I don’t have a dishwasher right now. My last apartment did, though, and I honestly don’t know how I would’ve maintained my sanity without it. While I currently live in a two-person household, in my last apartment, there was me—a person who cooks a lot—and three twentysomething guys who ate about five meals a day. There were a lot of dirty dishes in that kitchen. Without the trusty dishwasher, I fear the pile in the shallow sink may have at some point reached the ceiling. Of course, we didn’t always treat the dishwasher with the respect it deserved: Strands of pasta would get stuck in the filter, a not-quite-empty glass of red wine once dripped for two days, leaving a long pink stain on one side. There was also the time the kitchen smelled like a Sterno flame, after which we found that a plastic chopstick had fallen through the flatware basket and was melting on the dishwasher floor. 

For the six months I lived in that apartment, I never cleaned the dishwasher. I wish I had, to thank it for working so hard, and for effectively helping avoid what would have been hours of arguments among roommates about dirty dishes. Care for your dishwasher; give it a name if you want. Treat it with respect.

Here’s how it’s done. Empty all the dishes from your dishwasher. Start from the bottom, clearing out any debris that may have fallen into the dishwasher drain (animal bones and harder chunks of food can clog the drain, rendering it slow and less efficient).

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Next, place a cup (dishwasher-safe, obviously) in the top rack of the dishwasher and fill it with white vinegar. Run the dishwasher on hot to sanitize the interior, as well as remove lime scale and weird odors.

To get rid of stains as well further deodorize, sprinkle about ½ cup baking soda onto the bottom of the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher for half a cycle.

Finally, use a paper towel or dish towel spritzed with kitchen surface spray or white vinegar and wipe down the outside of the dishwasher—odds are you touch those buttons with hands in various stages of cleanliness. Wipe the sides too, who knows what’s stuck in there.