Yes, you have to clean your dishwasher

Remember all that posting I did about keeping your rental clean so you’d get more of your deposit back when you move?

Pearls before swine – yet another tenant has vacated one of my rentals leaving their dirt for me.

I never have seen a mold garden in a dishwasher before, it was a new experience

Dishwashers really are a great thing to have, I believe they save water over washing little rounds in your sink, and they keep your kitchen neat and tidy by hiding your dirty dishes away. But you have to use them properly.

You all know people who wash their dishes before they put them in. It’s true – you shouldn’t put food waste in your dishwasher. Not only does it gunk up your machine, it is thrown all over and then cement-dried back on your dishes.

Having said that, I will remind all of you pre-washers  – where do you think that gunk is going? Right into the same drain. Sure, you might be saving your dishwasher from a little gunk, but you’re sending it right into your drains and your sewer/septic tank.

I scrape my dishes into a throw-away bag. I buy coffee and rice and some other foods in heavy-duty zip lock bags. I keep those folded in a neat stack next to my waste bin under my sink, handy for scraping plates or throwing away meat fat or other messy, smelly stuff. If I don’t have one of those, I always have a little stack of Chico News and Reviews under there, folded all nice. The underside of my sink is crowded, but I know what’s under there, it’s all useful.

So, you don’t have to put food waste in your dishwasher, and you don’t have to wash it down your sink.

It’s true though, there’s always going to be residue left – that’s why they have to be washed. The other nice thing about a dishwasher is it heats the water high enough to take the skin right off your hands. Hot water in a jet stream has enormous power. 

But, you still need to take care that your dishwasher does not get moldy and gross. The first thing you do is leave that door open for a half hour or so after you finish a load of dishes. This is a must. The heat and moisture and leftover residues make for the perfect mold culture, especially under and around the door.

Then, about twice a  month, I wipe out my machine with a clean rag and a toothbrush. The brush is for under the door. It’s quick and simple – mold builds up in little cramped spaces, where you think you can’t see – well, look for it. Just follow your nose.

If your dishwasher looks like this, its stinks, and you're washing your dishes in old filth.

If your dishwasher looks like this, its stinks, and you’re washing your dishes in old filth.

All that takes is a quick wash, maybe a little scrub with a toothbrush – it’s built up grease and crud from dirty dishes. And it has begun to mold. The smell when I opened the machine just about knocked me over.

Whatever you do, don’t let mold build up around the door gasket. Mold excretes acid, and that makes rubber and soft plastic brittle and cracked, and there goes the machine. You can’t replace the gasket on dishwashers or refrigerators anymore.  I got this from my repairman – these appliances are not really made to repair anymore, you have to take care of them if you expect to get the warranty lifespan. 

Of course, my appliances are like 20 years old, I’ve taken care of them, and I intend to have them for a long time. 

Here's the same picture of my dishwasher, this morning. Yeah, there's food stains in there, but they will wash out with one wipe of a wet rag after I put the clean dishes away.

Here’s a picture of my 19 or 20 year old  dishwasher, this morning. You can that food gunk tries to build  up along the bottom where the door seals. 

My dishwasher gets really dirty sometimes – mostly coffee, cause I don’t rinse out my cups.  It’s a simple matter of wiping it out a couple of times a week, after I run it and put away the clean dishes.  Once a month or so, I use an old toothbrush to get under the door, and I remove those little rubber gaskets in the corners, give them a good  washing, and clean under them before I put them back. Takes about 10 minutes, tops.  


But I scrubbed that dirty dishwasher for 28 minutes, had to get in there with baking soda and a brush, and that’s going to cost my ex-tenant $17.50. 

Wait until you see the toilets. 




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