Keeping your dishwasher clean will ensure that it's running efficiently and that no food or detergent clogs it up. 

Is it a fun job? No, it's not. If you're anything like me, dealing with bits of old food is one of the worst household chores going. But if you want clean plates, a dishwasher that lasts and to avoid spending money on repair bills, it's a very good use of your time.

Don't forget that prevention is better than cure: if you scrape the food off your plates before you put them in the dishwasher, it'll save you having to remove the same food from the filter two weeks later.

Vinegar is often recommended for cleaning dishwashers but you should use it infrequently and sparingly and not while you’re washing kitchenware. As it’s an acid, vinegar can attack the rubber elements in your dishwasher (such as hoses and gaskets) and if it mixes with salt, it can discolour pans.

Make sure your dishwasher is empty before you begin cleaning.

1. First off, remove the rack at the bottom of the dishwasher. Take a torch or use your phone's light to see what's happening down there.

Interior of a dishwasher

2. Next, wipe away any food residue from the base and sides. While you're in the neighbourhood, you might want to refill your dishwasher's salt reservoir.

3. Now it's time to clean the filter. Your dishwasher's drain will be protected by a filter. This filter could come in one, two or even three parts. There may be a wider mesh section and what looks like a small basket that sits in the drain.

Take out the removable filter elements (which will be clearly marked), empty any food debris into the bin and clean the parts with a soft brush.

Drain filters

4. Don't forget to replace the filter parts before you run the dishwasher again.

5. If the inside of your dishwasher is looking less than shiny, you can use a cup of vinegar to clean it. Place a cup of white vinegar in the top rack and run the dishwasher on a hot cycle. Make sure that the vinegar is in a dishwasher-safe container.

6. If there's a musty smell, you can try a baking soda rinse. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda over the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit overnight. In the morning, run a hot water cycle.

Don’t use vinegar and baking soda together. It's not dangerous, it’s just totally ineffective. After an initial explosive acid-base reaction in which carbonic acid and sodium acetate are created (which is why a mix of the two is used – to much better effect – to clear drains), the second reaction is a decomposition into water and carbon dioxide gas. So, essentially, you’ll just be turning your cleaning cocktail into water.

And whole we're at it, don't use vinegar and bleach together – ever, on anything. Together, these two popular cleaning products make toxic chlorine gas. 

7. Clean the door seals. Use a clean, damp cloth and some washing up liquid and go over all of the seals. Don't use vinegar or bleach as they damage rubber and can leave it stiff and unable to form a proper seal. If areas have become compressed, gently pull them out. Make sure the seals are completely dry before you run the dishwasher again.

Finally, clean around the outside of the door. If you have an integral dishwasher, finish up by scrubbing the bottom edge of the door with an old kitchen sponge that you can throw away afterwards.    

8. After any cleaning process, leave the door on your dishwasher open and let it air out, ideally overnight.  

If you think your old dishwasher is giving up the ghost and you'd like to see some new options, we've reviewed both a full-size integrated dishwasher, the Hisense HV651D60UK, and a slim model, the Neff N50 slimline S875HKX20G – which has smart features.