Five Dishwasher Problems – And How to Fix Them

By Simon Cody

Horrible smells, flooded floors, unclean crockery: dishwasher problems are impossible to ignore – as is all the washing up you’ll be doing while you wait for one to be repaired or replaced.But don’t lose heart. Some of the most common… Click To Tweet

When it works, few pieces of kitchen equipment give as much quiet and continuous pleasure as a dishwasher. So it’s no surprise we get stressed when it malfunctions. 

Horrible smells, flooded floors, unclean crockery: dishwasher problems are impossible to ignore – as is all the washing up you’ll be doing while you wait for one to be repaired or replaced.

But don’t lose heart. Some of the most common malfunctions can be tackled without professional help. So before you pick up the phone, check the list below to see if you can sort them yourself.

And, in preparation for the next ominous rattle, clunk or leak, consider buying multiple home appliance insurance so that if your dishwasher, fridge or washing machine goes on the blink, you can get it repaired or replaced quickly.

Your dishwasher smells horrible

Did something die in there? You can’t help but wonder. The smells of an unclean dishwasher are a real test of your gag reflex.

Fortunately, this is often a relatively easy fix, but you’re going to have to get your hands – or rubber gloves – dirty. Start by turning your dishwasher’s power off, pulling out the bottom tray and checking what lies beneath. If there’s food below the tray, get rid of it. The tray and filters will need cleaning, too.

Once you’ve removed the filters, give them a good clean with washing-up liquid and a sponge or soft brush. Then, check the sump/drain for food debris, too – you might want to wear gloves for this. Reviewed’s YouTube channel has a great introduction to this job.

Follow this up by giving your machine a vinegar rinse while it’s empty. Pour a cup of white vinegar into a jug secured in the top rack and run a hot wash cycle. Or use a store-bought dishwasher cleaning product and follow the instructions.

To reduce how often you need to do this, wipe or scrape your pots, crockery and cutlery before you load them to remove all of the larger food particles. Do it into the bin, not the sink – otherwise you’re just shunting the problem to another drain. If that sounds like a drag, just remember how your dishwasher will smell if you don’t. 

Your dishwasher isn’t cleaning your dishes

This is the single biggest dishwasher problem, and unfortunately there are lots of possible causes as to why your dishwasher isn’t cleaning your dishes properly.

Let’s start with a couple of easy ones. 

First, think about how you’re loading the dishwasher. Have you scraped the plates and stacked them so the water can circulate freely between them? If not, chances are the food will still be there at the end of the wash.

You also need to check the filter and the drain, as detailed above. If they’re clogged, dirty water is going to circulate in your wash cycle, spreading food particles all over your plates instead of clean water.

The next category of problems is “fiddly but still fixable”. Check the nozzles on the spray arm. Are any of them blocked? If they are, areas of your dishwasher trays won’t get a proper dousing. 

Then make sure the little plastic soap dispenser door is opening properly. Are some of the dishes preventing this, because they’re so close to the door when it’s closed? Or is the spring clogged with grease or soap residue? If so, clean it with vinegar, hot water and a soft brush.

If none of these work, you may need professional help. Your inlet valve, drain pump or circulation pump could be broken. It’s one of those moments when dishwasher insurance cover will come in handy as without it, repairs can sometimes cost almost as much as a new dishwasher.

Unfortunately, there are lots of possible causes as to why your dishwasher isn’t cleaning your dishes properly. Click To Tweet

Your dishwasher is leaving a chalky white residue

A problem that’s often easily fixed is the curse of the chalky white residue. 

You’ll notice it on glasses and cutlery first, and when you do you should dab it with some white vinegar. If the residue dissolves in the vinegar, then it’s limescale. Congratulations: you live in a hard-water area, which means you need to top up your dishwasher salt dispenser regularly. Once you do, you’ll usually find that the problem vanishes.

Don’t make the mistake of using ordinary table salt, though, because it’s too fine and has anti-caking agents, both of which can cause damage to your dishwasher, so you’ll need to buy specific ‘dishwasher salt’ – or dishwasher tablets that come with it already included. But if you live in a very hard-water area, you might need both the dishwasher salt and those ‘all-in-one’ tablets to tackle the problem.

Finally, don’t forget about rinse aid. Those lucky enough to live in soft-water areas might not need it, but it’s one more piece of artillery in the battle against limescale spots, particularly on glasses and fine china. So check your rinse-aid filter and see if it needs topping up.

Your dishwasher’s door leaks 

If the drips are coming from the two bottom corners of the door, then the problem is usually with the black, rubbery plastic that seals the door once it’s shut. 

You’ll find it not on the door itself, but on the face of the washing cabinet that receives it. Over time, dents, cuts or food and limescale residue can reduce its performance. Give it a clean first; not only to remove dirt, but also to help your search for damage. If you find any, then the seal will need to come off. 

On many makes of dishwasher the job of replacing it is straightforward. But bear in mind you’ll have to order the right size of replacement seal for your model of dishwasher since there’s no one-size-fits-all dishwasher-door seal.

There’s one other thing to check in case of drips. Sometimes, the screws around the inner face of the door work loose. If they’re not firmly screwed in, the interface between door and seal will not be watertight.

If the drips are coming from other parts of the dishwasher, you might need to call in the professionals. 

On many makes of dishwasher the job of replacing it is straightforward. But bear in mind you’ll have to order the right size of replacement seal for your model of dishwasher since there’s no one-size-fits-all dishwasher-door seal. Click To Tweet

Your dishwasher floods the kitchen when you open the door

This is never good – especially first thing in the morning when you’re in your slippers and hurrying to work. 

First, you could consider running the cycle again. There may have been an overnight power cut while you were sleeping, which interrupted the cycle, causing it to start over, leading to too much water in the machine. If that doesn’t work, you need to check the filter or drain isn’t clogged, as detailed in the first tip above.

More serious are problems with the drain pump. You may get a warning that this is a problem by the sound of it struggling during the wash cycle. Or it may have failed completely: blocked perhaps by broken glass or accumulated food gunk. 

Either way, at this point you’ll need some professional help, unless you’re comfortable removing the dishwasher’s base plate, taking out the pump and testing it to check it’s still working with an electrical multimeter. 

Multiple appliance insurance for when there’s no quick fix

These days – armed with YouTube and good-quality wifi – we’re all capable of minor repairs and appliance cleaning rituals. But there are still jobs that are too complicated for most of us – and the average dishwasher will, in its lifetime, throw up a few. 

Usually, these will take more than a couple years to emerge, beyond the average warranty provided by the manufacturer, and when they do, FinEdge’s insurance for appliances

will come in handy. Premiums start from less than £2 a month. Click on this link to buy your multiple appliance insurance policy today.