You open your dishwasher to find a plate with stuck-on remnants of last night’s lasagna or yesterday morning’s scrambled eggs, or you find glasses with bits of dried-on … stuff.  Why isn’t the dishwasher doing its job?

There are several possible reasons why your dishwasher isn’t getting dishes as clean as it should, and most of the fixes are easy DIY projects.

Help Your Dishwasher Help You

Here are a few things to consider and try if your dishwasher isn’t getting the job done the way you’d like:

How clean are the dishes when they go into the dishwasher?

You don’t need to pre-wash your dishes, but you should at least scrape off food and give the dishes a light rinse before loading them into the dishwasher.  Dried-on proteins, such as egg or cheese, can be loosened by soaking before loading into the machine.

How are you loading the dishwasher?

When loading, it’s important that dishes and utensils aren’t “nesting.”  For example, if you load all the spoons into one compartment of the utensil caddy, probably two or more of them will stack together.  Water and detergent can’t clean surfaces they can’t reach, so take care in how you load your dishes.  Make sure that dishes or pans on the bottom rack don’t block the rotation of the spray arm, and load bowls and other deep containers open-side down so they don’t collect dirty wash water.

What type of dishwasher detergent are you using?

Powdered detergent leaves dishes cleaner than the more expensive liquid and tablet or pod varieties, so save yourself some money and buy the cheaper stuff that works best.

Are you using a rinse aid?

Streaks and spots are caused by water droplets drying on dishes or glasses and leaving a deposit.  Using a rinse aid helps water sheet off the dishes so no droplets are left to dry on the dish.

How clean is your dishwasher?

If your response is “It’s got soap and hot water shooting around in there every day; of course it’s clean!” then we may have identified the trouble.  Your dishwasher has a fine mesh screen filter at the bottom of the tub, designed to screen out food particles and keep them out of the pump.  If you’ve never cleaned it, there’s no telling how old the mystery stuff that’s winding up on your dishes is.  The filter can be easily removed; rinse it off in the sink and put it back in place, and your problem may be solved.  While you’re working around in the muck that’s undoubtedly at the bottom of your dishwasher if you’ve never before cleaned it, watch for foreign objects – wrappers, labels, etc., and remove those as well.  Finally, remove any buildup you might find with a paste of baking soda and vinegar.

While you’re at it, you might also want to check the spray arms to make sure there are no food particles or scale buildup blocking the water jet holes.  Spray arms can be easily removed with a few simple tools; a google search will turn up a number of videos that show you exactly how to do it.  Once the spray arms are removed, scale can be dissolved by soaking the clogged water jet holes in vinegar.

When Is It Time to Call a Dishwasher Repair Technician?

If you’ve run through the list above and you still aren’t getting clean dishes out of your machine, there are several possibilities.

First, some machines simply clean better than others.  If you’ve got a model with one of the designs that is less efficient at cleaning and you’ve done all of the above, your dishwasher may simply not be very good at cleaning.

Another possibility is that there is some sort of mechanical problem with the dishwasher.  If for example you open the machine at the end of the cycle, and little or no steam rolls out and the dishes are not hot to the touch, you could have a problem with the heater.  Dishwashers have heaters to boost water temps for sterilization and better cleaning; cold water doesn’t activate detergent as well, so if the water isn’t getting hot enough, the dishwasher will not clean as well.

If you’re unable to solve your dishwasher’s cleaning problems with the tips above, if you’ve noticed it’s not getting the water very hot, or if you are experiencing other problems (such as the dishwasher won’t drain), contact Central One Service for dishwasher repair in Little Rock and central Arkansas.  We’ve got almost 40 years of experience in dishwasher repair, and can quickly get yours operating properly.

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