How to Clean the Filter in Your Dishwasher

by Bill Welles

A clean and well-maintained dishwasher filter makes all the difference in the performance of your appliance. Yes, the machine that washes your dishes requires its own cleaning routine to properly sanitize and disinfect your cookware. A clean dishwasher filter ensures sparkling dishes after every wash cycle, but if you let the filter become clogged with food debris, your dishwasher will become a breeding ground for unsightly, unsanitary bacteria.

The main function of the filter is to prevent bits of food from recirculating onto tableware, cookware, and silverware after the machine has run its cycle. Water and detergent will break down any leftover remnants, but if the filter is clogged, the food scraps will remain inside the machine.  

If you read our blog on how to get the best results from your dishwasher, you’ll recall a section on maintaining a clean filter. Or, if you caught our article on fighting dishwasher odors, the importance of checking the dishwasher filter was introduced once more. Because of this trend, we wanted to spend more time on the subject and explore dishwasher filters in greater detail.

So, if you’ve ever thought about cleaning your filter but were hesitant because it looked too complicated, we assure you, it can be done. Follow our handy step-by-step cleaning instructions and helpful tips to keep your appliance and your dishes clean.

father and son unloading dishwasher

Dishwasher Filter Types

There are two different filter assemblies: Self-cleaning and manual. A self-cleaning filter is also known as a hard food disposer. This filter type typically uses a grinder to pulverize food debris like a garbage disposal. This GE built-in dishwasher comes equipped with the Piranha Hard Food Disposer, which features a stainless-steel blade that rotates at 3,600 RPM to break down food remnants and prevent large particles from clogging the wash arms. This self-cleaning function is so powerful, there is far less buildup for you to clean by hand, but the built-in grinder is much louder than a manual filter.

Manual dishwasher filters are found in newer dishwasher models and should be cleaned at least once per month. It depends on how often you use your dishwasher and if you’re someone who likes to pre-rinse their dishes, but once every 30 days is a safe bet to maintain a clean dishwasher. If you prefer not to establish a set schedule, look for visual alerts and determine if dishes feel gritty after a wash cycle. If you see stray bits of food and notice anything that feels or smells unpleasant, that’s your reminder it’s time to clean the filter.

If you’re unsure of your filter type, refer to your owner’s manual or examine the bottom of the dishwasher right below the rotating arm. Pull the rack all the way out so it’s easier to see. You should notice a removable cylinder with arrows indicating which way to twist to access the filter. Filters vary tremendously across different dishwashing appliances, which is why we’re going to break down the proper way to clean your filter.

GE dishwasher next to blue cabinetry

Cleaning the Dishwasher Filter

Believe it or not, even dishwashers with a disinfect, sanitize, or steam-clean setting still need to be cleaned themselves. If you’re tired of seeing stuck-on food left behind on your plates, it’s not your dishwasher's fault.

Bits of food and greasy residue from your cookware will be flushed away and left stuck inside your appliance if you don’t consistently clean the filter. Cleaning the filter isn’t as hard as it looks. It only takes a few minutes and requires just a few simple supplies you most likely already have in the house. Cleaning your appliance is well worth the time and effort it takes to ensure your dishes are clean enough to eat on.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

Equipment

  • A large bowl (or use the kitchen sink)
  • Dishcloth or sponge
  • An old toothbrush or scrub brush
  • Soft-bristled nylon brush (always use something with soft bristles so you don’t scratch the appliance finish)

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Distilled white vinegar

Instructions

1. Locate the Dishwasher Filter

As we mentioned, it’s easier to locate the filter if you first remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher. You'll find most filters on the interior floor with a round or cylindrical cap that twists and locks into place.  

2. Remove the Filter

Following the arrows indicated on the cap, twist to unlock the filter. Most filters unlock counter-clockwise, or righty-tighty-lefty-loosey for the layperson. Once unlocked, gently pull up to remove it from the dishwasher floor. If there are any additional filters, remove those as well.

3. Prepare Your Cleaning Solution

Fill your bowl or the kitchen sink with plenty of hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. We recommend using a quality detergent that contains a degreasing agent. White vinegar is optional, but it acts as a natural deodorizer to brighten and refresh your filter.

4. Soak and Scrub

Place the filter in your cleaning solution and allow it to soak to loosen any grease, grime, and debris. For any bits that are stuck-on and don’t appear to be breaking down, use the toothbrush or nylon brush to scrape away anything trapped inside the filter. After that, give the filter another good rinse in the hot water.

5. Wipe Down the Filter Housing

Grab your sponge or dishcloth and dip it into the cleaning solution. Wipe down the interior of your appliance and the area where the filter was removed. There is commonly a ring of mildew around this area that you’ll want to wipe clean.

6. Replace the Old Filter

Working backward, repeat the same steps to replace the filter. If there is a flat filter, install that first. Next, install the freshly cleaned or a brand-new filter and be sure it is locked securely in place.

That’s all! You’ve successfully cleaned your dishwasher filter and your appliance is ready to wash its next load of dirty dishes. You did it so fast you might have a little time left over to clean the other appliances in your kitchen!

unscrewing dishwasher filter

Tips to Maintain a Clean Filter

Whether you’re ready to make this part of your routine cleaning regimen or hoping you won’t forget to check the filter every month, there are a few easy ways to keep your appliance in tip-top shape in-between cleanings.  

  • You don’t need to pre-wash your dishes, but be sure to scrape away large food scraps from the dishes before placing them into the dishwasher.
  • Run an empty wash cycle from time-to-time. This will help to cut through and flush out any buildup of grease or grime near the filter. Place two cups of distilled white vinegar in an open container on the top rack and run a regular warm or hot water wash cycle to finish the job.
  • Add a calendar reminder on your phone or personal calendar to clean the filter and set the reminder to repeat each month.

Clean as a Whistle

Keeping your dishwasher clean shouldn’t be a painstaking process, but if you need a little help, dishwashers with a sanitize mode release an extra-hot rinse cycle to eliminate germs and bacteria living inside your appliance. This doesn’t replace cleaning the filter, but it helps keep dishware sparkling clean.

And if repeatedly cleaning the filter isn’t garnering better results, it might be time for a new dishwasher. The Bosch 300 Series Dishwasher features a third rack for additional loading capacity to free up space so you can fit more dishes without cramming your appliance.

Bosch dishwasher in a sunny kitchen

This is your chance to shop our entire catalog of dishwashers and dishwasher accessories. Simply chat with us online, give us a call, or visit us in-person at Duerden’s. Stop by today!