Are you annoyed when you go to empty your dishwasher and the dishes still have food on them or have a film? You are not alone. Googling "dishwasher not cleaning" turns up 24,000,000 search results. The problem is not just with older dishwashers either. One of the top complaints consumers have about their new dishwasher is that it does not clean properly.
Getting to the problem of why your dishwasher is not cleaning properly may take a little investigative work. Also, keep in mind there could be more than one issue contributing to the reason why your dishes are not getting clean. And once the problem is found, it may take some elbow grease to fix it.
The Causes and Fixes
1. Water is not hot enough. If it takes awhile for hot water to travel through the pipes from the tank to the kitchen, it can affect the effectiveness of the dishwasher. If this is the case, cold water enters the first cleaning cycle instead of hot. Hot water is necessary to remove food particles from dishes. This fix is easy. Let the water from the hot water faucet run until it is hot before starting the dishwasher.
2. Top and bottom arm sprayers are clogged. The arm sprayers have little holes in them for water to flow through. Over time these holes can get blocked with calcified deposits. This fix will take some time and work. Remove the sprayer arms and clean each of the holes. This can be done with either a thin piece of wire or toothpicks. You may need to also soak the arms in hot water and white vinegar to loosen any remaining deposits. Because of their awkward size, a bathtub works well for soaking them. Depending on the age of the dishwasher, how obstructed the arms are, and price of replacement parts, you may want to replace them.
3. Dirty dishwasher filter. You may be surprised to see how much gunk has accumulated underneath the bottom filter. Check your owner's manual for instruction on how to remove parts of the dishwasher. If you cannot locate your owner's manual, do a search online for one. Remove the filter on bottom of the dishwasher and clean underneath it.
4. The brand of dishwasher detergent is not effective. This is a good one to consider if your dishwasher is new. Test several brands. Also, if your dishwasher has an automatic detergent dispenser, there is the possibility that it does not dispense enough detergent. If this is the case, you will need to add detergent manually.
5. Dishwasher is dirty inside. Regularly run an empty dishwasher with a cleaning agent. Tang, a breakfast drink, is well known for being a dishwasher cleaner because of its acidity. It also smells good. A baking soda and vinegar solution is another good choice. You will have to add the baking soda, vinegar mix to each cycle.
6. Overloaded dishwasher. Trying to wash as many dishes as you can in one load is counterproductive. There will not be enough space for the water and detergent to hit all the surfaces. You will end up with dirty dishes and will have to do another load anyway.
7. Food chunks on dishes. Rinse heavily soiled glasses and dishes before loading the dishwasher. This seems counter intuitive since it is a dishwasher. While dishwashers are made to clean dishes, they are not industrial pieces of equipment. Also, the food particles can get trapped in the dishwasher and hinder the flow of water.
8. Liquid detergents. Use a powdered detergent instead of liquid. Most dishwasher repairmen recommend using dry detergents over the liquid types. The liquid leaves residues behind in the dishwasher that becomes gunk in the sprayer arms or underneath the filter. This interferes with the water being able to flow freely during the cycles.
9. Low water pressure. Low water pressure can affect the amount of water that flows into the dishwasher. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done if this is the case. You may try adding more hot water to each cycle. Also, when the dishwasher is running, do not use the water for other appliances, such as the washer, shower, etc.
10. Hard water. Hard water is a major cause for spots on dishes. Adding products, such as Lemi Shine or white vinegar in the rinse dispenser can help hard water problems. The only other alternative is installing a whole house water softener.
Where you begin on the list to find a solution to dishwasher cleaning problems will depend on the age of your dishwasher. If it is older, begin with the cleaning solutions. For a newer dishwasher or if you have moved to a new area, first the water temperature or water pressure as possible problems. If all else fails, you can always do the dishes by hands.