5 Common Dishwasher Problems and How to Fix Them

As much as a dishwasher saves a ton of work and hassle with the mundane chore of handwashing dishes, they have their issues. Thankfully, dishwashers today do a good job of cleaning and drying dishes, but they’re not perfect. Not even close. We’ll look at 5 common dishwasher problems and how to fix them.

Dishes Not Drying

Today’s dishwashers don’t rely solely on the drying heater to dry dishes. That’s because of energy conservation and efficiency. Instead, they use a lower temperature drying cycle combined with airflow or venting and rinse aid.

Rinse aid allows water to run off dishes and glasses to help prevent visible water spots. But its use isn’t the only solution. Proper rinsing inside the dishwasher allows for clear water for rinsing. It happens when other factors work in unison, like the proper type and amount of soap.

Too much soap always causes water spots regardless of the drying capabilities, including rinse aid. When residual soap isn’t drained entirely during the first drain, it remains into the rinse cycle and mixes with the rinse aid. That ultimately ends up on the dishes. That’s why some of the spots appear on plates and glasses.

To assist with the dishwasher drying process, it’s best to measure the soap you’re using carefully or use pods. Note that if the pods contain rinse aid, don’t let that discourage you from using rinse aid from the dispenser. Rinse aid inside pods gets used up during the wash cycle and does nothing for the rinse.

Use rinse aid and always the right amount of soap in every wash, and you should see an improvement in how well your dishes dry. It’s worth mentioning that some of the latest dishwashers don’t use powered venting to assist the drying process and instead use slightly higher heater temperatures.


How well a dishwasher cleans is subjective. Some people never have an issue with their dishwasher, and others with the same model have several. Many times it’s not the dishwasher and turns out to be one or a combination of several things.

For example, consider the previous mention about using too much soap. Not only will using too much soap cause spots and greasy marks on dishes, but it also creates a disgusting musty smell at times. Some say it’s the water, but residual soap inside the machine collects bacteria, creating the smell and necessitating a good cleaning.

Loading dishes is another reason for washability complaints. Remember that water needs to not only find its way onto the dishes but also around all sides. If there’s a plate sitting in front of a bowl, for example, water will ricochet and sometimes barely reach the bowl, leading to a complaint.

Always keep plates standing upright and bowls facing away from them for best results. There’s been a lot of discussion about rinsing dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.

It’s a choice, yes, but the truth is a film of food is OK because the enzymes in dishwasher soap react with food, so it’s good to have a small amount remaining when they’re placed in the dishwasher to aid in the cleaning process.

What’s not OK is a half-full plate of food placed inside with the expectation that everything will get clean. It won’t happen the way you’re expecting.

Not Draining

Suppose you discover your dishwasher suddenly stops draining. In that case, the first question to ask yourself is if you removed the knockout plug from your brand new garbage disposal before you connected the dishwasher drain hose to the fitting on the side. If you didn’t replace the disposal, there’s more to check.

One common cause of not draining is clogged filters in the bottom of the dishwasher. There are usually two, and if they get clogged, you’ll find standing water inside after the cycle completes. A simple cleaning may fix the problem.

Another easy-to-see solution is to look at the drain hose under the sink. It should be elevated to 20 inches above the floor before it enters the disposal or house drain. If that checks out OK, consider slowly removing the drain hose from the disposal fitting or house drain and look for a clog there.

If your drain pump is making a loud, unusual noise, it might be a seed or a piece of broken glass that’s preventing the pump impeller from turning, which stops all draining. For that, you might need a professional to come out and take a look.

Extremely Long Cycles

Today’s dishwashers have wash cycles longer than previous versions. They use less water and less power, but they need to run longer to achieve better results. The turbidity sensor that determines the clarity of the wash water contributes to the long cycles. When it detects abnormally cloudy water, it will partially drain and refill with clear water and perform a self-diagnosis before continuing the cycle.

If that happens to you, think too much soap or your machine may need a good cleaning by using a readily available dishwasher cleaner. The water temperature sensor will also continue a wash cycle until the water temperature reaches at least 140 degrees for normal washes and up to 165 degrees for a sanitary wash.

If your water heater is far from your dishwasher and hot water takes a few minutes to arrive, try running the hot water until it gets hot, then start the wash cycle to help shorten wash times.

Food Particles Left on Dishes

If you find particles of food stuck to the dishes inside the machine at any time, the likely cause is clogged filters discussed earlier or a buildup of food inside the machine. The best solution is to place a cup of white vinegar on the lower rack and run an empty sanitary or high-temp wash cycle.

That will loosen stuck-on food and will do an excellent job of cleaning. Caution: use white vinegar sparingly because of its corrosive nature. It’s best to find a good dishwasher cleaner instead. Lastly, if your machine stops cleaning like before, your wash motor might be failing, which reduces the wash pressure inside the machine and dramatically affects washability.

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