent residue – Use warm, soapy water to remove any built-up detergent or soap scum.
  • Dry completely – Wipe the filter dry with a cloth or let air dry to prevent odor-causing moisture.
  • Replace if worn out – Dishwasher filters wear out over time. Replace if bent, misshapen, or very difficult to clean.

Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Dishwasher Filter

Cleaning your dishwasher filter is a straightforward process that takes just a few minutes. Follow these steps:

1. Locate Your Dishwasher Filter

  • Dishwasher filter locations can vary slightly by model. Check your owner’s manual if unsure.
  • On most models, the filter is on the bottom of the dishwasher tub along the back wall.
  • It may be marked with a cylinder or grate symbol.

2. Remove the Filter

  • Pull out the bottom dish rack to fully access the filter.
  • Turn the filter handle counterclockwise to loosen it.
  • Lift out the entire filter apparatus.

3. Clean the Filter

  • Use a soft brush or cloth to wipe away large food particles. Avoid rinsing debris down into the dishwasher drain.
  • Scrub with warm, soapy water to break up grease and residue.
  • For stubborn buildup, fill a sink with warm water and detergent. Let the filter soak to loosen debris.
  • Rinse thoroughly until water runs clear. Wipe clean with a soft cloth.

4. Clean the Filter Housing

  • Check the filter housing area inside the dishwasher. Clean any debris with a wet sponge.
  • Use an old toothbrush to carefully clean where the filter sits.
  • Remove all residue for optimal water flow.

5. Reinstall the Filter

  • Double check that all debris is removed from the filter and housing area.
  • Replace the filter apparatus into its slot.
  • Turn the filter handle clockwise to lock it into place.
  • Push the bottom rack back in. Run an empty wash cycle to rinse away any loose debris.

And that’s it! With just a few minutes of effort, you’ve ensured your dishwasher filter is clean for peak performance.

Common Problems When Cleaning Dishwasher Filters

Cleaning dishwasher filters is usually quick and straightforward, but these issues can sometimes arise:

  • Difficulty removing – Old mineral deposits may cause the filter to stick. Gently tap a screwdriver under it to loosen.
  • Dropping debris into drain – Use a paper towel to protect the drain when scrubbing off loose debris.
  • Cracked housing – Over-tightening or mineral deposits can cause housing cracks. Replace cracked parts.
  • Melted plastic – Excess heat can warp plastic filters. Check dishwasher vents and temperatures.
  • Leaking water – Improper filter reinstallation can impede the door seal. Double check positioning.
  • Soap scum remains – For stubborn soap residue, use distilled white vinegar or dishwasher cleaner.

If issues persist after cleaning, consult your appliance manual or contact a dishwasher repair technician.

FAQ About Cleaning Dishwasher Filters

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cleaning dishwasher filters:

Should I clean my dishwasher filter with vinegar?

Yes, white vinegar is safe and effective for breaking down grease, soap scum, and mineral deposits on the filter. Fill a bowl with 1-2 cups vinegar and let the filter soak for 15-20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly before reinstalling. The vinegar smell will dissipate.

How can I clean my dishwasher filter without removing it?

Unfortunately, dishwasher filters must be physically removed from the appliance to be cleaned properly. There is no effective way to thoroughly clean a filter while it’s still installed.

Why is my dishwasher making noise after cleaning the filter?

Double check that the filter is securely locked back into place. An improperly installed filter can vibrate, causing noise. Also run an empty cycle to rinse away any debris the filter missed.

Why does my dishwasher have a bad smell even after cleaning the filter?

A dirty dishwasher interior can cause odors even with a clean filter. Scrub the interior with baking soda and vinegar, and run a hot wash to sanitize. Also check the drain hose for obstructions.

What is the best dishwasher filter cleaner?

For most filters, warm soapy water and a soft brush are all that’s needed. For stubborn buildup, use white vinegar, baking soda, or commercial dishwasher filter cleaners found at most hardware stores. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.

How do I know if my dishwasher filter needs to be replaced?

Replace your filter if it becomes misshapen, warped, split or has tears that make it unable to fit back into the housing correctly. Extreme buildup that is unable to be scrubbed off may also indicate the filter should be replaced.

Top Tips for Dishwasher Filter Maintenance

Besides regular cleaning, these maintenance tips will maximize your filter’s lifespan:

  • Scrape off large food debris before running your dishwasher. This prevents debris buildup.
  • Choose the hottest wash setting appropriate for your dishes. The higher heat helps dissolve grease and limescale.
  • Run an empty wash cycle with vinegar monthly to prevent soap scum accumulation.
  • Immediately wipe up any spilled rinse aids, sauces or oils. Don’t let them bake on.
  • Ensure your dishwasher is level. Tilting can cause the filter to fit improperly, leading to clogs.
  • Replace old dishwasher hoses. Worn hoses are prone to cracking and clogging.
  • Don’t overload your dishwasher. Overcrowding prevents proper water circulation for self-cleaning.

Taking a few minutes for regular dishwasher filter maintenance and care will maximize your appliance’s performance and lifespan. Your dishes will come out sparkling clean.


Regularly cleaning your dishwasher filter is one of the easiest ways to keep your dishwasher working optimally. Allowing debris to build up can lead to all kinds of performance issues and easily avoided repairs. Get into the habit of checking and cleaning your filter every few weeks. The small time investment will pay off with cleaner dishes, lower energy bills, and extended appliance lifespan. Refer to your dishwasher manual for your filter’s recommended maintenance schedule. With the simple step-by-step guide provided, you can easily keep your dishwasher filter spotless.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Clean dishwasher filters improve cleaning performance, save energy, extend lifespan, prevent odors and noise, and avoid overflows.
  • Ideal cleaning frequency is every 2-4 weeks but depends on usage and water hardness. Check when visibly clogged.
  • Remove large debris first, use a soft brush and warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly. Also clean the housing.
  • Common problems are stuck filters, dropping debris, cracks, melted plastic, leaks, and remaining soap scum.
  • Soak in vinegar to remove tough grime. Replace warped, torn, or badly worn filters.
  • Proper loading, hot washes, vinegar rinses, wiping spills, and replacing worn parts all support good filter maintenance.

Following these dishwasher filter cleaning tips and techniques will allow your dishwasher to function at its best for years to come.