How to Clean Dishwasher Spray Arms


S asked: How do I remove debris from spinning dishwasher arms? There is soft debris in the holes on the spinning arms in my dishwasher. The holes are too small to put anything in to clean them out. Is there some liquid I could pour in the holes to break up the soft debris? I used vinegar and commercial dishwashing cleaners, but the soft debris will not come out and clogs up the holes.

Dishwasher spray arms provide streams of hot water directly to the dishes to give a thorough cleaning. They can become clogged, dirty and need to be cleaned. You have the right products, now here are the instructions to remove and clean your clogged and dirty arms to keep your dishwasher working at top performance.

You Will Need:

  • Soap
  • Water
  • Scrub brush
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tweezers or toothpicks
  • Vinegar

Steps to Clean the Spray Arms:

  1. Begin by unplugging the unit.
  2. Remove the dishracks.
  3. Locate the screw on cap or bolts that are holding the arm in place.
  4. Remove the caps or bolts. Take note of the order any washers that may also be in place that need to be removed.
  5. Remove the spray arm.
  6. Fill a sink or bucket with hot water.
  7. Add soap and one cup of vinegar. Agitate the water to mix.
  8. Place the spray arm into the water and allow it to soak until the debris becomes loosened.
  9. If there are mineral deposits from hot water, soak it in straight vinegar.
  10. Use an old toothbrush, or other scrubbers to clean the surfaces of the arm. Cotton swabs can also be used to remove build up from the small holes in the arm. Tweezers and toothpicks work well to pull out pieces of debris from the openings.
  11. Once the debris is removed, rinse the piece completely with clean water. Spraying it with high pressure water will help to remove any loosened debris as well.
  12. Shake off excess water and dry with a soft cloth.
  13. Replace the arm back into the dishwasher ensuring all bolts and washers are installed in the same order that they were removed.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If unclean dishes are the problem, check the arms first to make sure they are functional. Before removing them, spin them to make sure they spin freely. Lift up on each one. There should be some movement in the arms. If either of these movements are restricted or need to be forced, there may be other problems with your machine.
  • If the parts of your dishwasher differ from what is described above, consult your owner’s manual for the specific disassembly procedures for your particular machine.
  • If you are unsure of your ability to disassemble the spray arms, a professional can be hired. However, the job can be done by most homeowners.
  • If the spray arm cannot be removed, new arms can be purchased from the manufacturer to replace the clogged arms.
  • There are also commercial products available, such as Dishwasher Magic, that can be used to remove build up from the interior of the dishwasher.


  1. NJ to TX says:

    No screw, no bolts. I still can’t detach the upper spray arm from the upper rack.

  2. EJ says:

    Use an ice pick. Spray with vinegar. Poke it again. Repeat.
    Worked for me.

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