top of page

8 Dishwasher Problems You’ll Regret Ignoring

If you notice any of these issues with your dishwasher, act swiftly—or else you could end up with a major problem.

Having a dishwasher is arguably the luxury of all luxuries. A machine that makes the hassle of washing dishes as easy as loading up the appliance and pressing start? If only our ancient ancestors could have known this kitchen blessing! Of course, dishwashers are not without issues. Sometimes they act up, and when they do, you should look into it ASAP. The problem may amount to nothing more than a quick fix—or it could indicate a much larger issue, which could get worse if you neglect it. If your dishwasher exhibits any of the following problems, don’t ignore them. And if you do find yourself in the market for a new dishwasher, make sure you know the most reliable (and the least reliable) home appliance brands.

Bad Odor

Dishwashers should smell fresh and clean, so any off-putting smells are a sign that something’s not quite right. The primary culprit is likely the drain filter, according to Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company. “Many dishwashers have a drain filter to prevent food particles from clogging the drain, so check yours,” he says. “To do that, simply remove the drain filter from the floor of the dishwasher. Wash the filter in your kitchen sink with hot water and soap, using a bottle brush if necessary in order to reach all the interior surfaces. Finally, ensure the drain is free and clear of food debris and gunk before you reinsert the drain filter.”

If you wait to address this issue, it can be problematic for a few reasons. For starters, your dishes won’t get cleaned properly, resulting in more work for you or the potential consumption of gross gunk. Second, you’re also risking potential water leaks from a backed-up drain, which can ruin your floors. Of course, it’s great when you can solve the problem yourself and don’t have to call a technician. Here’s how to fix 10 everyday appliances for free.

Loud, abnormal noises

Dishwashers aren’t exactly the quietest appliances, but anything outside of the typical low-pitched whirring means something’s awry. It could be a minor issue, such as a large pot getting in the way of the spray arms, in which case it’s time to rearrange so your dishes can get clean. (By the way, here’s how to load your dishwasher the most optimal way.) However, it could also be a sign that the wash pump, drain pump, or a motor is malfunctioning, notes Sears, and that could lead to subpar performance or leaks. It’s best to have a technician take a look at your dishwasher to assess and fix the issue. The worst-case scenario is that the dishwasher needs to be replaced, but this is usually a fixable issue. That said, sometimes it’s cheaper to replace than to fix an appliance.

Grime on the interior

Over time, grime can accumulate on the interior walls of your dishwasher. Often it’s a gray, black, or orange color. This is likely the result of food buildup, bacteria, mildew, and even mold—all of which you do not want adjacent to your dishes, notes Shimek. He says a quick but thorough wipe down will solve the problem. “First, remove the upper and lower racks, and run them under hot water in the kitchen sink. Then scrub the inside of the dishwasher with a rag or sponge dampened with hot water,” he advises. “Make sure to wipe down the door gasket, as well, which can collect mold and mildew.” The biggest issue you face here is getting sick from consuming bacteria or mold, but the gunk can also start to clog your dishwasher’s parts and result in malfunction. Make sure you know these 8 tips for cleaning your kitchen’s trickiest appliances.


Minor rust on the exterior is no biggie, but if you see rust on the interior, it may be time to replace your entire machine, according to Compact Appliance. Rust is indicative of an ongoing water leak and is a clear sign that your appliance is already in the later stages of decay. While waiting for a technician or the delivery of your new appliance, review these 21 bad habits that shorten the life of your dishwasher.

Leaking water outside the dishwasher

Speaking of water leaks, if your device is surrounded by a pool of water (small or large) after being run, you’ll want to address the problem immediately. Standing water around and underneath this heavy appliance can rot away your floors. You may not need to throw out the appliance, but you’ll want a technician to diagnose and fix the problem. There are a host of reasons why you may experience a leak, says Shimek, including a clogged drain filter or parts that have rust or calcium/lime buildup.

Standing water inside the dishwasher

Standing water (or slow-to-drain water) on the inside of your dishwasher is less worrying than water on the outside, but it still requires some attention since warm water is a breeding grounding for bacteria. If you run the dishwasher with standing water, you also risk cleaning your dishes with this old, gunky water, warns SFGate. So, what’s the issue here? You’re likely dealing with a clogged drain or filter, so follow Shimek’s advice above to clean these parts or call a technician. Here are more surprisingly germy kitchen items that you don’t clean often enough.

Not Heating

Part of a dishwasher’s cleansing cycle involves heating your dishes to the FDA’s recommended 171 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a sanitary measure that kills off any potentially harmful bacteria. A dishwasher that doesn’t leave your dishes hot to the touch after running likely requires a new (or mended) heating coil. In some cases, you may need to replace the dishwasher entirely. By the way, this is when your dishwasher and other appliances are most likely to break down.

Dishes that don’t get clean

If your dishes aren’t clean after running through a full cycle, that defeats the entire purpose of owning a dishwasher. This problem may be due to user error—for example, poorly arranging your dishes or not pre-rinsing them. Shimek says that you should always pre-rinse, even if your appliance advertised it’s unnecessary. “Food particles can gum up moving parts and become stuck in crevices, and rinsing first also helps prolong the appliance’s life,” he explains. If it’s minor residue from your detergent, you could also try adding this ingredient to your wash.

However, this issue could also be related to a clogged filtering screen, which is located under the bottom sprayer arm. “Clean this regularly to prevent trapped food particles from degrading into a sludge that blocks water flow and eventually requires a repair to get your dishwasher working again,” Shimek advises.

6 views0 comments


bottom of page