Even a small household can produce a truly hair-raising amount of dishes. Without your dishwasher, how can you cope?
Fortunately, many dishwasher problems are easy to troubleshoot on your own. When your dishwasher won’t drain, or isn’t getting the dishes clean, or smells bad, or is leaking, don’t panic. Take a stab at fixing it yourself before you call an appliance repairman. Here’s how to fix five of the most common dishwasher problems homeowners have.
1) It Won’t Drain
Sometimes, your dishwasher isn’t draining because a power outage stopped it mid-cycle. It’s always worth pressing the power button to see if the dishwasher resumes its cycle.
Your dishwasher can also get backed up if your garbage disposal gets clogged. There should be a blade access hole in the bottom of your garbage disposal that can accept a hex key or Allen wrench. You may be able to release the blockage in your garbage disposal by sticking a hex key in that hole and wiggling it clockwise and counterclockwise until the unit drains. Press the reset button before turning on your garbage disposal and clearing it. This should allow your dishwasher to drain. Keep your garbage disposal clean to avoid future clogs and make sure your dishwasher can always drain.
If you’ve put in a new garbage disposal recently, make sure the drain hole knockout is actually knocked out, so that the dishwasher can drain.
2) It Doesn’t Get the Dishes Clean
If your dishes aren’t coming out of the dishwasher clean but are, instead, dirty in new and interesting ways, the problem may be user error. Make sure you’re scraping off your plates and dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Scraping is better than rinsing, because rinsing can interfere with the action of your detergent.
If you’re sure that you’re taking care to scrape dishes before you put them in the dishwasher, you should clean the drain screen and filter. Pull off the dishwasher spray arm and clean it. Wipe off the door gasket. If none of that works, you may need to book an appointment with a home services member network like Candu Home Services to get the water inlet valve replaced.
3) It Leaks
A leaky dishwasher is usually a symptom of a problem with the door gasket. The gasket may not necessarily be damaged — if debris or residue is stuck to it, that can affect the seal and make the dishwasher leak, too. Inspect the door gasket for damage. Clean off any gunk and replace the gasket if necessary.
4) It Smells Bad
A bad smell in your dishwasher means you need to clean it. Clean the sprayer arm, door gasket, filter, and strainer screen with hot, soapy water. Clean the dishwasher itself by sprinkling a cup of baking soda in the bottom of the machine and placing a cup of vinegar in the top rack. Run it through a hot water cycle. Keep it clean by repeating this procedure once a month.
5) It Doesn’t Dry the Dishes
If your dishwasher doesn’t dry your dishes anymore, it probably needs a new heating element. You can usually find the heating element in the bottom of your dishwasher — it’s a thin, U-shaped or circular piece of metal.
It’s fairly easy to replace a dishwasher heating element, but it does involve removing the kick plate and disconnecting the wires connected to the heating element. If you decide to replace it yourself, be careful to label the wires before you disconnect them from the old heating element, so you can be sure to get them connected properly again. You should also watch out you don’t cut yourself on other parts of the dishwasher as you take the old heating element out. And, of course, you should make sure to unplug your dishwasher, if it’s not hardwired to your home’s electrical, or turn the power off at the breaker box, if it is, before you start working on it.
Don’t let dishwasher problems get you down. Most dishwasher problems are pretty easy to fix when you know what you’re looking for, and fixing your own appliances can make you feel more confident when it comes to home repairs and improvements. You may not be able to do everything yourself, but it sure feels good when you can manage to tackle a problem on your own.