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Dishwasher Repair Tips:  Dishwasher Not Cleaning Dishes

When your dishwasher doesn't clean well, fix it yourself following these simple steps and avoid the expensive professional service call. A simple cleaning often solves the problem.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Dishwasher Repair Tips:  Dishwasher Not Cleaning Dishes

When your dishwasher doesn't clean well, fix it yourself following these simple steps and avoid the expensive professional service call. A simple cleaning often solves the problem.

Step 1: Simple cleaning solutions

If your dishwasher is running but the dishes aren’t getting clean, one of these simple fixes could solve your problem. Start by consulting your manual to be sure you’re using the right detergent, loading the dishes correctly and maintaining the right hot water temperature. Then follow Photos 1 – 5 for repair steps.

Insufficient water in the dishwasher also can cause poor cleaning. If the float gets stuck in the raised position, the dishwasher won’t fill with water (Photo 3). Another likely cause is a clogged inlet screen or faulty inlet valve. Photos 4 and 5 show how to clean the screen or replace the valve. To determine if your dishwasher is getting enough water, start a wash cycle. Open the door when you hear the machine stop filling. The water should reach or come close to the heating coil. If it doesn’t, first make sure the float valve is operating freely (Photo 3). If this doesn’t solve the problem, check the inlet valve and screen.

Dishwasher parts

Dishwasher parts

Figure A: Anatomy of a Dishwasher

Follow this diagram to locate the basic dishwasher parts.

Step 2: Replace the inlet valve

Inlet valves that are starting to fail sometimes make a hammering noise. If you hear this, replace the valve. But before you start any work on the dishwasher, unplug it or turn off the power at the shutoff switch or main circuit panel. Test to see if the power is off by turning on the dishwasher and making sure it doesn’t run. You’ll also have to shut off the water before removing the inlet switch. Usually you’ll find a shutoff valve under the kitchen sink or in the basement or crawl space under the dishwasher. Otherwise, close the main water valve.

Photo 4 shows how to remove the inlet valve. Yours may look different. Whether you’re replacing the valve or simply cleaning the screen, you’ll have to unscrew the brass fitting that connects the water line to the valve. Remove the four screws that secure the valve to the bracket to access the filter screen (Photo 5). Reassemble and reinstall the valve in the reverse order. Wrap Teflon tape around the fitting threads before screwing the fitting into the valve.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Nut driver
    • Pliers
    • Shop vacuum

Comments from DIY Community Members

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August 14, 8:42 PM [GMT -5]

I did it! Great pictures and instructions.

There wasn't anything wrong with my dishwasher, that I know of. I happened to see this on PInterest and thought I'd give it a try. Good thing I did. It was pretty gross in there.

I didn't use the vacuum, though. Too much fluid sitting in there. Used paper towels to soak up fluid and wipe out the gunge.

I used a toothbrush and the sink sprayer to clean the removable pieces. Looks great, now.


June 08, 10:50 PM [GMT -5]

All this is well and often recommended, as I did the repair myself but still had the proble
The other possibility other than clogged water filters or clogged spray jets in the sprayer arm is this, one that I did not suspect nor find any help with online.

The old GE Potscrubber 640 washer I own, around 20 years old, had been leaking around the pump from the DRAIN SOLENOID. Over time, this corroded the solenoid plunger to the point that it would not raise or lower as needed to either drain or fill the washer. Yes, hard to believe but a simple flap acts as a diverter to BOTH drain or fill the washer. Your machine could be made differently of course.

If you have such a machine, the cure was to simply observe what the machine did underneith as you slowly rotate the control knob. I could see that something was stuck with the solenoid which I easily deduced was connected to that FLAPPer diverter as I looked down into the pump with sprayer arm and everything else easily removed.

I didn't take anything apart, but just scrapped the plunger going into the solenoid the best I could and sprayed WD40 liberly on the plunger. I worked the plunger up and down repeatedly to be assured of movement. Sure enough, there is still a slow drip down there, but the machine works great. I put a dinner plate under the drip until I decide to remove the entire DRAIN Solenoid with plunger from the pump and clean it up or buy new. SUCCESS and at no cost to me but my time but what a glorious day it was!

November 27, 7:53 PM [GMT -5]

Your photos and explanations were so easy to understand. We tried and successfully got the parts apart. Using wire in the arms and even a needle nose pliers and tweezers, we got everything out. Then we put it together again and it works great. Thanks so much,

January 23, 3:05 PM [GMT -5]

Great tip...

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