6 Common Dishwasher Problems and How to Fix Them

Imagine this: You invited family and friends for a get-together at home. You prepared some delicious dishes, which you got tons of praise for. Overall, everyone had a great time.

After the party, you loaded the dishwasher with all the pots, pans, plates, and utensils you used. You return after a few hours, expecting everything to be shiny and clean.

But as soon as you open the dishwasher, an unpleasant smell immediately hits your nose. You look inside, and nothing but dirty dishes peer back at you. Filthy water may even leak out!

Those are all common dishwasher problems you don’t want to happen but may still encounter. Fortunately, they don’t always mean you need to call the pros, as you may be able to fix them yourself.

So, in this guide, we’ll discuss the most common dishwasher woes and how to troubleshoot them. Read on and try our tips before calling an appliance repair professional.

1. Foul Smells

Does the inside of your dishwasher give off a smell that makes your nose curl? If so, you likely have a clogged filter or trap.

Food debris is the primary cause of dishwasher filter or trap clogs. They produce a foul smell as spoilage bacteria cause them to decay. The stench is terrible enough to make you feel sick, although spoilage bacteria often don’t make people ill.

Fortunately, you only need to clean the filter or trap to remove their smelly clogs. Both are at the bottom of the dishwasher, underneath the lowest basket. Remove the latter so you can access the circular filter and rubber trap.

If you can’t find or lift either, check your owner’s manual for further instructions. Most manufacturers also have an online database where you can download a copy of the manual for your dishwasher’s specific model.

Once you have the filter and trap, remove larger pieces of debris stuck to them. You can also use a soft-bristled brush to scrub away more stubborn build-up. Give them both a good wash with warm water and dish soap.

2. Dishes Still Dirty After a Cycle

The U.S. Department of Energy suggests fully loading the dishwasher before running it. They say it’s one of the most efficient practices that can help you cut your energy use.

That doesn’t mean you should overload the dishwasher to try and save energy, water, and soap. This is counterintuitive; it leaves no room for water to shoot up from the machine’s spray arms. So, water and soap can’t reach all surfaces of the dishes, resulting in them still being dirty after a cycle.

To prevent those issues, never overcrowd your dishwasher. Ensure there’s a gap between each item.

If that’s not the cause of your dishwasher issues, it may again be due to a filthy filter. The holes in your washer’s spray arms may have clogs, too. These are usually a mix of food debris and mineral build-up caused by hard water.

To clean the spray arms, detach them from the machine and soak them in white vinegar for at least two hours. Then, rinse them under running water. Reattach them and run a cycle to see if this has solved your dishwasher woes.

3. Dirty Water Doesn’t Drain

While the bottom of your dishwasher could still be damp after a cycle, it should never have undrained dirty water. So, if yours does and it even spills out, it may again be due to a clogged filter or trap.

If not, your dishwasher drain hose may have formed a kink. Kinks can act as blockages, preventing dirty water from draining out of the appliance.

You can usually find the drain hose under the kitchen sink or behind the machine. Once you find it, see if there’s any bent section. If there’s some minor bending, gently straighten it.

If the hose doesn’t straighten, it may be time to replace it. You can check out this page for Sewell appliance repair for information on replacement parts. But if you’re not confident doing this the DIY way, it’s best to call a dishwasher repair technician.

4. Water Leaks Out of the Dishwasher Door

A worn or broken dishwasher door seal is likely behind this problem. So, inspect the rubber seal around the door; if it’s dry, crumbling, or has missing sections, it’s time to replace it.

Does the rubber look okay? If so, wipe it with a clean, damp rag. It may only have developed a thick layer of soap residue that impedes its ability to seal the door properly.

If that’s not the problem, you may have a broken door latch. This is even more likely if you don’t hear a clicking sound when you close the door. In this case, you should call an appliance repair specialist to fix the latch.

5. Dripping Wet Dishes

While a few droplets here and there are okay, your dishes should never come out dripping wet after a cycle. If they do, check the dishwasher’s vent and ensure it’s completely open. If it’s stuck in a closed position or doesn’t stay open, it’s time to call a pro to repair or replace it.

6. Dishes Come Out Cold

Your dishwasher’s heating element controls water temperature based on the wash cycle. It varies, but most models heat the water between 110° and 170° F, which is the ideal range that helps make grease and oil removal easier.

If you haven’t changed your dishwasher’s setting, but the dishes come out cold after a cycle, it may have a malfunctioning heating element. Before you call a pro, though, wipe it with a clean, damp rag to remove any residue. Significant build-up can impede its heating ability.

If the next load still comes out cold after that, it’s time to call an appliance repair specialist. You may already need to get the heating element replaced.

Use These Tips to Troubleshoot Dishwasher Problems

From foul smells to dirty dishes and standing water, these are all common dishwasher problems. Many of these issues trace back to dirty components, such as filters and seals, which you can clean yourself.

However, if the fix is beyond your DIY skills, please hire a pro instead.

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