I have to admit, it's been at least two years since I've done this...

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Since I have seasonal allergies and find that cleaning is one of my go-to anxiety-relievers, I tend to keep a pretty tidy apartment. Well, I thought I did until I saw a big cleaning trend going around TikTok that made me realize I've been overlooking one really important detail that relates to how I eat and drink everyday.

While we'd probably never mop our floors with a dingy, muddy mop or clean our mirrors with a dusty, dirty rag—on purpose, at least—a lot of us (me included!) are eating off of some dishes that are probably a lot germier than we'd think.

I'm pretty regular about running a load of my dishwasher with Affresh tablets (buy it: $5.99 for six, Amazon) to clean the inside of the washing bay. But it's been at least two years, likely longer, since I last gave my dishwasher filter a deep clean. Videos like this were a disgusting and important reminder:

Turns out, we're supposed to be doing this at least once a year....and probably more like once a month depending on the amount of use and level of mess on our dishes, according to the appliance company Maytag. They suggest once per year if you wash all your dishes before loading them, twice per year if you only scrape and rinse, once per month if you run your dishwasher daily or every other day and fill it with dishes as-is (AKA not scraped or rinsed) and once per week (!) if you run your dishwasher twice per day with fully-dirty dishes.

The filter traps leftover food bits and pieces of broken utensils or glasses so they don't build up inside of pipes and possibly clog them. An important job, to be sure, but dishwashers made within the last 10 years or so don't have self-cleaning filters. That's where my new cleaning strategy comes in: I'm setting a calendar reminder on the first of the month to ping me when it's time to give my filter a scrub. In addition to keeping my dishes cleaner, a spick-and-span filter causes less wear and tear on the dishwasher as a whole.

Photo of a home kitchen
Credit: Getty Images / Andreas von Einsiedel

How to Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Here's how to tackle the job in a matter of minutes, the Whirlpool way. (Note: This should be fairly universal, but check your product manual for maintenance instructions tailored to your model.)

Step 1: Remove the filter.

Take out the bottom dish rack, then look for the filter in the far back corner or at the base of the spray arm. Give the top of the filter a twist and gently lift up.

Step 2: Give it a good clean.

Run water over the dishwasher filter to dislodge as much gunk as possible. If you still notice residue, use a soft brush (like this JIESHKE Quality Soft Household Cleaning Brush; buy it: $5.40, Amazon) and dish soap to lightly scrub off any lingering deposits. (Don't use a wire brush, scouring pad or rough scrubber, as those could break the filter.)

Step 3: Pop the filter back in.

Slide the filter into its hole, then turn it clockwise until you feel it lock into place. Slide the bottom dish rack back in and you're good to go.

Now that I've tackled my filter for this month's cleaning and am ready to kick off summer with a clean slate, I'm off to check out this spring cleaning checklist to see if I missed anything else!