Dishwasher: Not cleaning dishes

If your dishes are still dirty after running the dishwashing cycle, first make sure you’re loading them correctly. Our how to load a dishwasher video gives tips on where (and where not) to load dishes to get them clean.

Other non-mechanical reasons for dishes not getting clean include water temperature and water hardness. Water that’s not hot enough won’t get dishes clean. To test your water temperature, run the hot water in the sink for a minute before starting the dishwasher. Using a thermometer, test the temperature of the water by filling a glass from the sink—the temperature should be between 110 and 120 degrees. Adjust the temperature on your water heater as needed. Also, use the right amount of detergent for your water's level of hardness. Watch this video for tips on checking your home’s water hardness. You’ll need to use more detergent in your dishwasher if your home has hard water.

Poor cleaning could also be due to a mechanical problem with your dishwasher. A failed water inlet valve won’t allow enough water into the dishwasher tub to clean the dishes. Dishes won’t get clean if the detergent dispenser doesn’t open. Watch our troubleshooting video for tips on how to fix a broken detergent dispenser.

Check your spray arms for clogs, jams or breaks and clear clogs or replace damaged spray arms that can prevent dishes from getting clean. Some dishwashers use a diverter motor to control the water supply to the upper spray arms. If just the dishes in the upper dishrack aren’t getting clean, you may need to replace the diverter motor in that type of dishwasher.

Problems with the circulation pump can also prevent dishes from getting clean. Clean the upper pump assembly and the sump area to get the best water flow through the spray arms. You may need to replace the pump and motor assembly or pump motor if cleaning the pump doesn’t restore water flow to the spray arms. Our dishwasher not cleaning dishes video provides additional troubleshooting tips to help you get the best cleaning results from your dishwasher.

These repairs may help solve your Dishwasher problem:

Replace the dishwasher water inlet valve

Water inlet valve

The water inlet valve, also called a solenoid fill valve, controls the flow of water into the dishwasher by opening and closing. If the water inlet valve doesn't open at all, water can't flow into the dishwasher. If it opens partially, the dishwasher won’t fill adequately, and the water level will be low—a noisy pump is one indication that the water level is low. Conversely, if the water inlet valve won’t close, water fills the dishwasher tub even when the dishwasher is off. If the water inlet valve doesn't open or close correctly, repair or replace it.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the dishwasher detergent dispenser

Detergent dispenser

Replace the detergent dispenser if it leaks or is physically cracked or broken. Another sign that you may need a detergent dispenser replacement is if it won't open properly during the dishwasher cycle. Additionally, if the latch on the dispenser is broken, consider replacing the entire dispenser assembly.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the dishwasher circulation pump and motor assembly

Sump and motor assembly

Several situations can require the replacing the circulation pump and motor assembly in a dishwasher. If the motor on the circulation pump fails, then the dishwasher pump won't run at all. Sometimes the motor runs but doesn't generate water pressure through the spray arms, because the damaged impeller or pump housing is damaged. The pump housing and/or the seals could also deteriorate or become damaged, causing the dishwasher to leak. Problems inside the pump and motor assembly can create abnormal noises in the dishwasher. In all these situations, the pump and motor usually must be replaced.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the diverter motor

Diverter motor

The diverter motor moves the diverter disc into position so the disc can direct water through the upper spray arms. The dishwasher stops and signals an error code when the diverter motor fails (check out our dishwasher error codes for many brands). Replace the diverter motor if the control signals an error code indicating the diverter motor failed. To prevent damage to a newly installed dishwasher diverter motor, also replace the diverter motor seal (part WPW10195677) if water leaks through the seal. The seal is the gasket around the diverter motor shaft where it meets the bottom of the sump. A leak can damage the diverter motor, as well as counters and flooring near the dishwasher.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Clean the dishwasher circulation pump

Sump and motor assembly

A foreign object such as an unpopped popcorn kernel or a shard of glass sometimes migrates into the circulation pump where it causes a grinding noise and interfere with water movement through the pump and sump area. In that situation, you will need to dismantle and clean the circulation pump. The foreign object and/or any debris will need to be removed, and the pump will then need be reassembled.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Replace the dishwasher wash pump motor

Wash pump motor

The wash pump motor, which is mounted on the sump under the dishwasher, spins the wash pump impeller. The wash pump motor will make a loud noise when it is defective. You may also see cleaning problems due to decreased spray pressure. If the pump motor is bad, it will need to be replaced. The motor can usually be released and removed from the sump under the dishwasher tub. Consider replacing the water seals as well when the new wash pump motor is installed for optimal performance.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Repair the dishwasher upper circulation pump assembly

Upper pump assembly

Some dishwashers have a portion of the circulation pump assembly that can be accessed and repaired from inside the dishwasher tub (from the top of the circulation pump assembly). A clog, a foreign object or a failed seal can prevent the water from flowing to the spray arms. A clog or failed check valve can prevent the dishwasher from draining. Remove the lower spray arm and the top of the sump to inspect the upper circulation pump when spray is weak or the dishwasher won’t drain. Clear any clogs and replace any damaged parts to restore water flow to the spray arms or drain pump.

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.