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Why a Dishwasher Isn’t Cleaning Dishes on Top or Bottom Rack Well and How to Fix it?

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If you have ever loaded up dishes only to find the dishwasher not cleaning your dishes after a complete cycle, we know how you feel. That kind of frustration over a broken or malfunctioning dishwasher is exactly the type of thing that requires an immediate fix.

Solving the issue of a dishwasher not cleaning well requires diagnosing several core issues. Even if your new dishwasher is not cleaning properly, you can take action on signs of malfunction. Make sure to read through the symptoms first before proceeding to the steps you can take.

Common Problems for a Dishwasher Not Cleaning Dishes

When you have a concern with a dishwasher that won’t clean or a dishwasher is not cleaning like it used to, there are common problems that you should look out for.

Some of these issues are easy to spot and require little time or effort. Other things could be the symptom of several serious issues that you need to troubleshoot. Below are considered some of the most common problems that cause a dishwasher to not clean dishes properly.

Clogged Sprayer Arm

The sprayer arm is the plastic arm located at the bottom of the washer. Sometimes there is a second sprayer located hanging under the rack. A dishwasher not cleaning the top rack may have a clogged sprayer there. The sprayer arm should be free to rotate and spray water during a cycle.

Sometimes you can tell if the sprayer has become clogged. A clogged sprayer will release less water and not clean your dishes very well throughout a cycle.

Broken Soap Dispenser

Almost all modern dishwashers have a locking soap dispenser tray on the inside of the door panel. This soap tray opens for you to load soap in and then snaps shut for the dishwasher cycle.

During the cycle, the soap dispenser needs to open and release the soap to reach the dishes. However, if the soap tray gets broken, it may not release the soap, and your dishwasher will not clean the bottom rack or top shelf.

Inside of Dishwasher is Dirty

After many uses, a dishwasher may have a build-up of debris, dirt, grime, and soap scum. The interior panels can harbor many different nasty materials, and none of them are good for getting dishes clean.

Often during a dishwasher cycle, the sprayers coat the entire interior. This water loosens the debris on the dishwasher’s walls and ceiling, which then comes raining down on your dishes. As a sign of filth inside your dishwasher, the scent at the end of a cycle will resemble vinegar.

Inlet Valve is Failing

When the water enters your dishwasher, it comes through a water inlet valve. This valve can start to fail on older machines. Your dishes and glasses won’t get very clean without the right amount of water entering the cycle.

The inlet valve may fail if you notice leaking from the sides or bottom of the dishwasher if you notice a drop in water pressure. Or if there is little to no water entering your appliance during a complete cycle.

Water Temperature is Low

For the best results, dishwashers need water temperatures at about one hundred and twenty degrees. Some food scraps and grease may get left behind at the end of a cycle without hot water.

Suppose you open the dishwasher mid-cycle and don’t notice a lot of steam and warmth from the inside of the dishwasher. In that case, you probably have a water temperature issue.

Best Actions To Fix a Dishwasher That Won’t Wash

Fixing a dishwasher that isn’t working becomes much easier now that you have identified some symptoms. The problems with dishwashers not cleaning are all fixable. Below are some of the easiest actions you can take to fix a dishwasher that won’t clean.

Unclog Sprayers

Washing machines get filled with a lot of food debris. Not all of that debris makes it into the filter or drain at the bottom of the machine. Since the sprayer arm has several openings for water to come out, there are also places where food scraps can fall in.

Troubleshooting this one is easy. To unclog the sprayers on a dishwasher, make sure that you have some sort of soft bristle brush like a toothbrush. Give the entire sprayer arm a visual inspection to see if any clogs are visible. Then, brush down the entire arm paying particular attention to the visible scraps. The sprayer arms can also be removed and flushed with water in the sink.

Clean or Replace Soap Dispenser

The soap dispenser has a small flap door on a spring. If the door gets broken, that spring will not be functioning. Also, the door might be difficult to get open with your fingers. In this case, you need to remove the soap dispenser with a Phillips head screwdriver and order a new one for replacement.

Suppose the soap dispenser has a build-up of soap scum and hard water deposits around the edge of the door. In that case, clean around the perimeter of the soap dispenser door. Use a multipurpose cleaner and an abrasive brush or cloth. Use a toothbrush for the latch mechanism cleaning.

Wipe Clean the Dishwasher Interior

Food and grease from your dirt dishes fly off during a dishwasher cycle and can get stuck to the interior. These scraps could come off in the rinse and land on your dishes on the next cycle. The food can come from the bottom or upper rack.

Make a habit of checking and wiping down the interior of your dishwasher. It is easiest to wipe down the interior’s food debris after a cycle when the scraps are hot and loose.

Replace the Inlet Valve

When an inlet valve begins failing on a dishwasher, there will probably be leaking. Make sure that you identify the leaking quickly and then turn off the water supply to your home. Use wrenches to gently remove the water inlet from the faucet. Use a screwdriver to loosen and remove the inlet valve and find a suitable replacement to screw back in its place.

You may also want to replace the water tubing going into the dishwasher while replacing the water inlet valve. Always use pipe tape on the pipe threads when you tighten it back in place.

Check Your Water Hoses

If your dishwasher’s water temperature is not hot, make sure that the water piping is connected to the hot water valve. Run the hot water in your sink and then feel the valve attached to your dishwasher. If that valve is not hot, you need to loosen and change the other water valve’s connection for hot water.

Choose Fix Appliances CA For Your Needs

When you need help with your dishwasher appliance repairs, you want to get the best dishwasher repair services possible. Fix Appliances CA offers you licensed and certified technicians who have over fifteen years of an on-field experience. Our team is qualified to handle 70+ brands, including LG, Frigidaire, Whirlpool, Bosch, Kenmore, GE, Kitchenaid, Samsung, and others.

Some of the best reasons to reach out to Fix Appliances CA are:

  • 90 days satisfaction guarantee
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  • Factory trained technicians
  • Same day repair service available

Don’t wait another day with a dishwasher that isn’t working. Make sure to give us a call at 1-888-242-0777!


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They were very professional and dig a great job. They even picked up the unit from the store for me.

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Angela, Kleinburg, ON
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