How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

If your dishwasher has a filter that needs to be cleaned manually, make sure you do so regularly.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

Next Project


Dishwasher filters prevent small, soggy bits of food from landing on your newly cleaned dishes, or clogging your drain. Some filters are self-cleaning, but the ones in newer dishwashers generally need to be cleaned manually. You'll know it's time if your dishwasher begins to smell funky, or if your dishes come out feeling gritty or have bits of food stuck on them. Here's how to clean your dishwasher's filter.

Tools Required

  • Soft cloths
  • Soft-bristle brush

Materials Required

  • Hot water

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Check Your Filter Type


Interestingly, it's the older dishwashers (made before 2010) that tend to have self-cleaning filters. These filters were typically equipped with noisy grinders, so manufacturers switched to quieter filters (without grinders) that need to be manually cleaned. To find out what kind you have, look at the bottom of the dishwasher under the spray arms. Self-cleaning filters sport a circular plastic grid or series of holes that cover the filter. Filters that need to be manually cleaned are round and look somewhat like the filters on popular water pitchers. If your dishwasher won't drain, here are the three things you should check.

Step 2

Remove the Lower Rack


Empty and remove the lower rack. The top rack can remain in place, unless it is in the way. Here's how to fix a dishwasher rack.

Step 3

Clean Debris from Area Near Filter

Once you spot the filter, wipe away any debris near it with a soft, damp cloth. Check out these helpful DIY dishwasher repair tips.

Step 4

Remove and Clean Filter


Unlock and remove the upper filter (the cylindrical piece) by turning it and pulling it out. There may be directional arrows on top. Rinse the filter under hot, running water. If any debris is stuck on, gently scrub it with a soft cloth or brush, such as a toothbrush. Do not use wire brushes or scrubby pads, as they may damage the filter. Here are the 10 ways you're loading your dishwasher all wrong.

Step 5

Create a Cleaning Schedule


Stay on top of your filter-cleaning by establishing a schedule. If you use your dishwasher daily and don't scrape or rinse items before loading, clean your filter monthly. If you only use it a few times a week, and rinse or wash items before loading, you only need to clean your filter once or twice per year. You can wash these 10 (surprising) items in your dishwasher.

Buy this cleaning checklist now on Amazon.

Up next, check out these useful steps on how to clean a dishwasher.