Dishwasher Rust: What You Need to Know (With Solutions)

Rusty dishwasher

Is there rust in your dishwasher?

You’re not alone! I understand how concerning it can be to open the dishwasher door and notice rust inside, especially when you’re not sure what’s causing it.

The good news is that you’ve come to the right place to fix the issue.

If there’s rust inside your dishwasher, you’ll need to deep clean the unit, repair the rusted components, and invest in quality cookware. If the issue persists, it’s also important to address water quality.

Read on to learn more about how to handle rust in your dishwasher!

Fixing Your Rusty Dishwasher: 4 Simple Steps

Unfortunately, rust is a very common issue, as it forms when iron comes into contact with water and oxygen.

Don’t worry, though. In this section, I’ll walk you through the four steps you must follow to handle and prevent rust in your dishwasher.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

#1 Deep Clean Your Dishwasher

When struggling with a rusty dishwasher, I always start with a thorough deep cleaning.

Even if there’s just a hint of rust, it’s crucial to address it immediately, as it can spread quickly and transfer to your dishes and cutlery. Rust can also damage your dishwasher’s interior and affect its efficiency, leading to expensive repairs.

To clean your rusty dishwasher, simply place a dishwasher-safe bowl filled with vinegar on the top rack and select the hottest cycle available. You can also use a tablet cleaner or sanitizer.

When using the sanitizer, please place it in the silverware compartment with the top facing downward. Then, run a full cycle with hot water to melt the wax seal and allow the sanitizing solution to effectively clean your rusty dishwasher.

Dishwasher sanitizing liquid
If you’re dealing with a rusty dishwasher, you’ll need to clean it thoroughly.

While you’re at it, it’s also important to clean the filter and spray arms to remove any rust particles that could affect your dishwasher’s cleaning performance. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove the necessary racks to access the filter and spray arms.
  2. Locate the filter, which is at the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, remove the filter by turning it counterclockwise.
  3. Scrib away any food debris using a wire brush. Then, rinse the filter under warm running water.
  4. Reinstall the filter.
  5. Locate the spray arms and remove them by twisting or pulling them upwards.
  6. Use a toothpick or an old toothbrush to clean the spray arms’ holes. Then, rinse the spray arms with warm water.
  7. Reinstall the spray arms. Make sure they spin freely.

Note: Keep in mind that the process of removing the filter and spray arms will vary depending on your dishwasher’s model. So, please refer to the owner’s manual for detailed instructions.

Tip: Consider cleaning your dishwasher and its internal components at least once a month to ensure the best cleaning results!

#2 Repair the Rusted Components

If you’ve deep cleaned your dishwasher but still have rusted components, consider repairing them.

From what I’ve seen, repairing rusted components is often more cost-effective than replacing them, and it’s usually quite simple to do.

Note: it’s essential to keep in mind that if the rust damage is extensive and affecting your dishwasher’s performance, you’ll need to replace either the rusted component or the entire unit.

Dishwasher racks are the components that tend to rust more frequently. Follow these simple steps to learn how to repair them:

  1. Carefully remove the racks from the dishwasher.
  2. Soak the racks in warm, soapy water and use an old toothbrush to remove any grease or food debris.
  3. Rinse the racks with warm water and let them dry. To speed up the drying process, you can use a microfiber cloth or paper towel.
  4. Use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand all the rusty spots.
  5. Wipe away any dust and lightly dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol. Then, wipe the sanded area and let it dry.
  6. Purchase a dishwasher rack repair kit, such as ReRack.
  7. Apply the repair product and let it dry for 30 minutes between coats. I recommend applying three coats.
  8. Let the racks sit for at least 24 hours before using your dishwasher.

If you don’t feel comfortable repairing your rusty dishwasher’s components, it’s best to call a professional. They have the required tools and expertise to fix the problem.

#3 Check Your Cookware

If you find rust inside your dishwasher, you’ll need to check the type of cookware you’re using.

You see, certain metals are more prone to rust or corrosion than others, especially when they’re wet for a long time in your dishwasher. Additionally, if you place rusted cookware inside the unit, the rust can spread to other internal components, including racks, spray arms, and heating element.

To solve the issue, it’s crucial to inspect your cookware for any visible signs of damage or rust.

rust in cookware
If there’s rust in your dishwasher, carefully inspect your cookware.

If you suspect that your cookware is the source of the rust, it’s a good idea to consider upgrading to higher-quality pots and pans. I recommend opting for stainless steel cookware, as it’s one of the most resistant materials.

Since moisture plays a crucial role in rust formation, it’s also important to leave the dishwasher door open after each cycle to allow humid air to escape. If necessary, dry your cookware with a microfiber cloth to prevent the formation of rust.

#4 Address Water Quality

If you’ve tried all the fixes mentioned in this article, but your dishwasher is still rusting, then there’s probably iron or mineral deposits in your water supply.

Let me explain. Over time, pipes can corrode and release iron into the water, which is especially common in older homes. As mentioned earlier, rust forms when iron comes into contact with water.

Living in an area with hard water can also explain why your dishwasher is rusting. Minerals can build up on metal surfaces, making them more prone to rust.

To address the issue, consider installing a water softener or iron filter. However, I recommend calling a plumber, especially if you have older pipes.

Wrapping Up: Addressing and Preventing Dishwasher Rust

Hopefully, now you know how to handle and prevent rust in your dishwasher.

Remember to deep clean your dishwasher and repair the rusted components with a fine-grit sandpaper and a commercial repair kit. To prevent the issue from happening again, don’t forget that it’s important to check your cookware and water quality. If necessary, call a professional.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this guide. If you ever experience a different issue while using your dishwasher, please check out our related posts below.

Have a great rest of the day!

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more