Hint: You should be.

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The dishwasher is a hard-working member of any busy household, yet it is often overlooked during your weekly cleaning chores. In case you were wondering, yes, you really need to be cleaning your dishwasher. This helps it perform to the utmost of its ability, leaving your dishes cleaner and more sanitized. While vinegar and baking soda go a long way with a hot wash cycle, there is a not-so-obvious part hidden inside of your dishwasher that you might be forgetting: the filter. And once you see the gunk build-up that it accumulates, you'll be sorry you never knew about it. 

The dishwasher filter can be the main culprit as to why your dishes might be coming out with leftover food still attached (or just not quite as clean as in the past), and it can also contribute to any unpleasant, dank odor coming from your dishwasher. For newer models, the filter is a cylinder-shaped part often located on the bottom of your dishwasher. For some older models, it'll appear like a flat mesh plane on the bottom. For others, you'll have a filter on top and bottom. In that case, both need to be cleaned. 

The dishwasher filter should be cleaned much more often than you probably think. Once a month is ideal, but realistically, it's good to try to do so at least once every two or three months. It takes only a few minutes, so it's easy to work into your seasonal deep-cleaning schedule.

Follow the steps below to clean your dishwasher filter. (Warning: You might want to start by putting on a pair of gloves. Ick.) 

How To Clean Your Dishwasher Filter 

Step 1: Fill a mixing bowl with hot water and dish soap.

Step 2: Remove the lower dishwasher rack or roll out of the way. 

Step 3: Most cylindrical filters are located at the floor of the dishwasher and are removed by twist-lock. Look for arrows indicating which way to twist. Twist, unlock, and lift out. If a flat filter, it can often be easily lifted out. Repeat with top filter or any additional filter, if applicable. 

Step 4: Place filter (or filters) into the mixing bowl with cleaning solution. Soak for five minutes. This will help loosen debris. 

Step 5: Using a dish-washing bristle brush or an old toothbrush, scrub away debris and gunk from filter.

Step 6: Rinse thoroughly with hot water. 

Step 7: Using a sponge or dish rag with hot water and soap, wipe down the opening inside the dishwasher where the filter was removed to get rid of any loose debris.

Step 8: Replace filters in the dishwasher. 

If you're a visual learner, this TikTok cleaning video demonstrates the process. If you're unable to easily find or remove your dishwasher filter, consult the dishwasher manual before beginning.

Now that your dishwasher is in order, check out these 12 Surprising Things You Can Put In Your Dishwasher