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7 Tips to Correct the Most Common Dishwasher Issues

Are you misusing your dishwasher? Read the top reasons for dishwasher problems, and view our interactive photo for tips to correct the most common dishwasher issues like not using rinse aid, not cleaning the filter and more.

Loading a dishwasher is one of those tasks that you might do without a second thought. As long as your dishes seem to come out clean, you’re good, right? Well, not exactly.

There are quite a few dishwasher mistakes you could be making regularly that are affecting how your appliance performs. Some things you’re doing might not have obvious consequences, like residue sticking to plates or a funky smell emanating from the depths of the dishwasher, but they’re still affecting how clean you’re able to get your dishes and how efficiently the machine works.

Sears Home Services appliance expert Travis Robertson reveals the seven most common ways people incorrectly use their dishwasher and how to solve problems that occur from misuse.

Hover over or click on the image to see the icons.

Problem 1: Using the wrong soap

Why it’s bad: This may seem like common sense, but dishwasher detergent isn’t the same as dish soap. While both products clean dishes, they do so in different ways. Using regular dish soap in a dishwasher will make a soapy, sudsy mess.

Solution: Use only detergent designed for a dishwasher.

Problem 2: Not using a rinse aid

Why it’s bad: Skipping rinse aid causes two main issues. First, it can lead to soaking wet dishes that require you to towel off dripping Tupperware, plates and bowls, which is a top complaint by dishwasher users. Second of all, not using it causes those water spots and a hazy film to settle onto your glassware as your dishes dry.

Solution: A rinse aid, which really should be called a drying aid, helps remove water from your dishes. Not only will it help them dry faster, but it will also prevent mineral deposits from attaching to your glassware.

Problem 3: Not running hot water before a load

Why it’s bad: Just as when you let the water get hot before stepping into the shower, you need to do the same for your dishwasher. The appliance gets its water from the kitchen sink, so if you don’t run hot water before your load you’re starting the cycle with cold water. This means your dishwasher isn’t going to be as efficient, and your dishes aren’t going to get as clean, especially in the winter when your pipes are cold.

Solution: Run the hot water in your kitchen sink for a couple of minutes to prime the pump, so to speak. That way, you’ll start the load with hot water, making the load more efficient.

Problem 4: Overloading

Why it’s bad: It’s tempting to wedge that last dish into the washer before running a load, but it’s not a good idea. Not only does overloading lead to dirty dishes, the spray arm at the bottom of the appliance can’t do its job — especially if your bottom rack is packed full. Water won’t be able to reach the upper dishes and may even spray leftover food from the bottom rack to the top. It can also damage your dishes if they hit into each other with the force of the spray.

Solution: Leave some breathing room. Load according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

Problem 5: Leaving too much food on plates

Why it’s bad: Nobody is saying you need to hand-wash your dishes before you put them in the washer, but too much food left on your plates and silverware can clog the filter. Also, clumps of food can resettle on dishes after the cycle, which sort of defeats the purpose.

Solution: Scrape off everything that’s solid and bigger than a dime.

Problem 6: Not leaving any food on plates

Why it’s bad: You may think washing your dishes before they go into the dishwasher will help get them cleaner, but it’s just the opposite. Enzymes in dishwasher detergent are designed to latch onto food particles, so if you’re overly enthusiastic about pre-rinsing, chances are you’re making your dishwasher work less efficiently. Also, it seriously wastes water.

Solution: Scrape. Don’t rinse.

Problem 7: Not cleaning out the filter

Why it’s bad: Most newer dishwashers have manual filters that require you to clean them regularly. If you never clean your filter, your dishwasher could start to smell. It’s not going to damage the machine but can cause issues with water not draining or flowing in properly.

Solution: Clean your filter every week or so.

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