The Clever Toothpick Hack That'll Keep Your Dishwasher Working Like New

Running a load in your dishwasher and seeing your dishes come out reeking and streaked in food residue isn't anyone's favorite way to end a busy day. But before you wonder whether your dishwasher has gotten too old, pause and rummage through your brain to find out when you last cleaned the dishwasher. Moreover, did you unclog the spray arms while wiping them down? If not, it's time to bring out a wooden toothpick and put it to work cleaning the spray arms.

As cleaning powerhouses, dishwashers—and, by extension, their spray arms—experience copious gross items, from sticky or burnt food particles, grease, plastics, and soap suds to mineral deposits. Somehow, they all find ways to lodge into the arms' nozzles, reducing their efficiency and obstructing the rinsing process. Mary Gagliardi, a cleaning expert, corroborates this in her Reader's Digest interview, saying, "Calcium deposits, also called limescale, can clog the holes in the sprayers, lowering the cleaning performance of the dishwasher." But it doesn't have to stay that way with this handy toothpick hack.

Work the toothpick magic on the spray arms

Begin by removing the dishwasher's racks to reveal the spray arm attached to its bottom. Now, inspect its water-spewing nozzles for any food or debris blockages. Next, look up the user manual for tailored instructions on removing your model's spray arm. While it isn't mandatory to detach it, doing so ensures it gets a thorough cleaning. That being said, most dishwashers include a simple lock knob to pull the bottom arm out. While holding the detached arm, poke its holes from top to bottom with the wooden toothpick to get all the gunk out. For thorough cleaning, combine warm water and a few drops of vinegar in a container and soak the sprayer until it's completely clean. Wipe it dry, replace it, and lock it in its place. Don't forget to spin it to make sure it runs freely.

Repeat the process for the upper arm (if there is one) by rotating it counterclockwise, or as the manual suggests, after removing the glass rack. Work its nozzles with the toothpick and reconnect the arm. Do the same for the top sprayer after disengaging it from the hook—you might need a screwdriver. Prod out the particles with a toothpick and retrace the previous steps. Et voila, the water shooters are back in business, and so is your dishwasher. Keep up with this TLC every six months—or sooner if you're a heavy user.