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Why is my dishwasher not cleaning my dishes? full
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Why Is My Dishwasher Not Cleaning My Dishes?

John Turpin is our resident home service repair expert here at Service Direct. He’s got the knowledge and experience to help homeowners like you make sense of most home repair issues. And with Service Direct, we connect you with top-tier service professionals to help with any repairs needed.

Find Out Why Your Dishwasher Isn’t Cleaning Your Dishes

Do you notice when there is still some of last night’s dinner stuck on the dishes when unloading your dishwasher? It’s a common issue and there are a lot of possible reasons why your dishwasher is this way. We know it’s frustrating, but don’t worry because we’re here to help out! 

This article provides you with knowledge of the common reasons behind a “dishwasher not cleaning my dishes” and the repair ideas you can do. Try the following DIY suggestions before calling for professional help.

Common Reasons Why Your Dishwasher is Not Cleaning Dishes

There are a number of things that could cause the dishwasher to stop cleaning properly. It could be that some components of the appliance are busted, such as the soap dispenser or the inlet valve. In that case, it’s certainly difficult for the dishwasher to clean well.

Other possible causes include a dirty interior due to food deposits left in the dishwasher. Instead of cleaning the dishes, the food deposits left inside leave the plates, bowls, and utensils dirty. It could also be due to a dirty filter.

If not these, other common causes of a dishwasher not cleaning silverware include:

  • The water temperature
  • Poor quality detergent
  • Clogged spray arm
  • Hard water

So, you now know what’s possibly causing your dishwasher to leave dirty dishes instead of doing its job. The question now is “what can you do to fix it?” There are, actually, some dishwasher troubleshooting tips that can help with your device. Check them out below.

Dishwasher not cleaning dishes DIY tips
See our list of common repair tips for a dishwasher not cleaning dishes.

Our resident home repair guru, John Turpin, has provided a list of common reasons why your dishwasher may not be getting your dishes clean, along with some suggested solutions and DIY tips to fix it.

Troubleshooting Tips to Fix a Dishwasher Not Cleaning Properly

Before performing any of the DIY tips below, there are two things you need to keep in mind. One, make sure that you turn off the power before you try repairing your dishwasher. Second, don’t forget to keep your owner’s manual with you while you troubleshoot. Now, let’s try fixing the “dishwasher not cleaning dishes.”

Dishwasher Interior

Start your troubleshooting with the interior of the dishwasher. Check if grease, soap scum, and little bits of food are building up in there. If they are, then you have to get rid of them because they are preventing the dishwasher from working as intended.

So, the first thing you need to do is clean the inside of your appliance. You can clean it using white vinegar poured into the bottom of the machine. Use about three cups and then run it in a full wash cycle.

Vinegar is an effective cleaning agent you can easily find in any home. It will help remove all the gunk and debris inside the dishwasher, including the spray arm holes. Besides removing build-up, it may even make your dishes smell clean.


If you have an old dishwasher, it usually comes with a self-cleaning filter. But if you have a newer model, its filter is probably a removable one. The thing with removable filters is they often get clogged by food gunk if they aren’t cleaned regularly.

If your dishwasher has this issue, what you need to do is to remove the filter and clean it. Wash it under hot running water to remove as much grime as you can. If there is still some grime, you can let it sit in hot soapy water or vinegar for a few minutes then brush with a soft brush.

Don’t forget to rinse the filter before you reinstall it. Now, you can try and see if your dishwasher starts cleaning your dishes properly once again.

Dishwasher not cleaning dishes filter repair
Check your dishwasher’s filter for grime or debris.


Are you sure the temperature of the water is right? For the dishwasher to clean dishes properly, the water temperature should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. With that said, go check that your dishwasher’s temperature is at the right level.

More modern models automatically adjust the water temperature to the ideal level. But if yours doesn’t have one, you will need to set it manually to 120 degrees or as close to that temperature as possible. Don’t set any higher or the water becomes dangerously hot.

Soap Dispenser

The next thing to troubleshoot is the soap dispenser. A dishwasher not cleaning could be due to a faulty dispenser, such as when its door spring is jammed. When that happens, the detergent doesn’t get released at the right time during the wash cycle, thus the dirty dishes still.

You can fix this particular issue by creating a vinegar and hot water solution. Use the solution along with a small, soft bristled brush to clean the grease and gunk from the soap dispenser and the door spring.

What if the dispenser door or the gasket is broken or cracked instead? In that case, both components will have to be replaced. You can try replacing them yourself, or call a professional to replace the parts.

Dishwasher not cleaning dishes soap dispenser fix
The dishwasher’s soap dispenser should be checked for issues.

Inlet Valve

A problem with the inlet valve could also be why your dishwasher is not cleaning dishes well. This part of the machine is what enables water to flow into the dishwasher. If it’s busted, then there’s clearly no way the device will be able to function as it should.

What do you do if you find the inlet valve broken? You can check the owner’s manual to see if there are any troubleshooting tips there. If there’s nothing, we suggest calling a professional instead of doing it yourself. It’s a pretty complicated fix and might need a replacement.

Spray Arm

Another part of the dishwasher that you can try troubleshooting is the spray arm. The spray arms are the part that shoots water that clean the dishes. They shoot “jets” through tiny holes, which if clogged, results in poor water pressure.

How do you fix a clogged spray arm and restore your dishwasher? First, detach the arm. Be sure to check the manual on how to do this. After detaching, go ahead and clean it with dish soap and a soft bristled brush. As for unclogging the holes, you can do it with a toothpick. Once you are done brushing, run the arm under hot water and rinse.

Confirm that the spray arm is working properly by spinning it yourself. If it isn’t working properly, such as still feeling a blockage, you should try again.

Dishwasher not cleaning my dishes repair tips
If DIY repair tips don’t work, consider calling a dishwasher repair pro.

DIY vs. Professional Repair

Most of the time, the root cause of a dishwasher that’s not cleaning dishes is easy enough to fix. You can usually find a solution when you consult the owner’s manual if you know where to look. Therefore, it’s not bad to take the DIY approach when dealing with this issue.

In some cases, though, you might need to call an expert. For instance, it’s better to call an expert technician if the solution involves replacing parts. Moreover, it’s good to hire a professional appliance repair technician if you don’t have time to fix the appliance yourself.

Dishwasher Cleaning Problem FAQs

How Do I Know If My Dishwasher Needs a Repair?

There will be signs that indicate your dishwasher needs a repair, such as the fact that it’s not cleaning dishes properly. Other signs include not draining well, white marks on dishes, cycle taking too long, suds in the dishwasher, and more. You will know for sure if your dishwasher needs repairs by getting it assessed by a professional.

What Can I Do to Ensure My Dishwasher Always Cleans My Dishes?

The first thing to do is inspect your dishwasher while consulting your owner’s manual. It could be that you just need to adjust some settings. Check with the manual to ensure that you are using the dishwasher for the best results. If you are using the dishwasher the right way, then it should properly clean your dishes. Also, it helps to follow these preventative tips:
• Clean the filter regularly
• Use the correct detergent and the right amount
• Choose the right dishwasher cycle
• Load the dishwasher correctly
• Ensure the water is of the correct temperature

What Dishwasher Brands Can Be Serviced?

Professional appliance repair technicians can service a wide array of brands. You will find most of them servicing most major brands of dishwashers, such as Frigidaire, Bosch, GE, Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, KitchenAid, Kenmore, Maytag, and Miele. If you want to be sure, we suggest calling the licensed professional you are thinking of hiring.

Hire a Local Appliance Pro

The methods above are effective DIY tips to investigate, diagnose, and fix why your dishwasher may not be getting your dishes clean enough. But if you need professional help, then don’t hesitate to contact a local appliance repair pro using the phone number or form on this page.

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