Keep It Happy

Dishwashers can be finicky beasts and repairs can run into the hundreds of dollars. These simple tips will help to keep the repair man away, your wallet closed, and your dishes sparkling clean.

Keeping It Fresh

Nobody likes a stinky dishwasher. Lucky for you, keeping it smelling clean is just a few steps away. First, make certain that the drain hose rises above the connection(video) to the garbage disposal (or drainpipe) by at least 6” and is secured firmly. This will prevent water and food waste smells from backing up into your dishwasher.

Next, follow these steps twice a year to remove detergent buildup in the system.

1. Start a short cycle

2. Pause the cycle as soon as you hear the dishwasher start to spray

3. Open the door and add 16oz of white vinegar(affiliate link), pouring it straight into the tub of the dishwasher

4. Close the door and allow the cycle to run for about 2 minutes

5. Pause the cycle and leave it overnight

6. In the morning, allow the cycle to finish

Your dishwasher will smell like vinegar but that will go away with the next cycle.

If you want your dishwasher to smell extra fresh, you can run another cycle after pouring a jar of powdered Orange Flavored Tang(affiliate link) into the tub. This is an old technician’s trick for cleaning the dishwasher’s inner surfaces.

Preventing Spotting

There is a simple rule you can use to keep those annoying spots from showing up on your dishes. Never use soap when you pre-rinse your dishes. Use warm water and a soap free scrubby. Even tiny amounts of regular dish soap can cause problems in your dishwasher.

If you are already experiencing spotty dishes, add ½ cup of any salad oil to your next load to break up the bad soap and flush it out of the system.

Stop Leaks Before They Start

Keep the perimeter around the inside of the dishwasher door free of debris. This will prevent the door seal from getting worn through enough to allow water to pass.

Don’t Label

Labels are bad. Labels in dishwasher are even worse. Be sure to remove all labels(affiliate link) from your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Labels that come off in the dishwasher will often clog the wash arms and prevent them from spinning. Wash arms that don’t spin only clean the dishes directly above their motionless arms.

Keep Them Spinning

The wash arms of your dishwasher spin from water pressure. Twice a year you should check your wash arms for clogs. They are typically easy to remove(video-for general idea) so that you can inspect them without crawling inside your dishwasher. Most owner manuals will show you how to remove the wash arms in your dishwasher.

Once removed, take the wash arm to the sink and run cold water into the center and make certain that water comes out of every hole. Don’t miss the holes underneath and at each end! If you find a hole that isn’t letting water through, there is some debris clogging the hole.

You can pick out the debris clogging the hole with tweezers or you can push it back in with a poker(affiliate link) and shake the wash arm until the debris falls out of the big hole in the center. Do not use anything made of wood for a poker as the tip could break off and plug the hole for good.

You can also knock each end or the sides onto a hard surface to loosen things up, but keep in mind that most wash arms aren’t super sturdy, so don’t get too aggressive. Better to apply patience rather than too much force. Keep at it until you can watch water run freely out of every hole.



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Bruce Fielding

Spent my life fixing whatever was broken, until I was the thing that was broken. Now I explore my lifelong love of the written word.