Automatic dishwashers are supposed to make life easier by eliminating the need for washing dishes by hand. Unfortunately, dishwashers don't always perform as expected. This often leaves owners to inspect dishes, glasses, and flatware after the cycle is completed for particles of dried-on food or a greasy film that indicates the dishwasher did not perform its job correctly. When this happens, you may immediately think that the dishwasher needs to be repaired or replaced, but poor cleaning performance can also be caused by other factors. If your dishwasher is not getting your dishes clean, and you are forced to hand-wash the dishes before putting them away, take time to explore these possible issues before calling the repairman or kicking your expensive appliance to the curb.
Low water quality, especially water that is laden with calcium and other minerals, can make it very difficult for your dishwasher to do its job correctly. This mineral-rich water, often called hard water, can build up on surfaces within your dishwasher and cause metal parts to rust, cause clogs, or even damage the heating element, all of which can mean less efficient cleaning.
If your water is considered to be hard water, try cleaning your dishwasher with white vinegar by running it through a complete cycle with no dishes inside. Instead of detergent, pour one quart of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher before starting the cycle. In addition to helping to remove the scale left on surfaces from hard water, cleaning your dishwasher with vinegar in this manner once per month is an inexpensive way to freshen and clean the interior.
If cleaning the dishwasher with vinegar does not completely solve your problem, you may be dealing with a clogged spray arm. Particles of food and other residue often become lodged in the holes of the spray arm when a dishwasher is used frequently or dishes are washed with excessive amounts of food residue left on them. When this happens, an insufficient spray of water results when the dishwasher is used, and the dishes are not properly cleaned.
To remedy this issue, simple remove the dish trays to expose the spray arm or arms and follow the instructions in your owner's manual to remove the arm. Usually this is done either by gently snapping the arm off or unscrewing a small plastic cap on top of the arm to free it. Place the arm or arms in the sink and wash gently, taking care to remove any food debris in the spray holes. Replace the arm or arms and the dish trays and then run a load of dishes to see whether the problem has been resolved.
If the problem continues to persist, you will need to contact a reputable appliance service in your area. They will be able to diagnose the problem and order any necessary dishwasher parts to ensure that your dishwasher begins working well once again.