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Cleaning and descaling the dishwasher

No one likes washing up by hand. Dishwashers make daily life in the kitchen so much easier and save us time, water and energy. Thanks to modern, environmentally friendly appliances, water consumption in a correctly loaded dishwasher is only half that of washing dishes by hand. Since dishwashers are used very frequently in most households, a large amount of water still flows through the appliances. This also continually results in limescale. These limescale deposits may lead to the appliance no longer working as normal, developing unpleasant odours or, in the worst case, triggering a fault that can be expensive to repair. But regular cleaning and descaling can prevent this.

What causes limescale?

Generally, water temperature and water hardness play a key role. The higher the washing temperature and harder the water, the more the risk of limescale increases. Hot water promotes the formation of limescale and this means that the machine parts that get hot during use are the most affected. This primarily includes the heating coils and the water inlet. When heating elements become calcified, more energy has to be expended to reach the temperature required to clean the dirty dishes. This leads to greater component wear as well as higher electricity costs. For this reason, regularly descaling the dishwasher is absolutely essential. By maintaining the appliance well, the lifespan can be prolonged and you can save on unnecessary and costly repairs or even a replacement machine. This also makes unpleasant odours simply vanish.

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Benefits of regular descaling:

  • Regular descaling is far cheaper and more efficient than the costs of repairs or replacing an appliance due to damage caused by limescale.
  • Regularly maintaining the dishwasher improves the hygiene of the appliance – bacteria, microbes, mould and grease have no chance to take root.
  • Preventing functional defects.
  • Saving energy and thereby reducing electricity costs with short heat-up times.
  • Eliminating unpleasant odours.
  • Prolonged life.

Our step-by-step guide for cleaning your appliance:


To achieve the best results, we recommend thoroughly cleaning the appliance before descaling.

  1. Remove the spray arms - they are usually only pushed in or fixed with a screw fastener. Clean them with washing-up liquid or a water-vinegar solution.
  2. Clean the spray openings to ensure full functional power. Then reattach the spray arms.
  3. Remove any food waste or other deposits from the internal drainage sieve.
  4. Check the inside of your dishwasher to see whether large deposits can be found in the door area and in the corners and remove the dirt using a sponge and descaling agent.

Expert tip: Do not use any scouring tools or caustic cleaning agents. Otherwise, you will damage the stainless steel plate and the rubber seals.

Descale with conventional industrial products:

  1. Industrially produced descaling agents are available as powder, liquid or tabs.
  2. Read the instructions for use on the packaging and follow them when applying the product on your appliance.
  3. Caution: Do NOT engage a pre-washing program, since this would rinse away the cleaning agent before it can take effect.
  4. Start a program with a minimum temperature of 60°C.
  5. Check the cleaning result after the program finishes. If you still find limescale, remove it with a sponge and descaling agent.

Descale with vinegar

To prevent material discolouration, it is best to use white vinegar. The effect is produced by the acidic content, so a cheap product can easily be used.

  • Switch on the dishwasher and start a program with a minimum temperature of 60°C (again WITHOUT pre-washing).
  • Pour a cup of vinegar around in the warmed-up machine.
  • Switch off the machine and allow the vinegar to take effect for around an hour.
  • Start another program with a minimum temperature of 60°C and leave it to run until the program ends.

Expert tip: If you use concentrated vinegar essence instead of vinegar, around ten tablespoons are enough. A second wash program may be necessary as vinegar leaves behind a strong odour.

Descale with critic acid

  • Mix together two litres of cold water with ten tablespoons of citric acid.
  • Switch on the dishwasher and select a low-temperature program.
  • As soon as the water has flowed into the appliance, switch it off and pour around the water and citric acid mixture inside instead, leaving it to take effect for about an hour. Then start the program again and allow it to run through to the end.

Expert tip: The advantage of citric acid is that it leaves behind a fresh fragrance.

Descale with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda

Combine the above methods with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda to further increase the descaling effect of vinegar and citric acid.

  • Spread around four tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda or baking power in the bottom of the appliance.
  • Close the door and switch on the appliance.
  • Follow the instructions described above for descaling either with vinegar or citric acid.
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Additional tips and tricks:

  • If you can still smell an unpleasant odour coming from your dishwasher after descaling, you can spread a little bicarbonate of soda on the bottom of the machine before each wash program. Great side-effect: Bicarbonate of soda helps make your glasses shine.
  • Besides descaling every year, it is a good idea to have your appliance run with an empty load at a high temperature from time to time. This way, bacteria, microbes and mould will have no chance to survive.
  • The water hardness can be configured with most modern dishwashers. Contact your local water company or the technical utility provider for your community / city administration to find out the water hardness in your area. After all, this setting is key for dosing the regeneration salt.

You can find further important information about your dishwasher in our guide "Dishwasher tips".

Does your dishwasher require repairs despite good maintenance or would you like your household appliances to be thoroughly inspected? Besides the service subscription that protects you from high repair costs after your guarantee expires, SIBIR will gladly also check appliances from all relevant brands in the kitchen and laundry room.

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