June 17, 2019

Dishwasher not cleaning dishes video

By Sears PartsDirect staff
Dishwasher not cleaning dishes.
Dishwasher not cleaning dishes.

If your dishwasher isn’t getting your dishes clean, the problem could be as simple as how you load the dishwasher, water that's not hot enough or old, ineffective detergent. Check out this Sears PartsDirect video for more tips on how to get your dishes looking clean and spotless.

Our Dishwasher DIY Repair section also has additional troubleshooting videos, repair guides, error code charts and answers to the most often asked questions about dishwasher problems. Once you've determined what needs to be fixed on your dishwasher, get the manufacturer-approved replacements part you need at Sears PartsDirect.

Tools and parts needed

How to load a dishwasher

Hi, Wayne here from Sears PartsDirect. Today we're going to talk about what to do when your dishwasher doesn't clean your dishes well. First, let's cover some basics. Loading the dishes correctly helps the dishwasher clean them. Angle heavily soiled dish surfaces downward and leave enough room between the dishes to allow water to reach all sides. Make sure that spray arms spin freely after loading the dishwasher and don’t block the detergent dispenser lid.

Choose the correct cycle

After loading the dishes, select the correct cycle for the type of dishes that you're washing. A quick or normal wash cycle cleans most dishes well, but that cycle won't clean dirty pots and pans. Choose a heavy wash or a pots and pans cycle to clean really dirty cookware.

If your dishwasher has a high-temperature setting, choose it for better cleaning. The dishwasher will heat the water to higher temperatures, and do a better job of melting grease off dishes. It will also dissolve detergent better, improving cleaning performance.

Refer to your owner's manual for information about the cycles and options on your dishwasher.

Make sure filters aren’t clogged

Next, we'll talk about filters. Clogged filters interfere with water flow, which can cause poor cleaning performance. Remove and inspect your dishwasher filters monthly. You can clean the filters by holding them under running tap water.

Remove dirt or hard water deposits using a soft bristle brush. Scrub the filters whenever you see soil or residue building up on the screens or if dishes feel gritty and you see food particles after the cycle finishes.

If your filter is different, check your owner's manual to learn how to clean the filter on your model.

Check spray arms for cracks, clogs

Next we’ll talk about spray arms. Dishes won't get clean if the dishwasher can’t spray them thoroughly with water. First, check the spray arms for cracks or damage. A cracked spray arm won't rotate and spray correctly. Replace the spray arm if it’s damaged.

If the spray arm isn’t cracked, check the spray arms for clogged openings. Hard water deposits and food debris can clog these holes. You can clear the holes with toothpicks or a bamboo skewer. For severe clogs, remove the spray arms following the instructions in the owner’s manual and clean them in the sink. Use a toothbrush and a bamboo skewer to remove clogs, and soak them in white vinegar to help remove hard water deposits. Rinse the spray arms thoroughly and reinstall them.

If hard water deposits frequently block your spray arm holes, we recommend cleaning your dishwasher once a month with Dishwasher Magic or Affresh dishwasher cleaner.

Make sure dishwasher fills with water

If your spray arms are okay, the next thing to check is the water level. Start a cycle with the dishwasher empty and allow the dishwasher to fill with water–which should take about 2 minutes. When you hear the water stop filling or the pump start running, you know the dishwasher is finished filling.

Open the dishwasher door slightly to stop the cycle. When the cycle stops, open the door fully and check the water level in the tub. The water level should be close to the bottom of the mushroom-shaped float. If your dishwasher isn’t filling, or the water level is far below the float, you’ve likely found the problem. Check out this video to see troubleshooting tips for a fill problem in your dishwasher.

Check water temperature

If your water level is all right, let’s check your water temperature next. Your water must be at least 120 degrees to clean efficiently, even if you use the high-temperature cycle. To check the water temperature, run the hot water from your kitchen sink faucet for 1 minute and then fill a glass with hot water. Measure the water temperature in the glass using a cooking thermometer.

If the temperature is less than 120 degrees, carefully increase the temperature setting on your water heater. Make small, incremental increases and don't set your water heater temperature above 120 degrees. That should protect you from burns in the bath or shower.

Troubleshoot detergent problems

If your water supply temperature is all right, let's talk about some problems with your detergent that could cause poor cleaning. If the lid to the detergent dispenser lid is still closed after you run the dishwasher, here’s a link to a video with troubleshooting tips to resolve that problem.

Next, check the condition of your detergent. Old or stale dishwashing powder like this won't clean your dishes well because the detergent loses effectiveness and may leave gritty deposits on your dishes. It doesn't take long for powdered detergent to age if you store it under the damp sink. Toss out old, clumpy detergent and use only fresh, dry detergent for the best dishwashing results. Store powdered detergent in an upper cabinet where it stays dry and it will last longer.

Check water hardness

It’s also important to use the right amount of detergent based on your water hardness and the dirtiness of your dishes. If you don't know your water hardness, contact your water supplier or you can look it up online. If you want to check the water hardness yourself, you can use a test strip such as this one. You can also bring a water sample to your local Sears store and we'll check it for you for free.

Don’t forget rinse aid

Once you know the water hardness, follow the directions in your owner's manual to fill the dispenser with the right amount of detergent. Always use rinse aid in your dishwasher. Rinse aid reduces spots, which can make your dishes look dirty. Even if you use detergent tablets or pods that include rinse aid, you should still use liquid rinse aid. The rinse aid dispenser in your dishwasher dispenses the right amount during the final rinse cycle so your dishes turn out spotless. Pods and tablets may not release rinse aid at the right time.

Many rinse aid dispensers also have a setting that you should set based on your water hardness. Check your owner's manual and set the rinse aid dispenser in your dishwasher to the proper level. These tips should help you get your dishes looking clean and spotless.

I hope this video helped you out. You can find links to the products we talked about in the video description. Check out our other videos on the Sears PartsDirect YouTube channel. Subscribe and we’ll let you know when we post new ones.

Symptoms common to all dishwashers

Choose a symptom to see related dishwasher repairs.

Main causes: damaged or stuck spray arm, leaking door seal, damaged door hinge, leaky heating element water seal, cracked water supply line
Main causes: water supply problem, stuck overfill float, clogged water inlet valve screen, water inlet valve failure
Main causes: light switch beside the sink turned off, lack of power, bad dishwasher door switch, control system failure, wiring problem
Main causes: glass or popcorn kernel stuck in the chopper blade, drain line vibrating against the cabinet, debris in wash pump or drain pump
Main causes: broken door latch, tripped circuit breaker, broken heating element, faulty vent fan, sensor failure, control system problem
Main causes: improper loading, low water temperature, improper detergent dosage, detergent dispenser failure, spray arm or pump problems
Main causes: not using rinse aid, rinse aid dispenser failure, broken heating element, malfunctioning vent, drying fan failure
Main causes: broken door spring, detergent dispenser failure, cabinet mounting brackets loose or broken
Main cause: damaged rack height adjuster

Repair guides common to all dishwashers

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your dishwasher.

How to replace a dishwasher user interface control

The user interface control houses the selection buttons and display. If it fails, you can't select the cycle and settings. Follow these instructions to replace it yourself.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
October 1, 2016
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher high-limit thermostat

Follow these steps to replace the high-limit thermostat in your dishwasher if prevents the heating element from heating.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
October 1, 2016
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher diverter motor

Upper spray arms not getting water? The diverter motor could be broken. Use this guide to replace it.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all dishwashers

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your dishwasher.

June 20, 2019

Dishwasher not drying dishes video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Find out why your dishes are still wet even after the dishwasher cycle has finished.

June 19, 2019

How to load a dishwasher video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Find out where dishes should go, as well as what never to put in a dishwasher.

June 17, 2019

Dishwasher not cleaning dishes video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

These tips will help your dishwasher clean your dishes better.