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How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

With these easy steps, discover how to clean a dishwasher filter to leave your plates, cups, and utensils extra sparkling clean.

Getting Started

It's essential that your dishwasher filter is well-maintained so that this kitchen appliance can perform optimally and do its job properly. When it’s not regularly cleaned, it can build up with food particles, preventing a thorough rinse cycle. Without a clean dishwasher filter, your tableware will come out of the wash looking a little more dull and less sparkling.
Person removing a dishwasher filter
So to maintain this crucial kitchen appliance, you need to learn how to clean a dishwasher filter. Follow these steps regularly to keep each dishwashing cycle immaculate.

Self-Cleaning vs. Manual Dishwasher Filters

Dishwasher filters come in two varieties: self-cleaning and manual. A self-cleaning filter offers an effortless cleaning cycle, grinding food debris up with a garbage-disposal system and distributing it down the drain.
But with a manual dishwasher filter, there is a fine mesh system that helps break down food particles. And this mesh filter needs to be cleaned every so often, which is why we’ve outlined these steps on how to clean a dishwasher filter.
Interior of dishwasher showing the filter

Steps on How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

Step One: Locate and Remove Your Dishwasher Filter

Locate the Dishwasher Filter

You'll typically find your dishwasher filter located beneath the lower dish rack. It’s also often located near the back corner of the dishwasher’s tub bottom or near the bottom spray arm.
For dishwashers with a two-part triple filter system, there is both an upper filter and a lower filter. A dishwasher’s upper filter keeps larger, oversized objects and food debris out of the pump, while the dishwasher’s lower filter prevents finer bits of food from being recirculated during the current cycle or even the next one.

Remove the Dishwasher Filter

To remove a dishwasher filter, give the upper filter a counterclockwise turn to loosen it. Reach in and grab the dishwasher’s lower filter, pulling both out and placing them in the sink to clean.

Step Two: Clean the Dishwasher Filter

With the dishwasher filters in the sink, rinse them thoroughly under the faucet. This should remove the larger bits of food particles and any other types of debris. For items that are still stuck, you can soak the dishwasher filter in warm water for five minutes to loosen them up.
For calcium deposits and really gunked on bits, you can use a brush. However, be cautious with the type of brush you use as you could potentially damage the filter. Use a gentle, soft-bristle brush, such as a spare toothbrush or even a sponge, as opposed to using a wire brush or scouring pad.

Step Three: Reinstall the Dishwasher Filter

Now with your clean dishwasher filter, it’s time to reinstall it back into the bottom tub. Return the lower filter first, positioning it under the tabs to allow the upper filter to align.
Next, align the upper filter into the lower filter’s opening. Turn it clockwise until it securely drops into position. If it doesn’t drop into position naturally and turns freely, it may not be properly aligned. Keep turning clockwise until it aligns and you feel it lock into place with the other filter.
Be extra careful with this step and ensure both the upper and lower filters are aligned and locked into position, especially before running your next dishwashing cycle. If the filter can no longer turn clockwise, it’s indeed fully locked in place, which allows you to run a cycle. While some dishwashers have arrows that homeowners assume must match up and align, this is not entirely true. Just make sure the filter is locked down.
Of course, each dishwasher brand may offer specific guidance and maintenance instructions. Whether you own a Whirlpool, GE or Bosch, it’s important to consult your own dishwasher’s product manual.
Dishwasher full of clean dishes

How Often Should You Clean a Dishwasher?

How often you clean your dishwasher depends on a variety of factors, such as:
  • Number of loads per week
  • Whether you rinse or scrape dishes prior
However, there are some clear signs that your dishwasher filter needs cleaning. Clean your filter when:
  • The upper filter collects visible debris and particles
  • Tableware still comes out with food remnants after each cycle
  • Tableware and dishes still have a gritty feel after the wash cycle
If you're unsure whether you have a self-cleaning or manual dishwasher filter, or are looking to upgrade your dishwasher, check out Abt Electronics’ Dishwasher Buying Guide to learn all about this essential kitchen appliance.