What the Heck is Wrong with My Dishwasher?!

Dishwasher Maintenance

Sometimes a list of what NOT to do is better than what TO DO when it comes to appliances. Not all the time is the mishap the cause of the dishwasher but sometimes of the user! You should always be ware when asking your husband or children to ‘help’ load the dishwasher. You could end up with a much larger mess on your hands, than when you started with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Knowing what to do and how to avoid dishwasher mishaps is the key to clean spotless dishes every time.

dawn dish soap in your dishwasher

We’ve all seen it or even done it, using the dish soap instead of the dish detergent. You’d think dish soap and detergent do the same thing!? While they both clean dishes, they do it in different ways. If you use dawn in your sink, it works great! But if you use dawn dish soap in your dishwasher it…well creates a bubbly mess all over your kitchen floor.

While the simple fix is to use the right cleaner for your dishwasher, this is an all to common dishwasher mishap!

Some other issues that might raise some concern when it comes to getting your dishes clean are:

Cloudy Glass Ware

What’s the Problem: The problem may be that your home has hard water. Hard water is when the water in your home has mineral deposits that can create a hard crusty substance in and around the places water flows through your home like, your faucets, shower-head, and even your dishwasher!

Hard Water Shower-headWhat to do: When you have a faucet or shower-head that shows hard water signs, you can fill a bag with white vinegar and soak the shower-head or faucet for a couple hours and then scrub it clean after the soak. The deposits should easily come off and your faucet or shower-head will look like new! For the dishwasher, just add a couple cups of white vinegar to an empty clean cycle and stop it when the cycle is in the middle and allow the water to sit, this will loosen up the deposits and you can scrub the inside of the dishwasher if any parts don’t come off during the clean cycle.


What NOT to DO: When running the clean cycle in your dishwasher and after letting the white vinegar soak the inside, it is important to not have the dry cycle start or it will dry the particles it just removed to the inside of the dishwasher.

You don’t have to run out to the store to buy white vinegar if you have another type of vinegar in your pantry. Apple cider vinegar will also clean your hard water just like white vinegar.

Water Left in the Dishwasher After Running

What’s the Problem: The dishwasher is not draining all of the water out after it cycles. This means there is dirty water with left over food particles floating in the bottom of your dishwasher. This can create an unpleasant smell along with the need to ‘re-clean’ your dishes.

What to do: Take out the racks so you can better see inside your dishwasher. You might find food particles blocking and clogging the drain area. If you move them and remove them from the dishwasher it might drain, unlikely but it is always possible! If you feel comfortable taking part of your dishwasher apart remove the filter case with a screwdriver to check the filter. If it the dishwasher still doesn’t drain after checking the filter it may be time to call in a professional depending your ‘handiness’!

What NOT to DO: Do not continue using your dishwasher until it has been fixed and will drain properly. If you are not handy, it is probably best not to attempt to fix it on your own. If you need to remove the dishwasher from underneath the counter to get to any of the drain hoses or other parts, it might be best to call a professional. I have tried to move heavy appliances to check on things, and ended up tearing a hole in the linoleum floor in my kitchen. That is an EXPENSIVE mistake! If I had called a professional, it might have saved me from having to replace my kitchen floor.

A Leaky Dishwasher

What’s the Problem: A small leak from your dishwasher can lead to big problems, so it is always best to fix it right away!

What to do: You need to first determine where the leak is coming from. Is the leak coming from underneath the dishwasher or coming from the dishwasher door. If the leak is coming from the door it is possible that the leak is from seal around the door and it may need to be replaced. This seal is much like the seal on your refrigerator, or storm door. If the seal is bad or broken it will let water escape. The water inside is being swished around with great pressure and if the seal isn’t good it will leak. You can easily replace the seal around the dishwasher door! That is a pretty easy fix!

If you do not see a reason the door is leaking, you might want to check to make sure the door is latching properly. If the door latch isn’t working properly the door seal wont be tight and the dishwasher could be leaking this way. You might need to replace the door latch. While getting the part from your manufacturer might take a few days, this is also a pretty easy fix, for even the less handy!

If it isn’t the door seal or the door latch, if you are handy you can follow some simple steps provided by online help sites to try and fix the problem. If you aren’t handy it may be time to call in the professional to look at the problem.

What NOT to DO: Don’t continue using your dishwasher until the fix is done! Water damage can be very expensive and can lead to mold. Whenever there is water present where there shouldn’t be, it invites a whole myriad of possible NEW problems.

Dishes are Still Wet

What’s the Problem: My dishes are still wet after the dry cycle is complete on my dishwasher.

What to do: Check to see if you have adequate rinse aid in the rinse aid dispenser. Some dishwashers need this extra additive to ensure the dishes get completely dried. If you have adequate rinse aid fluid, its possible the dispenser isn’t working. Have you noticed that you don’t need to add rinse aid fluid? It is possible that if the dispenser is full it isn’t actually dispensing the rinse aid.

If replacing the rinse aid dispenser isn’t helping dry your dishes, you may want to check the heating element. This is the point where I would call a professional, any time I have to start taking something apart I prefer to use a skilled person rather than myself. The DIY repair is not strong with this one, referring to myself.

What NOT to DO: While having wet dishes is annoying, the bigger problem is the heating element or other part is not working properly. It wont be on the top of your to do list, but it is something you should get fixed in the near-ish future.

Sink Fills with Water During Dishwasher Cycle

What’s the Problem: When using the dishwasher the sink fills with water.

What to do: The problem may arise when you use your dishwasher, but this is actually a plumbing problem with the sink drains. You can try to unclog the sink by several methods: use the garbage disposal to try and break up any particles that may be clogging the drain.

If this does not work, you can try using a product like Draino, but do not use your disposal after adding this product or products like it. The disposal can spit the product out of the drain and it can get on your clothes or skin.

You can also use a more eco-friendly way to try and unclog the drain, which is my go-to for clogged kitchen sinks. If your sink has water in it already pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, wait for a few minutes, then add a cup of white vinegar. If your sink does not have water in it, add hot water then add the baking soda wait and then add the white vinegar. This chemical reaction is safe for the environment and will unclog most drains. Run water after the drain has cleared. Sometimes you might need to use a plunger to help clear it after the baking soda and vinegar reaction.Sink Fills with Water During Dishwasher Cycle

There are those instances when a drain will not clear no matter what chemical you use and you need to call in a professional. In my case when your drain is being used to clean paint brushes and your staff don’t notice when they lose one down the drain. After a few years, this will clog up a drain! A professional will be happy to come and pull everything out of your drain for you.

What NOT to DO: Do not continue to use your dishwasher until the sink clog has been fixed. Your sink could overflow and you will end up with clean dishes, but a soaked kitchen floor, cabinets, and countertop.

Routine Dishwasher Maintenance Plan

Some tips to help keep your dishwasher running properly:

  • Regularly add a cup of while vinegar to a clean cycle
  • Run the garbage disposal before running your dishwasher
  • Keep the rinse aid fluid full
  • Use your dishwasher routinely
  • Check the bottom of your dishwasher for any particles that are left after a load has been run, remove them

When to Call in the Professional vs. DIY

There are quite a few moving parts in a dishwasher that can break. Some are out in the open and you can easily get to them to replace them. Others you would have to remove the dishwasher from underneath the counter to get to them. Only you can decide when the DIY repair has exceeded your ability. My rule of thumb is if its electrical always call in the professionals. If I have to start taking something apart and it has moving parts, I call a professional. If it is a simple house maintenance task, I can do it myself.

I may not be super handy, but having a service to call is! You can call a local plumber or appliance repairperson and they usually have a minimum service call charge. This is usually about $80-$120 depending on where you live. I decided a good decision for my household was to have a home warranty to cover appliance repairs just like these issues with the dishwasher. My monthly fee is low, like $30, I won’t even miss that. If I have to call in a service for my appliances the fee is only $75, which is lower than the regular call directly to the plumber or appliance repair company. To top it all off, the service fee of $75 would generally be all I paid to have the repair done! There is something to be said about convenience over frustration of the DIY repair.

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