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, follow these steps:

    1. Run the hot water in the sink for one minute.

    2. Fill a glass with hot water from the sink faucet.

    3. Using a thermometer, test the temperature of the water in the glass.

  • The water temperature in the glass should be between 110 and 120 degrees. Adjust the temperature on your water heater as needed.

It's also important to use the right amount of detergent for your water's level of hardness. This video shows how to check water hardness. Use more detergent if your home has hard water.

Poor cleaning could also be due to a mechanical problem with your dishwasher.

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 the 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 dishwasher 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 dishwasher circulation pump and motor assembly or pump motor if cleaning the pump doesn't restore water flow to the spray arms. Watch our repair guide video for replacing the circulation pump in a dishwasher if the pump needs replacement. Our dishwasher not cleaning dishes video provides additional troubleshooting tips to help you get the best cleaning results from your dishwasher.

dishwasher

These repairs may help solve your dishwasher problem

Replace the dishwasher detergent dispenser

Replace the dishwasher 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.

October 1, 2016
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher detergent dispenser

If the detergent dispenser in your dishwasher won’t open or is damaged, follow the 6 steps in this repair guide and video to install a new one.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the dishwasher circulation pump and motor assembly

Replace the dishwasher circulation pump 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.

How to replace a dishwasher circulation pump and motor assembly

When the dishwasher spray arm won't spray, the problem could be the circulation pump or the pump motor. Installing a new dishwasher circulation pump and motor assembly costs about as much as just replacing the motor, and is easier. This DIY repair guide with video shows how to replace a dishwasher circulation pump that's not working.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the dishwasher diverter motor

Replace the dishwasher 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.

October 1, 2016
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher diverter motor

If the dishwasher spray arm isn't spraying and an error code is flashing, the diverter motor is the most likely cause. This repair guide and video show how to replace the diverter motor in less than 30 minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Clean the dishwasher circulation pump

Clean the dishwasher circulation pump

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.

Replace the dishwasher wash pump motor

Replace the dishwasher 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.

Repair the dishwasher upper circulation pump assembly

Repair the dishwasher upper circulation 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.

Symptoms common to all dishwashers

Choose a symptom to see related dishwasher repairs.

Main cause: damaged rack height adjuster
Main causes: broken door spring, detergent dispenser failure, cabinet mounting brackets loose or broken
Main causes: damaged or stuck spray arm, leaking door seal, damaged door hinge, leaky heating element water seal, cracked water supply line
Main causes: light switch beside the sink turned off, lack of power, bad dishwasher door switch, control system failure, wiring problem
Main causes: water supply problem, stuck overfill float, clogged water inlet valve screen, water inlet valve failure
Main causes: broken door latch, tripped circuit breaker, broken heating element, faulty vent fan, sensor failure, control system problem
Main causes: clogged kitchen sink drain, clogged drain hose, drain check valve damaged, drain pump failure, control system 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: not using rinse aid, rinse aid dispenser failure, broken heating element, malfunctioning vent, drying fan failure

Repair guides common to all dishwashers

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

October 1, 2016
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher detergent dispenser

Dishes need dish detergent to get clean. Learn how to replace a dishwasher detergent dispenser with easy step-by-step instructions.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
April 1, 2014
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher drain hose

This step-by-step guide explains how to remove a cracked or leaking drain hose in your dishwasher and install a new one.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
April 1, 2014
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a dishwasher thermal fuse

A completely dead control panel often indicates that the thermal fuse on the electronic control board is blown; follow these steps to replace a blown thermal fuse in your dishwasher.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 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 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.

September 29, 2016

Dishwasher detergent cup not opening video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Overloading the detergent dispenser, using clumpy soap and a broken actuator are reasons why the dispenser won't open.

January 16, 2015

How to fix rust spots on a dishwasher dishrack video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

It’s easy to get a newer looking dishrack!