3 reasons your dishwasher isn't cleaning well

December 18, 2014

A dishwasher has only one purpose – to clean. And if it’s not doing that one thing well, what's the point of having it in the kitchen? Here are three common reasons your dishwasher is performing below expectations and how to fix them.

3 reasons your dishwasher isn't cleaning well

Using a dishwasher can be a time saver in the kitchen, if it works. But if your dishwasher isn’t effective at cleaning dishes, bowls, glasses and cutlery, it can be more of a hassle than a help. Here are three possible reason you're not getting the results you want from your dishwasher and what to do.

1. You’re not choosing the right cycle

Most dishwashers have different cycles to choose from. That means if you’re not selecting the right cycle for the state of your dishes, you'll never get the results you want.

Some of the different cycles are:

This is great when your dishes don’t have anything stuck onto them.

  • This cycle is usually shorter than others, which means it uses less energy. It also means that heavy stuck on food won't be removed.

If you just need to wash one rack at a time, this is the cycle you should select.

  • Obviously, the scrubbing power of this cycle means all the dishes in a packed-full machine won't get cleaned.

Power wash
This is great for when food is caked onto your dishes, because it uses jets of very hot water to remove crusted food from plates.

  • This cycle typically tends to use a lot of water in the cleaning process.

This cycle heats up to a much higher temperature than other cycles to kill bacteria.

  • Hotter water means you'll be using more energy to run the dishwasher, so you'll want to avoid this cycle whenever possible.

If you've been consistently using either the “light” or “half-load” cycle to wash your dishes, that could be the reason you’re not getting the results you want.

  • While it's good to be energy conscious, having to wash a load of dishes twice because they're still dirty is also wasteful.

The solution
If you're unsure what cycle to choose, you should consult the owner's manual to see what the manufacturer recommends for best efficiency.

2. The food is too stuck-on for your dishwasher to handle

Even the creamiest of delicious sauces will form a cement-like residue if left on a plate for too long.

  • If you have food that is seriously caked onto plates, bowls and cutlery (and has been for several days), chances are even the best non-commercial dishwasher on the market won't be able to get your dishes clean.

The solution
Soak them in very hot water overnight to loosen the crusted-on food.

  • The next time you have crockery that's so dirty you're thinking about throwing them out, give them a hot bath first. Then, put them in the dishwasher.

3. Something is broken

The bottom line is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for why a dishwasher isn’t cleaning properly.

  • If you've run through all of the FAQs in the owner's manual and the troubleshooting section doesn't provide you with any answers, it could be that something in the machine is simply broken or defective.

The solution
In this instance, the best thing to do is have a dishwasher repair expert come over to look at your appliance to help you determine why it isn’t performing up to speed.

  • If the repair specialist finds anything that must be fixed or replaced, such as an electrical switch or the water pump, he or she will do the work according to the manufacturer's specifications and should provide you with some kind of guarantee.
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