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How to Clean and Descale a Commercial Dishwasher

clean and descaleEnsuring that you serve your customers on clean crockery is just as important as the food you serve. No matter how mouthwatering and enticing your menu is, presenting even the most delicious meals on dull or dirty dishes can give your business a bad reputation. Overlooking something as simple as dishwasher care can cause easily avoidable embarrassment and loss of profits.

We will take a look at steps you can take to clean and descale your commercial dishwasher so that you can give your customers an excellent dining experience. Following these steps will prolong the life of your commercial dishwasher and reduce malfunctions that can cause additional expenses beyond the cost of the repair.

How to Clean a Commercial Dishwasher

To make sure your commercial dishwasher doesn’t get bogged down with gunk, it’s important that it’s cleaned daily. Just because it’s a dishwasher it doesn’t mean it will clean itself during the dish-washing cycles. Remember, your shower doesn’t clean itself when you’re using it, it actually becomes dirtier. This also applies to commercial dishwashers. If the filters and jets become clogged or you get limescale buildup, it will result in your dishes not getting clean.

Cleaning a commercial dishwasher begins by taking steps to prevent buildup. Steps to implement daily:

1. Remove Food Residue

Always scrape, spray rinse and remove as much waste as possible from dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Leaving excessive food residue on the dishes before loading the dishwasher can result in avoidable clogs in your jets and filters.

2. Use the Correct Detergent

Don’t deviate from the detergent your commercial dishwasher manufacturer recommends. It may be tempting to try cheaper alternatives when you’re looking to cut business expenses, but this is one area you will want to make sure you’re adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Since your commercial dishwasher is likely used every day, you will need to clean it daily as well. Here are the steps needed to keep your dishwasher clean:

1. Wash Inside

Wash the inside of the dishwasher. This can be done with detergent and a cleaning cloth or by using the spray nozzle to rinse with warm water.

2. Drain the Dishwasher

Drain the dishwasher and empty the tank. After you’ve cleaned the inside of the dishwasher, you will need to allow it to drain and to empty the tank. Leave the dishwasher open for ten to fifteen minutes to cool down.

3. Clean Spray Nozzles

Clean the spray nozzles. Using white vinegar as a cleaning agent will ensure that hard water doesn’t build up in your nozzles.

4. Empty the Filter

Empty the filter. Clear the filter of debris by hand and use a brush with detergent to scrub it clean.

5. Clean Wash/Rinse Arms and Jets

Clean the wash/rinse arms and jets with warm water. This will clear any water holes that have become blocked with food debris. Make sure to replace the parts you have removed and cleaned when done.

6. Top Off Detergent

Fill the detergent and rinse aid compartments or make sure feeder tubes are running freely. This ensures that the dishwasher will be ready for use upon its’ next cycle.

7. Air Out

The final step is to leave the dishwasher open to allow for air circulation and prevention of bacteria buildup.

Also read our maintenance tips for commercial warewashers and guide to glasswashers.

How to Descale a Commercial Dishwasher

Limescale build up is the result of hard water that is heavy with the minerals magnesium and calcium. These minerals build up on various parts of your dishwasher, causing your dishwasher to not clean dishes as efficiently. Installing a water softener can help in the prevention of limescale buildup, but limescale buildup is an inevitability for many commercial dishwasher owners.

The ability of your commercial dishwasher to reach optimal heating temperatures can be compromised by limescale building up around the heating elements. Failing to address limescale buildup can result in mineral deposits on your dishes in the form of an unpleasant white film. You may notice that you need to use more detergent to achieve clean dishes than before.

Your dishwasher will need to be descaled periodically. A good time to do this is after you have followed the cleaning steps mention above. Before beginning the descaling process, you will need to make sure you have the proper protective gear. The chemicals in descaling products can be caustic to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Make sure to wear clothing that doesn’t expose your skin to these chemicals. You will also need heavy latex gloves, safety goggles, and a face mask to protect from fumes.

It is not necessary to descale your commercial dishwasher daily, although it is beneficial that you schedule routine times to complete this process before problems arise.

Follow these steps to descale your dishwasher:

  • Fill the machine with water.
  • Add the descaling product according to the product instructions.
  • Allow the product to sit for one hour.
  • Run a full wash cycle.
  • Inspect the dishwasher to see if it has been properly descaled. If it has not, run another cycle with the descaling product according to the product instructions.
  • Once the dishwasher is free of limescale, drain the dishwasher and fill it up with fresh water then run a cycle to rinse.
  • Inspect the dishwasher to see if it has been properly descaled. If it has not, run another cycle with the descaling product according to the product instructions.
  • Once the dishwasher is free of limescale, drain the dishwasher and fill it up with fresh water then run a cycle to rinse.


After you develop a cleaning and descaling routine, keeping your dishes clean and your commercial dishwasher running optimally will be simple.

To recap, these three steps will result in a longer life for your commercial dishwasher and ensure it functions at its’ highest ability:

1. Prevent clogs and buildup by removing food from dishes and using the correct detergent.

2. Clean the dishwasher thoroughly and daily.

3. Descale when you notice limescale buildup or at routinely scheduled times.

None of the steps mentioned are difficult and they can be easily taught to your staff. Share these steps with your staff and create a routine cleaning and descaling plan today.

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