A dishwasher is one of the most used appliances in a home. So, when it is not working, it’s important to find a solution as fast as possible. We’ve put together our top tips for how to troubleshoot a dishwasher. You’ll get it up and running before dishes even have a chance to pile up.

Dishes Aren’t Coming Out Clean

If you run too many loads of dishes through the machine or use too much detergent, you could have a buildup of residue and food particles. These will eventually clog the drain pump and cause a leak.

Run your dishwasher with just one or two full racks of dishes. If there are more than two racks of plates in the washer, they may not get as clean as intended. The same goes for pots and pans — only wash them in the top rack if they are small enough to fit comfortably.

Use about half a cup of dishwasher detergent for each load of dishes (no more than a cup). This is enough detergent to get everything properly cleaned without risking damage from overuse.

A woman looks frazzled over her dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
Regularly clean your filters and jets with vinegar or baking soda to prevent soap scum from building up inside them and causing problems later on.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Run

If your dishwasher won’t run, don’t panic. There are several things that could cause this problem.

Image: a woman sitting next to her broken dishwasher.
If you’ve turned off the water supply to your kitchen sink, you may not be able to start the dishwasher. Check to see if the water supply is turned on under your sink, and make sure there aren’t any obstructions in the pipes. If that doesn’t solve your problem, check the electrical panel or fuse box for blown fuses or tripped breakers.

Image: a meme about filling the dishwasher.
If this doesn’t solve the problem, call an electrician to inspect your wiring for potential problems such as loose connections or worn-out wiring insulation.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Fill

If you run your dishwasher and it doesn’t fill with water, there is a good chance that the float switch is broken. This is a fairly common problem, but it’s easy to fix.

Image: a teenager looks anxiously at a broken dishwasher.

What is a Float Switch?

The float switch is part of the float assembly located at the bottom of the dishwasher. It contains a float ball that rises with water levels and pushes down on one end of the valve stem when it comes into contact with water. This opens the valve stem, allowing water to enter the tub for washing. When there is no water in the tub or the dishwasher is not running, the float ball rises and closes off this valve stem so no more water can enter the tub.

Replacing this part is pretty simple and only requires a pair of needle-nose pliers and some time. First, pull out your old float switch by removing the nut holding it in place beneath the float assembly (there may be two nuts depending on your model). Then remove any other parts attached to this assembly (such as gaskets) and replace them if necessary. If in doubt, call a plumber.

Dishwasher Doesn’t Drain

When your dishwasher won’t drain, it’s usually due to a clog in the drain pump. The pump is located under the floor of the dishwasher. You’ll need to remove several screws and parts to clean it out. If you aren’t confident, it’s best to call a plumber to help.

The check valve prevents water from flowing back into the dishwasher when no water flows through the hose during operation. If this valve sticks open or closed, it will restrict water flow through the hose and cause flooding or no draining at all.

Image: a flooded kitchen.
Here are some signs that indicate that your check valve may be defective:

  • You hear gurgling sounds coming from underneath or around your kitchen sink when you open up the faucet or turn on the water supply spigot after running a cycle.
  • You see standing water in the bottom tray of your dishwasher after running a dishwashing cycle in a standard setting. When you check the bottom tray, it is full of standing water or completely flooded.

Dishwasher Smells Bad

There are many causes of bad smells from a dishwasher, but most of them can be easily fixed.

Image: a woman plugging her nose because her dishwasher smells bad.
Food particles or grease can stick to the sides and bottom of your dishwasher and cause odors even if they’re not visible. Regular cleaning can help prevent this problem. You should also clean out any filters and ensure they’re not clogged with debris.

A dirty water supply line can also cause smells. To fix this problem, remove the hose from its connection point at the back of your sink faucet. Then, run hot water through it before reattaching it to flush out any dirt.

Got a dishwasher problem? Call the plumbing professionals at ASI and let’s get your dishes sparkling clean again.