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There are two main appliances that do a lot of the cleaning for you: your dishwasher and your washing machine. Let’s take a moment to reflect on all of the time and energy these two appliances save us:

(a moment)

How to Clean the Things that Clean for You

(Pixabay / ErikaWittlieb)

They really are the unsung heroes of the appliance world. They handle the dried on mac and cheese, your teenager’s nasty soccer uniform, and the aftermath of a failed day of potty training.

But these workhorses need a little TLC from time to time. As you lean on them to keep your dishes and clothing clean, remember that they need to be cleaned, too. That’s right! Though it may sound counterintuitive, your dependable cleaning devices need to be cleaned out regularly. It’s almost like the conundrum poor college students face: do I need to wash my towel this week if it only dries me when I’m clean? The answer is a resounding yes!

Your washing machine and dishwasher have a tough job of scrubbing away the everyday dirt and grime from our lives, and if you’re not proactive, you could be making their lives a little harder. Which, if you think about it, makes your life harder because they could break down well before their expiration date if they don’t get the necessary preventative maintenance. I guess what I’m saying is this: if you don’t want to clean your appliances for their sake, do it for yours.


Cleaning your dishwasher regularly can yield a lot of benefits. It improves the draining, which then enhances the overall cleaning experience. Starting with a clean appliance prevents bad smells, appearances, and harmful germs from infiltrating your kitchen.

Before Each Load

  • Scrape the plate: There is some debate over whether or not you should clean your dishes before you load them into the dishwasher, but most say that scraping your plates before putting them into the dishwasher is enough to keep things running smoothly. Unless that grime is really caked on there, you shouldn’t need to waste that extra water before loading. In fact, dishwashing detergent needs a little bit of grease and dirt to work most effectively. So don’t worry about scrubbing, but do get the major food remnants off of your dishes’ surface before loading them.
  • Give your dishes room: It’s pretty tempting to squeeze in that extra plate or prop that last piece of Tupperware on top of the bowls before starting a load. However, your dishwasher needs space in between the dishes for the water to move around and clean, so make sure that you let it do its job.
  • Run the hot water and garbage disposal: Before you start your load, let your sink tap run hot water for a minute. Since the sink and dishwasher usually share the same hot water source, heating the water before you start the cycle can save your dishwasher a little bit of time and energy. Running the garbage disposal also gets rid of any smelly clogs before you start a cycle.
  • Use vinegar or rinse aid: If your regular detergent comes with a rinse aid built in, don’t worry about this step and just go about your way. If you typically buy a separate rinse aid, I have good news for you: save yourself that extra bit of cash and fill up the little rinse cup with white vinegar instead. It will help keep the water from spotting your dishes as well as deodorize and sanitize them.

Once a Month

You should give your dishwasher a little bit of extra loving a least once a month to help it perform its best. During your monthly deep clean, you should do the following:

  1. Remove the bottom rack and unclog the drain. Some drains come with a special cover that you can completely remove to get rid of all of the gunk.
  2. If possible, remove the rotating arm and scrub it all over with a toothbrush dipped in vinegar water. Pay careful attention that the holes are free of mineral deposits or bits of food.
  3. Wipe down the seals by dipping a rag in warm vinegar water. This will help remove some of the dirt and build-up that could result in a leak.
  4. Run two loads on your hottest setting. The first load should have a cup of vinegar either sitting in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack or poured directly into the bottom of the tub. When that load finishes, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the tub and run the dishwasher again on its shortest but hottest setting. This will finish the sanitizing and deodorizing process.

Washing Machine

Your washing machine doesn’t need deep cleaning as often as your dishwasher, but you need to attend to it at least every four to six months. This will help your washing machine keep your clothes as clean as possible with as little effort as possible on your part.

  1. Start by running an empty load using the hottest setting, but instead of detergent, pour two cups of white vinegar into the soap tray.
  2. When that load is finished, run another empty load using the hottest setting, but pour two cups of bleach OR hydrogen peroxide into the soap tray. This will help disinfect and sanitize the inside of your washing machine.
  3. Once both cycles have finished, use a clean cloth to scrub out the inside, outside, and soap dispenser with a solution of 1:16 vinegar to warm water.
  4. Run one last cycle on the hottest setting

By giving your dishwasher and washing machine a little bit of attention, you’re not only ensuring that your dishes and clothes get clean, but you could be preventing costly problems in the future.