Home Improvement

Why Is My Dishwasher Not Cleaning? 8 Reasons and Solutions

Image source: InFocus.ee / Shutterstock.com

If you have a dishwasher, you know just how convenient it is and how much time, effort, and money it can save you. However, if it stops doing what it is meant to do – wash dishes, unsurprisingly – then it kind of defeats its purpose.

We can practically hear the exasperated sigh that left your lips when you opened the appliance and were treated to the sight of dirty dishes. Well, no more! It’s time to learn why your dishwasher is not cleaning and how you can make it work again.

Table of Contents:

So, if you:

  • Aren’t too keen on washing dishes by hand;
  • Have noticed your dishwasher is not cleaning like it used to;
  • Are looking for the reasons and solutions,

Then keep on reading, because this is the post for you!

Now, let’s dive straight into it and go over …

Why your dishwasher is not cleaning properly

There are a few reasons why your dishwasher is not washing the dishes; mostly, everything comes back to either the cleanliness of the appliance, the condition of the parts, or the way you use your dishwasher.

So, here are the most common reasons and their solutions:

The appliance interior is dirty

It may seem counterintuitive, but you do actually have to clean your dishwasher. After all, it handles tons of dirty dishes daily, so it’s only natural that it gets a little dirty itself. Things such as soap scum, food residue, grease, etc. build up over time.

If you have noticed that your dishwasher is suddenly not cleaning well, it may just be because you haven’t cleaned it in ages, or even at all.

Cleaning a dishwasher is not a difficult task – all you need to do is run a full cycle with some white vinegar, and then another short one with baking soda on the hottest setting. Our helpful blog post on the matter outlines just how to clean your dishwasher interior, as well as all of its main components, so give it a read. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, book appliance cleaning with Fantastic Services and enjoy a clean, properly-working dishwasher today!

The spray arm is clogged

The spray arms are what spins at the top of your dishwasher, spraying jets of water at the dishes to clean them. However, with time, mineral deposits, food waste, and other debris can block the spray arm holes and make the appliance run ineffectively.

So, to ensure your dishes, cutlery, and pans come out sparkling clean next time, you may need to unblock the holes. Take the spray arms out of the dishwasher and wipe them well with a clean cloth, dipped in either white vinegar or warm, soapy water. Then, scrub the holes with an old toothbrush. You can use a toothpick to really get in there and get all the debris out. Rinse the spray arms with a damp cloth, put them back in the machine, and you’re done!

The inlet valve is faulty

The inlet valve is what lets water flow into the appliance. Unfortunately, as with all parts, wear and tear can get to it and it can stop functioning properly. If you notice your dishwasher is not cleaning the dishes and you hear a hammering sound when the machine is working, then the inlet valve is probably at the end of its lifespan.

Usually, the dishwasher would display an error code for a faulty inlet valve. Between different brands, the given code might be different for example E1 error code on Candy, i10 / i11 / C1 / F1 / AL5 (AEG), E03 (Bosch), Error IE (LG), F12 / F13 (Miele), F02 (Indesit), i10(Zanussi)

Changing an inlet valve is best done by a qualified technician. Again, this is something we can help you with – feel free to check our dishwasher repair options. However, if you’re a DIY master, you can consult the manufacturer manual, where you can find instructions on what type of valve you need, etc.

The filter needs cleaning

Like all parts of your dishwasher, the filter requires some cleaning, perhaps even more so than the others. If you have a pre-2010 appliance, chances are it comes with a self-cleaning filter. Newer models, however, have a filter that you can, and should, take out and clean manually.

Start by removing the filter. How you do it will depend on your dishwasher model. Mix some warm water and a few squirts of dish soap in a large bowl, or your sink. Soak the filter in the mixture for 10-15 minutes. You’ll need to remove any caked-on food residue by hand with an old toothbrush. When you’re done, rinse the filter and secure it back in its place.

You may also like:
Cleaning Guides
How to Clean a Dishwasher Filter

The soap dispenser is faulty

Things can go wrong with the soap dispenser, too. If it’s faulty, no amount of fancy detergent will help, as it simply won’t get to your dishes. Most often, the dispenser is clogged with soap residue, or the spring in the door is jammed and needs replacing.

If you need to clean your soap dispenser, use a mixture of hot water and vinegar, scrubbing any deposits away with an old toothbrush or another small brush. Check the dispenser gasket, too, and replace it if need be.

There’s an issue with the water

If you’re still asking yourself “Why is my dishwasher not cleaning my dishes?”, then maybe the issue lies in the water. There are several potential causes here.

Low temperature

Your dishwasher needs the water to be at least 50 degrees Celsius to properly wash your dishes. Some appliances come with a heating mechanism, while others depend on the water provided by your water heater.

If your dishwasher doesn’t have a heating element, make sure your boiler is set to at least 50 degrees. You can also run the kitchen faucet for about 30-60 seconds before starting the cycle to get the hot water going.

You may also like:
Home Improvement
Dishwasher Not Heating – Common Problems and Fixes

Low pressure

If both your dishwasher and your washing machine are having problems, then the fault might lie in your water pressure. If the pressure in your home has been lower than usual, or fluctuating, you’ll probably need a plumbing expert to come and sort out the problem. You can book one here.

You may also like:
Home Improvement
How to Test Water Pressure at Home

Hard water

If you live in an area with hard water, you’ve probably noticed mineral deposits building up quickly in your shower, faucets, etc. Your dishwasher is no exception, and that limescale build-up can affect its ability to make your dishes shine.

Consider investing in a water softener that you can install on the water line. That will significantly reduce your mineral deposit problems. You might need to use a specific type of detergent, too, so check what options are available.

You’re using the wrong detergent

One common reason that results in your dishwasher not cleaning is that you’re using low-quality detergent. Sure, they’re cheap, but they’re not very good at doing their job, if we’re being honest. Simply switching to a better quality detergent may just solve the problem. You might also be using too much or too little product. Check what the recommended amount is for your detergent of choice.

To really make your dishes sparkle, you can add a rinsing agent, too. Just follow the instructions on the label.

You’re loading the dishes incorrectly

Another surprisingly common mistake is that you’re loading the dishwasher the wrong way, resulting in dirty dishes and a good amount of frustration. Packing the dishes too tightly will result in them coming out just as dirty, as water can’t clean what it can’t reach.

Mix up the silverware, too, as spoons, in particular, are notorious for fitting so well into each other that the water simply can’t get to the grime.

If you’re washing larger items, make sure nothing is blocking the spray arms from rotating, as this can be the issue.

A good daily maintenance tip is to rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. This will make sure no food scraps are left at the end.

Is your dishwasher still not cleaning properly?

If none of these tips work and your dishwasher is still not cleaning, you might need the help of an expert. Fantastic Services offers a professional dishwasher repair service, performed by technicians that are sure to find the fault in your appliance and sort it out in the blink of an eye! No more dirty dishes and defeated sighs – your dishwasher is sure to leave your dinnerware cleaner than ever! So, arrange your service today using our simple booking form!

Is your dishwasher not doing its job?

Find a professional today to take care of your appliance!

Add a valid postcode e.g. SE1 2TH
  • We're certified:


  • The most common reasons why a dishwasher is not cleaning properly are its cleanliness, its condition, and the way you use it.
  • Faults can appear in the spray arms, soap dispenser, filter, and inlet valve.
  • Sometimes, a simple clean can solve your issues.
  • There could be a problem with the water temperature, pressure, or hard water.
  • You might be loading the dishwasher incorrectly, or using the wrong type and amount of detergent.

And, if none of this works, your appliance might be severely blocked somewhere you wouldn’t think to check. So, find out how to unblock a dishwasher next!


Did you find this post useful? How did you fix your dishwasher that was not cleaning? Let us know down in the comments!

5 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x