Top 5 Dishwasher Problems and Solutions

By Terry Mehilos | Oct. 31, 2017 8:07 am PST

Are your dishes not drying? Is there food left on them after a wash? Sick of spots on your glassware? Here are the most common dishwasher issues our technicians see — and how to fix them.

Yikes! You ran the dishwasher to prep for your big dinner party, but it refused to cooperate.

If your dishes aren’t drying or you’ve got white spots on your glassware, you’re not alone. Those are just a couple of the most common things that can go wrong with your appliance — and the experts at Sears have seen it all. In fact, our technicians repaired more than half a million dishwashers in 2016!

Here are the five most common problems with dishwashers (and how to fix them).

#1 Problem: Dishes not drying.

Likely Culprit: Not using rinse aid.

Dishwashers are designed to use a liquid rinse aid, which greatly improves drying. Rinse aid also keeps water droplets from forming, thus preventing spots or streaks on dishes during drying. Even if your detergent or tablet has a rinse aid built into it, liquid rinse aid in the dispenser is still recommended. The + dispenser will dole out the rinse aid at the appropriate time to have the best results.

#2 Problem: Dishwasher not draining.

Likely Culprit: New disposal installed and drain plug not removed.

It’s common in a new installation of a garbage disposal to keep the knockout plug in place. For many dishwashers, the drain hose connects to the garbage disposal, so the knockout plug must be removed for the dishwasher to drain. Contact a licensed plumber to correct the issue with the knockout plug. After removing the knockout plug, make sure the drain hose is connected securely back to the disposal connection. If the disposal was professionally installed, contact the installer to correct the draining issue.

#3 Problem: Dishwasher leaves spots or a film on glassware.

Likely Culprit: Hard water conditions and not using a rinse aid.

White film (hard water) is caused by high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. People who live in areas that have hard water often struggle with white film on their dishes, glasses and the interior tub of the dishwasher. There are extreme cases where the rinse agent and soap aren’t able to soften the water enough in hard water areas to achieve desired cleaning results. In these cases, a dish detergent booster such as Lemi Shine has been known to drastically improve cleaning results.

#4 Problem: Dishwasher running too long.

Likely Culprit: Low water temp and new efficient design.

Long cycle times can be caused by:

  • Not running the hot water in the sink before starting the dishwasher. Turn on the hot water faucet nearest to the dishwasher for a couple of minutes to clear any cold water from the pipes.
  • Choice in cycle selection and options: Some cycles run longer than others. Cycles such as sanitize and options like extra dry heat increase the cycle time.
  • Household water temperature in the water heater is not set to at least 120ºF.
  • It takes about two minutes to heat the water inside the dishwasher 1 degree. Most cycles require the temperature to be 135ºF. If the incoming water temperature is only 105ºF, for example, it would take an additional 60 minutes to finish the cycle.
  • If the water temperature is under 120ºF, have a qualified person raise the water heater thermostat setting.

#5 Problem: Crumbs and food on dishes.

Likely Culprit: Need to clean filter.

Not every model will have a removable filter. Check your owner’s manual. If the filters are clogged or dirty, it may result in food particles on dishes and affect overall cleaning performance. The filters need to be cleaned when:

  • Objects or soiled spots are visible on the upper filter assembly.
  • There are food particles or soil still present on the dishes.
  • Dishes feel gritty to the touch.
  • Enough time has passed based on the cleaning chart recommendations found in the owner’s manual.

Caution: There may be sharp objects such as broken glass in this area.

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