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8 Common dishwasher problems & easy fixes

August 31, 2020 | Dishwashers

Dishwashers are a modern day must have in our kitchens.  They offer convenience and can effectively clean our dishes and glassware. Dishwashers are energy efficient, they use less detergent and as added bonus, can effectively get rid of germs! General care and maintenance can increase the lifespan of your dishwasher. Here we share the most common dishwasher problems and how you can easily fix them (no repair person required!).


  • 8 common dishwasher problems
  • Easy do-it-yourself fixes and solutions

1. Your dishes are still dirty

If you notice that your dishes and glassware are dirty or covered in residue, the first thing is to check that you are not overloading your dishwasher. Poorly stacked dishes and utensils that restrict the rotating motion of the spray arms can result in dirty dishes. 

Give your dishwasher a vinegar cycle

Check the spray arms and door seal to make sure there is no dirt, grease or debris.  Wipe thoroughly. Try running a full hot water cycle with 2 cups of white vinegar added to your dishwasher.

Clean clogged spray arms

Ensure your dishwasher spray arms can spin easily, without obstruction. Sometimes they become clogged with food debris. Simply remove them and give them a good clean with hot, soapy water and a light scrub with an old toothbrush. You may need a wire or pipe cleaner to release any debris from the spray arm holes. If the spray arms are worn, you can easily replace them.

Check your filter

Remove and clean your filter regularly. Simply remove from your dishwasher (usually located below the racks and generally attached with a twist cap). Then, rinse thoroughly under hot water. Use a bristled brush to remove trapped debris.

2. Your dishes are not drying

Your dishes should be sparkling clean and dry when the dishwashing cycle is finished. Therefore, if you notice that they are still damp or not dry enough to put away immediately, you can try the following:

Ensure you have rinse aid in your dishwasher

Dishwashing detergent or tablets are designed to clean your dishes. However, rinse aid prevents spotting and enhances drying. Rinse aid (or rinse agent) is a surfactant – it helps water run smoothly off your dishes for a streak and spot free wash.

Open your dishwasher door partially when the cycle has finished

This helps to release residual steam. If steam from your wash remains trapped in the unit, the moisture can quickly settle onto your dishes and glasses.

Stack your dishes with plenty of space between them

Overcrowding and incorrect stacking can cause water and steam to remain trapped in your dishes. A bit of space greatly improves water and air circulation. As a result, your dishes will dry faster.

3. Your glasses and dishes have water spots

Stubborn water spots on your clean glasses and dishes are a common problem.  These are usually the result of hard water. Excessive mineral content in your water supply can leave visible (and unsightly) residue as water evaporates during the drying cycle.  There are some simple fixes you can try to minimise this issue:

  • Use less dishwashing detergent. Too much can cleave a soapy residue. We recommend concentrated formulas where only a small amount of detergent is required for big results.
  • Use rinse aid – it helps to remove excess water and prevent mineral build up. We recommend Aktivo rinse aid
  • Add water softener salt to your dishwasher.  This softens the water for better cleaning and prevents marks and streaks. Note: Softener salt is suitable for dedicated salt reservoir. Check your owner’s manual first.

4. Your dishwasher is leaking

If you notice water pooling around your unit, you may have a leak that needs attention.

Check your door seal

Open your dishwasher door and check the seal is not cracked, damaged or worn. If your seal is damaged, you can easily remove and replace it. You can find replacement door seals for all leading brands of dishwashers here.

Check your drain hoses

Over the course of its lifecycle, dishwasher connections and hoses may become loose. Check the drain hose to make sure its securely connected and it is free of cracks or deterioration. Ensure your hose clamps are secure (tighten if required). Cracked hoses can easily be replaced from Statewide.

Replace the water inlet valve

The water inlet valve is designed to flow water into the dishwasher throughout a cycle. If the water inlet valve is not opening or closing correctly, the dishwasher will continue to fill with water, causing it to leak and overflow. A faulty water inlet valve can be replaced.

Make sure your dishwasher is level

If your dishwasher is not level, water can gather and pool underneath your unit. To check if this is the issue, place a level in the bottom of your dishwasher. Adjust the levels to fix.

5. Your dishwasher smells bad

There is nothing worse than a smelly dishwasher! Thankfully, there are a few simple remedies, to ensure your dishwasher smells fresh and clean.

Give your dishwasher a thorough clean

  • Start with your drain filter. Your drain filter is usually located underneath the bottom racks of your dishwasher.  Remove and wash in hot soapy water. Use a bristled brush to remove any built-up debris. After that, ensure your drain is clean and free of debris and food before you insert your drain filter.
  • Remove your spray arms and clean in hot, soapy water. Lightly scrub clogged holes with an old toothbrush or pipe cleaner.
  • Finally, scrub the inside of your dishwasher with hot soapy water and scrub brush. You can also wipe down racks and door gaskets.

Deep clean with a vinegar cycle

Firstly, run a full hot water cycle with 2 cups of white vinegar added to the bottom. The acidic properties of vinegar will help will cut through grease and remove detergent build up and deposits. You can also add a few drops of citrus essential oil to the vinegar. For example, lemon or orange can be used for their fresh scent and anti-microbial properties. Once clean, leave the door open, then, let your dishwasher air dry completely. It is a good idea to do this periodically.

Descale your dishwasher

Descaling your dishwasher will help return your unit to its peak efficiency – it’s also a great way to deodorise and clean your appliance! We recommend Aktivo Dishwashing + Washing Machine Descaler to effectively remove limescale and grime. In turn, it increase longevity of your dishwasher. This will rid your unit of smelly odours – leaving it fresh and sanitary clean.

6. Your dishwasher won’t drain

If you open your dishwasher and find a pool of water on the bottom, you can try these troubleshooting tips.

  • Firstly, try running your dishwasher a second time. A dishwasher that was abruptly turned off by a power outage or something unexpected, could mean that the cycle was incomplete.
  • Check the sump (located near the back of the unit, or at the bottom part of the tub). Remove excess water using a small container and check for any trapped food particles or debris.
  • Make sure your kitchen sink drain is not clogged. If you have a garbage disposal system, run it to clear the drain system. Typically, the dishwasher drains into the same system as the garbage disposal. If there is a problem or blockage with your disposal system, it can affect dishwasher drainage.
  • Lastly, blocked filters can commonly cause dishwashers to not drain effectively. Remove and wash with hot, soapy water to remove any build up and residue. It is a good idea to give your filters a weekly clean.

7. Your dishwasher won’t dispense detergent

This can happen with powder or dishwashing pods that are placed in the detergent compartment. There may not be enough water getting into the compartment to dissolve and dispense the pods. You can try using less powder or switching to a liquid. We recommend Aktivo Ultra Concentrate Dishwasher Powder – its super concentrated formula containing enzymes means only a small amount is required.

8. Your dishwasher makes a lot of noise

If your once quiet dishwasher starts making loud noises, take a look at your internal parts to make sure they are all functioning correctly. Spray arms should freely spin, seals and bearing rings should be in place. If the noise continues, it may be time to seek the help of a professional to look at your pump and motor.

Even the best dishwashers won’t deliver results if they are not loaded the right way. Follow our tips to load your dishwasher the right way.

Need spare parts for your dishwasher? You can find kitchen appliance spare parts at Statewide Appliance Spares. We stock dishwasher parts for all leading brands of dishwashers. Statewide have Australia’s biggest range of appliance parts with fast, Australia wide delivery.