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How to care for your dishwasher

A dishwasher takes all sorts of abuse by the homeowner -- here are a few tips to keep it in good shape

A dishwasher is one of the workhorses around your home. It takes all those dirty dishes, hides them behind a door, and returns them spotlessly clean. We barely give this wonderful machine a thought as we drop utensils in a basket, set plates upright in between plastic prongs, and make room for one more glass in the top rack. We simply expect it to handle the dirty work without giving it much in return.

Sure, you clean the face of your dishwasher and sweep out the food chunks and other debris that accumulates on the floor around the front panel. What can you do to keep the insides looking pretty and functioning properly? Plenty.

Now that you're making an inspection of the dishwasher's nice white interior, you probably are noticing a pool of water in the bottom. Don't panic, it's supposed to be there. A little water keeps the pump seals from drying out. In fact, if a dishwasher is not used very often, you should add water; if the seals dry out, the washer will begin leaking.

The upper and side sections of the door gasket are probably all you see when you run a wet cloth or sponge around the door's inside. When's the last time you looked at the part of the gasket on the underside? Take a visual and run your fingers around the bottom rim; chances are you'll find a bit of dirt at best and slimy gunk at the worst. If you find buildup, it is guaranteed the door is not sealing tightly.

To clean the gasket, use a toothbrush and non-abrasive cleaner to gently get in between the gasket and the metal of the door. It won't be easy to reach; try removing the bottom rack to get a better view.

While you have the rack off, inspect the wheels. A bit of rust residue has also probably made its way along the sides of your dishwasher, especially if you keep putting those old metal cookie sheets in for cleaning. Use the cleanser and remove them if possible.

Inspect the racks and utensil basket for signs of cracking. These can spread rust as well and can be easily replaced.

If your dishwasher has spray arms, check the holes carefully; they can become clogged with plastic and other odd bits that you might be surprised to find inside a dishwasher. Use tweezers to clean any stragglers that are sticking out of the holes.

Have a look around the heating element as well. This is a great repository for twist-ties; you may even find the end pieces of a twisted, burned piece of plastic spoon down there. The heating element is a magnet for these items; if you are washing plastic cup lids or other small items, it's always a good idea to anchor them. Locking utensil baskets are great to have for these small items. You'll find them at kitchen specialty stores.

There is not much more you can do to the dishwasher, but these few steps will go a long way toward keeping it running smoothly.



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