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Dishwasher Doesn’t Clean Dishes? Here’s What To Do To Avoid Expensive Repairs

A dishwasher is one of the most unappreciated appliances in the house. It is the kind of thing that we all take for granted and I know that I am certainly guilty of this!

I just let it do its job; I slam the door and I really never think anything of it… until I start to notice gunk at the bottom of a coffee cup, a plate that still has some of last night’s pasta sauce on it and I certainly notice when my child is freaking out because his Batman juice cup is not clean enough for him.

Today I am sharing with you a few tips to keep your dishwasher working great so that it keeps your dishes, cups, and other items nice and clean. If you follow these tips you should hopefully avoid any expensive dishwasher repairs.

Unclog The Spray Arm

Unclog the Arm Dishwasher

I think spray arm is the technical name for the part of the dishwasher that spins around and shoots water at everything! This is what is mainly responsible for getting things clean.

The first call when getting your dishwasher in shape should always be the spray arm. This can get filled with all kinds of mess, ranging from your leftover food to the dishwasher soap you are using getting all gunked up.

The best thing to do is completely remove the spray arm. With it removed you can then use a piece of wire to unclog each of the holes. Sometimes you do not need to actually remove the spray arm and you can do it with it still in the dishwasher, but if you can get it out, you can give it a more thorough clean.

Give The Spray Arm An Extra Clean With White Vinegar

No matter if your dishwasher has one or two spray arms, if you remove both of them from the dishwasher, you might as well go all out when it comes to cleaning them. Once you have used your wire to unclog the holes. Soak them in white vinegar. Leave it to soak for a little while and this will give those holes an extra bit of cleaning and help break down any dishwasher soap that has built up.

You Need To Know How To Clean Your Dishwasher!

Dishwasher Cleaning

As I said, we all take our dishwashers for granted, but if you look after it and clean it at least once a month, chances are it will run fine and dandy for many, many years.

Most dishwashers have an area at the bottom that is there to catch larger items. Big bits of food, broken bits from dishes and mugs, anything the kids like to put in there such as Lego and popsicle sticks!

These can all build up and make it much harder for your dishwasher to do its job. Plus with all this mess at the bottom, your dishes are getting cleaned with water that is being thrown around with leftover food and other nasty stuff! So give it a good cleaning out once and a while and you will notice a huge difference.

One extra pro tip: you might want to make sure you have a pair of rubber gloves on when you do this as your dishwasher can contain some very nasty surprises. I once cleaned out a piece of steak that had been in there so long, I am sure it had come to life!

Clean The Filter

Your dishwasher will have what is referred to as a fine filter. This is a filter that is similar to what you would find in a washing machine, tumble dryer and even a vacuum. It is there to capture smaller and extra nasty little pieces that can wreck the pipes and the insides of the dishwasher.

When you are cleaning your dishwasher, always take this out, remove anything that is on it, and give it a good blasting with water in the kitchen sink so it is nice and clean.

Get Rid Of Any Soap Residue And Other Build Up

DishWasher Soap Residues

Ok, so full disclosure here, this is really yucky, but it must be done. No matter if it is months and months of soap or if it is because you live in an area that has hard water, you are bound to have noticed a buildup of some gunky, yucky and generally gross looking stuff in your dishwasher.

This kind of build up if left can cause major problems, especially if it is interfering with any of the water jets or spray arm. You need to get rid of this and get rid of it properly.

The first thing to do is get yourself a plastic knife and scrape off as much as you can. Be real careful not to scrape up the dishwasher while you do it, that is why I suggest a plastic knife. Thankfully you can make a super paste of white vinegar and baking soda.

Mix these two things together until they make a paste. Spread it all over the build-up and leave it to sit for a good 30 minutes. Get your plastic knife again and give it another scraping where it will now hopefully come right away. Give the area a good clean once you are done. If it does not all come off the first time, keep doing it until it is all gone.

Use A Toothbrush To Get In Those Nooks And Crannies 

Toothbrush Dishwashers

So you have given the inside a good cleaning out, you unclogged the filters and made sure that the spray arm is as strong as one of Hulk Hogan’s arms.

However, if you really want to make sure your dishwasher has had a good clean and that there is no chance of any two-year-old food or yucky black gunk being thrown at your dishes, you need to clean the seals.

I am talking about the seals around the door, the bottom of the dishwasher and in general any of the little areas that are kind of hard to reach. These are the places that all that leftover food and soap will build up and start to smell, which will mean that the water that is getting blasted in your dishwasher will not be clean.

A gentle scrubbing of all the little areas can go a long way to making sure anything you put in your dishwasher is getting cleaned with fresh water that is not contaminated with last Christmases turkey!

What To Do If Your Dishwasher Is Not Cleaning Well

Cleaning a dishwasher is no one’s idea of fun, but if your dishwasher doesn’t clean dishes properly it is something you have to do. In all honesty, staying on top of it and giving it a clean once a month or maybe even every couple of months will be enough to keep it in good working order.


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I'm obsessed with cleaning (maybe to an unhealthy degree) and want to share all of my best tips and hacks with you.

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