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7 Easy-to-Fix Reasons Your Dishwasher is Not Cleaning as it Should

Few things are more disappointing than opening the dishwasher to put away its clean contents, only to be greeted by dirty dishes and cloudy glassware. It’s understandable how you might conclude it’s time to get a new machine, but hold on. Before you toss a perfectly good dishwasher, consider these seven things you may be doing wrong, any one of which may be causing this frustrating situation.

No. 1: Your filter is clogged.

So, your dishwasher is not cleaning dishes the way it did when it was new. This may come as a surprise: Your dishwasher has a filter that requires regular cleaning. Surprisingly, a clogged filter could be the culprit behind your less-than-clean dishes. If this gunk and goo buildup in your dishwasher — caused by food deposits and hard water — is minor, you can often remedy the situation by running a vinegar cycle.

Pour 3 cups of white vinegar in the bottom of the empty dishwasher and select the longest cycle. The vinegar will dissolve light mineral buildup and clean gunk from the holes in the spray arm.

If that doesn’t fix the problem and/or you’re unsure about the location of your dishwasher’s filter, search online for your unit’s manual online to find the instructions you need.

No. 2: You need to clean the machine.

If your dishwasher no longer delivers sparkling clean dishes, it might be an indication that the whole thing needs a thorough cleaning. It’s easy to overlook the fact that appliances designed to clean things also get dirty themselves.

No. 3: You’re pre-rinsing.

If you wonder why dishes come out of your dishwasher with bits of food still stuck to them, it could be because you’re rinsing them first. It seems counterintuitive, but pre-rinsing can make your dishes come out dirtier, not cleaner. That goes for glasses, pots and silverware, too.

Most dishwashers sold in the past five years or so have a sensor that determines how thorough a wash is needed. At the start of the cycle, it rinses the dishes and then checks how dirty the water is to determine how much time and water it needs to get everything clean. If you’ve already rinsed away much of the muck, the sensor misreads the dishes as already fairly clean. So the dishwasher gives that load a light wash and less than sparkling clean.

To fix that maddening result, don’t rinse; just scrape off bits of loose food with a rubber spatula.

No. 4: Your water temperature is set too low.

Water that’s not hot enough won’t effectively clean your dishes. To test your water temperature, run hot water in the sink before starting the dishwasher. Fill a glass and use your candy or meat thermometer to test the water temperature. It should be between 120 F and 150 F. If it’s not, adjust the temperature on your water heater.

Most dishwasher manufacturers stipulate 140 F as the ideal temperature for an automatic dishwasher. However, if you have young children or elderly adults in the household, this may present a scalding issue, so use your best judgment. 120 F is the lowest safe temperature for both your clothes washer and dishwashing.

No. 5: You are not loading correctly.

A dishwasher not cleaning properly may be due to the common issue of blocking the spray arms and overcrowding the load. If you want sparkling clean results, loading your dishwasher correctly is crucial. The ultimate guide to loading your dishwasher lies within the appliance manual itself. Take a moment to search for it online and make adjustments to your loading practices accordingly. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, you’ll optimize the cleaning power of your dishwasher and enjoy spotless dishes with ease.

No. 6: You’re using too much detergent.

It’s a common misconception that using more detergent leads to cleaner dishes. Surprisingly, the opposite is true! If you’ve been noticing roughness on your dishes and glassware, excessive detergent could be the culprit. Perhaps you’re overloading the detergent pocket or using more than a single pod that ends up dispensing an excessive amount of detergent for your dishwasher. Here’s a tip: Switch to a powder detergent and use a smaller amount than usual. Give it a try and observe if your dishes come out cleaner and smoother. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Remember, sometimes less is more.

No. 7: You’re not using a rinse aid.

Is it possible you’ve determined that using a rinse aid is optional? Rinse aid plays a vital role in achieving optimal dishwasher performance and impeccable results. So, if you want the best results from your dishwasher, start using a rinse aid religiously.

What does rinse aid do? This magical liquid, sold as Finish Jet-Dry and Cascade Rinse Aid, helps the water glide off your dishes and glassware swiftly, preventing the formation of water spots and stubborn hard water stains. It’s the secret ingredient that makes all the difference between lackluster, cloudy dishes and ones that truly sparkle and shine.

Look for the rinse aid reservoir near the detergent cup. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual or those on the rinse aid label to keep it full.

Hint: In a pinch, you can fill that rinse aid reservoir with plain white vinegar. The results will be similar.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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