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How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter (5 Simple Steps)

Collage of illustrations on how to clean a dishwasher filter.

If you open your dishwasher and it smells bad or food particles are stuck to your dishes after a wash cycle, it may be time to clean the filter. Over time grime, food particles, and residue collect in the dishwasher filters. They must be cleaned out, but you may not know how to clean a dishwasher filter. It is easier than you think.

To clean a dishwasher filter, follow these steps: check that your model dishwasher has a filter, remove the dishwasher filter, remove the coarse filter and clean inside the sump, wash the filter and coarse plate, and replace the filters and tray. Run a cleaning cycle on the dishwasher once a month.

Irrespective of the brand and model of your dishwasher, most operate in similar ways, have filters that look similar, and are found in pretty much the same place in the dishwasher. The upside of this is that the instructions below will help you remove, clean, and replace your dishwasher filter, no matter the brand. Keep reading for all the info you will need.

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter - Step 2: Remove the Dishwasher Filter

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

Materials

  • None

Tools

  • Hot, soapy water
  • Dishwashing sponge/soft bristled brush

Instructions

If you notice any performance issues or problems with your dishwasher, the first thing to do to try to improve these issues before you call a plumber or other professional is to clean the filter yourself. In many cases, this will improve performance and help you avoid a hefty call-out fee!

The steps and process are simple and can be done by anyone in a few minutes.

Step 1: Check if Your Model Dishwasher Has a Filter

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter - Step 1: Check if Your Model Dishwasher Has a Filter

Not all dishwashers have removable filters. Most modern ones do, though. Many dishwashers built before 2010 had self-cleaning filters. Still, these were noisy, and manufacturers opted for the quieter manual cleaning filters. 

To check if your dishwasher model has a filter that can be removed and cleaned is to check the owner-manual that came with the dishwasher. Inside the owners-manual should be a diagram of all the parts indicating where the filter is. It will also have all the instructions on how to remove the filter.

Top Tip: If you do not have the original manual, the dishwasher will have a sticker or label listing the model number. Search for the brand and model number of the dishwasher on your favorite search engine. Use the word 'manual' in the search. You should be able to find a downloadable version of the manual to use.

Next, slide the bottom rack all the way out of the dishwasher. If you feel it will get in the way while removing the filter, remove the rack and place it away from the dishwasher.

Using the owners-manual, locate the filter inside the dishwasher. The upper filter assemblage is usually a cylinder shape and sticks out of the dishwasher floor.

Step 2: Remove the Dishwasher Filter

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter - Step 2: Remove the Dishwasher Filter

Look on the filter to see if any arrows indicate which way to turn it to remove it. These are sometimes marked in a different color or a raised profile.

Top Tip: Use a flashlight inside the dishwasher as there may not be enough light to see arrows or other instructions.

Remove the upper assemblage by turning the whole cylinder toward the arrow. If you cannot see an arrow, most filters turn counter-clockwise, so try this way first. Turn the filter until it clicks or stops turning. The filter will usually turn between 1/2 and 1/4 of a revolution.

Once it is unscrewed or unclipped, lift the filter directly up and out of the dishwasher floor. 

Top Tip: Move the spray arms out of the filter so that you can get to the filter more easily, allowing space for it to be lifted without the spray arms obstructing you.

When the filter is out, inspect it to see if it is clogged or if there are other obstructions of grime or food particles.

Step 3: Remove the Coarse Filter and Clean Inside the Sump

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter - Step 3: Remove the Coarse Filter and Clean Inside the Sump

With the cylindrical filter out of the dishwasher, remove the coarse plate by lifting it out of its cradle and maneuvering it under the spray arms and out of the dishwasher. The coarse plate is usually a flat metal mesh plate that surrounds the filter to let water into the sump.

Do not try to remove the coarse plate before the filter, as the filter holds it in place.

With the cylindrical filter and the coarse plate removed, reach inside the sump with your hand to feel for any large pieces of food or bones. Clear any of these out. 

Using a cloth or sponge and soapy water, clean the inside of the sump so that there are no obstructions when the filter system is reassembled.

Top Tip: As you are already cleaning part of the dishwasher's interior, it may be a great time to wipe down the spray arms, the racks, and the other inside areas of the dishwasher with soapy water to clean them of any build-up or grime.

Step 4: Wash the Filter and Coarse Plate

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter - Step 4: Wash the Filter and Coarse Plate

Prepare a sink with hot water and dishwashing detergent large enough to hold the filter and coarse plate to soak them.

Top Tip: Use a dishwashing detergent with a degreasing agent, as the filters will often have a greasy residue and grime build-up.

Suppose the filters are particularly caked with build-up, grease, and food particles. In that case, you should soak them in soapy water before cleaning.

Using a sponge or soft-bristled brush, scrub the filter on the inside and the outside. Clean the top and bottom of the coarse plate until the residue and the grime are completely removed from both.

For heavily caked filters, this may take more than one wash. Using the bristles of the brush, be sure to get into the corners and crevices of the filter.

Top Tip: Do not use a wire brush, which may damage the filter.

Rinse the filter and coarse plate in clean water until all the soap is completely washed off. There is no need to let the filters dry as they will go into a wet environment almost immediately.

Step 5: Replace the Filters and Tray

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter - Step 5: Replace the Filters and Tray

Once the filters are clean, place them back into the dishwasher in the reverse order they were taken out. 

Place the coarse plate in its cradle, place the cylinder filter back in its hole and turn anticlockwise to clip or screw it back in place. Make sure it has clicked or is screwed tight.

Spin the spray arms a few times to ensure the filter is in correctly and not obstructing the arms.

Top Tip: Run a cleaning cycle on your dishwasher at least once a month to remove grease or residue build-up on the filter. Add a monthly calendar entry to clean your dishwasher so you don't forget.

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Resources:

How To Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

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