Why is my dishwasher not working?

If you always use a dishwasher at home, you might find it strange seeing friends or family washing their dishes by hand. But if you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably stuck doing dishes the old-fashioned way too, because your dishwasher has broken down. To help you whip your dishwasher back into shape without getting your hands dirty, here are some common problems and solutions.

Why is my dishwasher not turning on?

Dishwasher not turning on

There are several reasons as to why your dishwasher isn’t starting in the first place. It might be because:

  • No power: ensure that your dishwasher is plugged into the wall. If it is, check that the socket is working by plugging in another appliance such as a working lamp. Also inspect the wires for any damage.
  • Door latch or door latch switch: dishwashers are equipped with a door switch for safety, so if the door is open, it won’t allow the dishwasher to start. Inspect the dishwasher to check if the latch or the switch are broken and replace if necessary.
  • Faulty control panel: it’s possible that the control panel is faulty and may require replacing.
  • Key lock is on: some dishwashers feature a key lock. When it’s on, the buttons are deactivated but the sound still beeps. To cancel the key locking function, press down the button and hold it until the key lock indicator turns off.
  • Water tap is off: ensure the water is turned on and connected.
  • Strainer blocked: the dishwasher strainer is located where the water inlet hose screws into the tap. Inspect the strainer for blockages and clean if necessary.

Why is my dishwasher not spraying water?

If no water is going into your dishwasher, it could be down to a number of reasons:

  • Water is off: check the water is turned on by inspecting your hot water supply stop valve under your sink, plus check the water pressure.
  • Blockages: check spray arms, filters and pump for any food residue, grease or debris that are causing a blockage, clean if necessary (steps detailed below).
  • Overloaded dishwasher: if you’ve packed your dishwasher with too many dishes, it can cause the spray arms to jam and stop spraying water. Rearrange the dishes or take some out before restarting the cycle.
  • Overfill float switch: this is a safety switch that turns on once the water fills to a certain level. If it’s faulty it might stop the water completely. Adjust the switch or replace it if necessary.

How do you fix a dishwasher that won’t clean?

Cleanse The Unclean

If you find your dishes aren’t being cleaned properly, check the following areas:

  • Sprayer arms: check that they can move without any obstruction. The spray arm holes might be blocked by small items or food particles, which will require cleaning. Replace if they’re worn out.
  • Blocked filters: clean the filters (steps detailed below).
  • Strain screen: might be blocked and will require cleaning.
  • Door seal/gasket and upper discharge housing gasket: check if these are loose or need replacing.
  • Detergent: you might not be using enough detergent, or it might be too old or low quality, or you might be putting it in the wrong compartment. Check your manual if needed.
  • Unsuitable program for the load: the water temperature might be too low. Select a wash program with a higher temperature.
  • Dishes not rinsed: ensure to scrape off baked on soil or excessive food before loading.
  • Dishwasher overloaded: remove some dishes to ensure there is enough space.
  • Hard water build-up: run a cleaning cycle with a cleaning solution.

Limescale and food particles can block up the dishwasher, so it’s important to conduct regular cleaning. You can also run a cleaning cycle without any dishes to help with this.

Cleaning the interior

  1. Turn off the water supply
  2. Disconnect the dishwasher from the power supply and make sure all parts have cooled down before cleaning
  3. Use a soft, lint-free cloth with warm water to wipe down the inside
  4. If required, use a dishwasher cleaner/descaler following your manufacturer’s instruction manual

Cleaning the spray arms

how to clean dishwasher spray arms

  1. Ensure the water supply is turned off and the unit is disconnected from the power supply
  2. Remove the upper spray arm by unscrewing the locking bolt
  3. Remove the lower spray arm by lifting it off the mounting
  4. Rinse both spray arms under a tap
  5. Lift the mountings
  6. Ensure to twist the locking bolt back on firmly for the upper spray arm

It’s recommended to clean spray arms once a month or more often if necessary.

Cleaning the filters

  1. Ensure the water supply is turned off and the unit is disconnected from the power supply
  2. Remove the drain filter by turning it anti-clockwise then lift it out (indicated in the image courtesy of Fisher & Paykel)
  3. Then lift out the filter plate
  4. Rinse them under a tap and replace if necessary

It’s recommended to clean the filters every three to six months, depending on how often you use your dishwasher. Make sure to insert the filters back correctly, so that the dishes get cleaned properly. Keep in mind that these instructions might differ for the unit you have at home.

Why does my dishwasher leave glasses white, cloudy or spotty?

When your glasses or other dishes come out white, cloudy or spotty, it typically occurs from either:

  • Hard water build-up: increase detergent quantities or try specially made hard water detergents. You might also like to consider a whole house water softening system for all appliances around the house such as your washing machine or iron.
  • Glasses not dishwasher proof: wash these dishes by hand. Traces of rust on cutlery might be because they’re not sufficiently rustproof, which will also require you to wash these by hand.

If your dishes are coming out spotty or with water marks, some dishwasher manufacturers recommend using a rinse aid. Rinse aid is designed to stop water from sticking to dish surfaces. In addition, if there are tea stains or lipstick traces left, you may need to increase the detergent quantity and temperature.

Why aren’t my dishes dried?

dishwasher not drying

If your dishes aren’t drying, possible explanations include:

  • Low rinse aid dosage: increase dosage as it might be too low or has completely run out.
  • Items removed too early: you might like to leave the door slightly open and wait several minutes to help drying.
  • Faulty heating element: you can check the heating element with a multimeter.

Why is my dishwasher overfilling?

If your dishwasher is overfilling:

  • Check the water inlet valve to see if it’s open or needs replacing
  • Check the float and float switch to see if it’s faulty

These tell you if your dishwasher has the right amount of water, if the timer is stuck on fill, or the water inlet valve is stuck open. This might cause your dishwasher to overfill. If it’s foaming, there might be too much detergent or rinse aid.

How do I get rid of standing water in my dishwasher?

dishwasher not emptying

If your dishwasher is clogged up with debris and not draining, it can cause flooding in your kitchen. It’s important to check the assembly of the valve in the drain pump, plus check for any obstructions to the drain flapper or solenoid. If these are not moving properly, they might need to be replaced. You might also need to consider replacing the drain pump or motor.

Why is my dishwasher leaking?

This isn’t a problem many people enjoy as it can cause serious damage to a kitchen. There are several possibilities of why your dishwasher may be leaking, including:

  • Drainage hose: check for damage and cracks
  • Gaskets: (in the heating element) check the door gasket to see if it has deteriorated or looks like it’s not sealing properly and replace it to provide a better fit
  • Defective pump or defective pump seal: replace if necessary

Why is my wash cycle taking too long or doesn’t complete?

If your dishwasher is running longer than it should, this might mean there’s a problem with:

  • Timer motor
  • Thermostat
  • Heating element

These can be checked with a multimeter and replaced if necessary.

Why is the detergent not being released during the wash?

dishwasher detergent not working

The dishwasher dispenser might not be releasing the detergent because it’s clogged. Clean it and make sure it opens easily, otherwise replace it.

Why does my dishwasher smell bad?

If odour is of concern, check for trapped food and grease located in:

  • Strainer screen
  • Jets in the sprayer arms
  • Along the bottom edge of the door

Clean these areas thoroughly with a damp cloth and then run a ‘Cleaning’ cycle or a ‘Normal’ cycle without dishes. You might like to use a dishwasher cleaner or disinfectant during this cycle. To help avoid bad odours rinse dishes and grease off plates before placing them in the dishwasher.

Why is my dishwasher making noises?

Most dishwashers produce some sort of noise unless you have a model that’s boasted for “ultra-quiet cycles”. However, if there’s a racket, something’s up and it could be from:

  • Defective pump: might need replacing. It sits on the pump under the dishwasher tub
  • Arm seal: supports the spray arm and might need a wash or a replacement
  • Bearing ring: also supports the spray arm and it could be loose or worn out. Clean or replace if necessary
  • Spray arm: might be hitting other dishes, rearrange dishes if necessary

Inspect these areas and replace parts if necessary.

How do you reset your dishwasher?

If you want to reset the dishwasher or change a cycle, follow these steps:

  1. Press the ‘Start/Stop’ button
  2. Hold down the button for three to 10 seconds
  3. Release the button
  4. Select a new program then press ‘Start/Stop’ to restart the dishwasher

This might differ for other units, refer to your manual for details.

How long do dishwashers last?

dishwasher replacement

Before spending money on a service, it’s important to consider how long you’ve had the dishwasher for. In Canstar Blue’s customer surveys, we ask thousands of Aussie households about how long they owned their appliances before replacing them. Based on these findings, the average life expectancy of modern dishwashers was found to be 9 years.

It would be wise to do your research and consider if it’s worth doing a repair. When you calculate the costs, it might end up costing you more to fix the dishwasher compared to buying a new one. To help prolong the life of your dishwasher, ensure that you conduct regular maintenance, as well as use the correct amount of dishwashing detergent.

The wash-up

It’s important to note that not all dishwasher problems can be fixed, and a service might be needed. If your unit has served its time, consider purchasing a new one. Dishwashers are always being upgraded and becoming more energy-efficient, so there might be a benefit there for you. To find out which brands are keeping Aussie kitchens happy, our online ratings are here to help:

Dishwasher Reviews & Ratings

Picture credits: Andrey_Popov/shutterstock.com, Goksi/shutterstock.com, Budimir Jevtic/shutterstock.com, Bacho/shutterstock.com, Sergey Ryzhov/shutterstock.com

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