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Tip: Dishwasher

If your dishwasher cleans poorly, it could be caused by one of many things:

Water-inlet valve

Most cleaning problems are caused by the dishwasher not getting enough wash water, so the water-inlet valve is often to blame. This valve is usually at the bottom left or right of the dishwasher, behind the lower access panel. It’s the device with the main water line from the house, a rubber tube to the dishwasher, and two wires attached to it. If the water-inlet valve is defective, it needs to be replaced.

Internal filters

* Most modern dishwashers have self-cleaning filters that don’t need any routine cleaning.
* Some have filters in the bottom of the dishwasher that you need to clean periodically. You don’t need any tools to remove the filter, and cleaning it is easy. Consult your owner’s manual to determine which type you have and its maintenance requirements. If your filter is clogged, it may be causing the insufficient cleaning problem.

Drain valve

Some dishwashers have a valve (or gate) that should open only during draining. If debris gets lodged in the valve, it can’t close properly, so water drains out during the wash cycle. Most dishwashers drain into the garbage disposal. If yours does that, listen for water flowing into the disposal during the wash cycle. If you can hear it, the drain valve may be clogged.

Spray arms

There’s a spray arm at the bottom of your dishwasher-it may have a tall spray tube mounted to the center of it. There may also be a spray arm located directly beneath the upper rack of dishes and/or above the upper rack.

If debris is blocking the holes in the spray arms where the water comes out, it could cause unsatisfactory results. Regularly inspect each of the spray arms and clean out the holes as necessary.

Water temperature

To get the best cleaning results, the water entering your dishwasher needs to be hot. Try running the hot water in your kitchen sink for about 30 seconds before starting the dishwasher, to heat it. Also, if your dishwasher lets you select a higher wash or rinse temperature, try that to see if it helps.

To check the temperature of the hot water that comes from your kitchen faucet use a waterproof thermometer. If the water isn’t 120 degrees Fahrenheit, your dishwasher may have trouble getting your dishes clean. You could increase the temperature of the hot water to the whole house by adjusting the hot water heater thermostat.

To lessen the risk of scalding, don’t set the hot water heater temperature higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.


Dishwashers have a lot of components, so there are many sorts of potential problems. For solutions to common problems, contact your owner’s manual or a service professional.

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