Dishwashers offer perfect places for mold to form. The combination of heat, moisture, and darkness means that mold can thrive if your dishwasher is not kept clean and dry when not in use. The most common places for mold to form are around the door gasket (seal) and the dishwasher filter.
If you want to prevent mold from forming in your dishwasher, make sure to keep the gasket and filter clean; and deep clean your dishwasher at least once every three months. Air drying your dishes can also increase the chances of mold forming.
Keep the door gasket clean
The dishwasher’s door gasket (the rubber seal around the door) stops water from leaking out of the dishwasher while your dishes are being washed. However, this rubber has crevices that are dark and frequently exposed to water or high humidity – that makes the gasket a great place for mold and bacteria to form.
Regularly cleaning the dishwasher door gasket is the best way to prevent mold from forming. If the gasket is not regularly cleaned, mold will form on food debris and other residues that collect on the gasket. You may not realize mold is there until you pull back the gasket.
Most dishwasher manufacturers recommend cleaning the door gasket at least once per week. If gasket mold is a frequent problem, the gasket should be cleaned after every cycle. If the mold is not cleaned, you run the risk of the mold penetrating the rubber and causing the gasket to fall apart.
The gasket can be cleaned with a dry cloth after a cycle to prevent mold from forming. Dish soap and water, or a general-purpose cleaner, can also be used to clean the gasket and remove mold. If there is mold on the gasket that will not come off, consider scrubbing with a toothbrush and a combination of water and white vinegar. Make sure to dry the gasket after cleaning it; otherwise, mold and bacteria will quickly return.
Don’t forget to clean the filter
Most dishwashers have a filter located in their tub, underneath the lower spray arm and dish rack. The filter collects food debris, and if it is not cleaned regularly, mold will form in and around it.
Typically, dishwasher manufacturers recommend cleaning the filter once per month. However, if dishwasher mold is a common problem, consider cleaning your filter weekly.
The dishwasher filter can be cleaned with dish soap and water. If there is mold in the filter that is difficult to remove, white vinegar or baking soda can be used to remove it. The filter can be accessed by taking out the lower dish rack and (usually) the lower spray arm. You may need to turn the filter counterclockwise to release it.
Be careful when air-drying dishes
Some people like to leave their dishes to air dry after a wash cycle. While this may be eco-friendly and energy-efficient, if the dishwasher does not completely dry out, you run the risk of mold forming.
If you like to air dry your dishes, make sure the dishwasher door is left open during the process, and remove any moisture that is left in the dishwasher after the dishes have been put away.
Deep clean the dishwasher
A lot of dishwasher owners overlook the need to give their dishwasher a deep clean, often because it seems unnecessary (a dishwasher cleans things, why should it need it to be cleaned?). However, depending on how often your dishwasher is used, it should be deep cleaned every one to three months.
A deep clean involves running a cycle with just a cleaning solution in the dishwasher, while also wiping down dishwasher surfaces and cleaning the door gasket, spray arms, filter, and dish racks. Detergent residue around the detergent dispenser should also be removed. Dish soap and water are usually all that are required to clean these components.
There are several commercial dishwasher cleaning products that are specially designed to deep clean the dishwasher by running a cleaning cycle. Alternatively, baking soda or white vinegar can also be used to deep clean the dishwasher (Do not use baking soda and vinegar in the same cleaning cycle, however).
If you use baking soda to deep clean your dishwasher, empty the dishwasher and sprinkle a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run a long, hot cycle. If using white vinegar, pour a cup of vinegar into a dishwasher-safe container, and place the container on the top dish rack. Like with baking soda, make sure the dishwasher is empty, and then run a long, hot cycle. After the cycle is complete, the dishwasher should be clean of stuck-on debris, stains, and unsavory odors.
Deep cleaning the dishwasher every one to three months will prevent mold from forming, and it also has the benefit of preventing drainage issues and ensuring internal components, like the drain pump, last longer.
Leave the dishwasher door open
If you have a regular problem with mold in your dishwasher, leaving the dishwasher door open after a cycle can help dry out the dishwasher and stop mold from forming. However, be aware that leaving the door open could be dangerous if there are children or pets around.
How to remove mold (last resort)
If dish soap, white vinegar, baking soda, or general-purpose cleaners cannot remove the mold from the dishwasher, chlorine bleach will kill mold and remove most mildew stains. If you need to use bleach, combine one cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Scrub the dishwasher with the bleach and water solution, but make sure to wear protective gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes.
After cleaning the dishwasher, run a long, hot cycle to rinse out the bleach residue. Make sure all of the bleach residue is removed before using the dishwasher again.
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