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Broken Dishwasher? We Can Help

Kitchen with dimmed down lights, with a slightly opened dishwasher emitted a blue light.

Dishwashers save you a lot of time with washing dishes, and so have naturally become a popular staple to many kitchens. But, they don’t always work perfectly, which can be frustrating and time consuming in itself! From dishes not coming out clean to leaks and loud noises, there are many causes of a broken dishwasher. This isn’t surprising as the mechanisms of a dishwasher can be delicate.

In this article we will cover different ways in which your dishwasher could not be working, and how to fix it.

Jump to:

Why is everything coming out of my dishwasher dirty?
How do you fix a dishwasher that is not cleaning dishes?
Why does my dishwasher have brown residue?
Is it OK to leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher?
Is it worth fixing a broken dishwasher?

Why is everything coming out of my dishwasher dirty?

The most common reasons for your dishes to be coming out of your dishwasher dirty includes: using incorrect detergents, improper loading, incorrect water temperatures, or a dirty filter. You can check your user manual to ensure that you’ve been loading and washing your dishes correctly. If you have, and you’re still having problems, the chances are that your dishwasher needs a good clean.

The most common causes of dishwashers not cleaning effectively include:

Using the wrong type of detergent

A hand reaching out to a dishwasher detergent reloader

To know what the correct type of detergent to use in your dishwasher you will need to check your user manual. Your manual should also tell you how much detergent to use. Too little will be ineffective at cleaning your dishes, whereas too much can cause overflowing suds or soap residue.

Furthermore, if you have hard water in your area, you may need a different type of dishwasher detergent.

Incorrect water temperature

The water in your dishwasher needs to be hot enough to clean your dishes. That means your dishwasher should run between 49°C-60°C. Otherwise, your dishwasher won’t be cleaning properly.

You can check your water temperature by filling a glass with hot water from your tap, and using a thermometer to test the temperature. If the water temperature isn’t right, adjust the temperature on your water heater.

Improper loading

Opened AEG dishwasher, revealing it fully loaded with dishes.

When loading your dishwasher, it’s important to avoid blocking the spray arms and the detergent dispenser. Additionally, concave items such as bowls or mugs should be face-down, and everything else should be at an angle. Glasses should be along the sides of the upper rack with small sauces and cups in the middle. Dishes, pots, and other durable items should be on the bottom rack.

Check your user manual in case there are any more dishwasher loading requirements.

Food scraps

If you don’t scrape the food off of your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, your dishwasher may struggle to clean them. You don’t need to rinse or pre-wash them. In fact we’d advise against this, however big chunks of food are likely to be too much for your dishwasher to handle.

Clogged filter

Hand removing a dishwasher filter from a dishwasher

A clogged or dirty filter can lead to food residue being left on your dishes. Found at the bottom of your dishwasher, filters should be cleaned regularly to avoid clogging.

This will also keep your dishwasher working at its optimal cleaning power.

Using the wrong cycles

Dishes that are heavily soiled will need a cycle suitable for cleaning them. If your dishwasher has an auto cycle, it will sense how dirty your dishes are and will run on an optimised cycle. If you have burnt pans, or anything else that requires heavier cleaning, a high temperature cycle should be used.

How do you fix a dishwasher that is not cleaning dishes?

Firstly, consult your user manual so that you know you are using the correct detergent, loading the dishes properly and maintaining the correct water temperature. If your dishwasher still isn’t performing properly, follow these steps for giving it an extensive cleaning and troubleshooting:

1. Unplug the dishwasher

Before doing anything, you need to unplug the dishwasher. This will prevent you from receiving an electrical shock. You will also need to turn off the water supply if you need to remove the inlet valve.

2. Clean the spray arm

Dishwasher spray arm cleaning a glass

The spray arm is usually found at the bottom of the dishwasher. If they’re not working properly, due to not being able to freely move or being clogged, the dishes will not be cleaned properly.

To clean the spray arm you’ll first need to remove it. Check your manual for how to remove it; some unscrew whereas others simply snap off. 

Once removed, clean the arm holes with steel wire to remove any clogs. You can clean them further by soaking them in white vinegar. This will break down any debris inside of the holes.

3. Clean the dishwasher filter

With the spray arm removed you will have access to the filter. If you can, remove the filter screen; this will give you better access to clean. If you can’t, that’s OK; you can use a wet/dry vacuum to remove any debris.

4. Clean the float

Arrow pointing to the dishwasher float found at the bottom of a dishwasher

The float in your dishwasher needs to be able to move up and down freely. Debris and grime can cause the float to get stuck and so it’s important to make sure it stays clean. 

If your float is removable, it’s best to take it apart and clean it that way. Otherwise, do your best to carefully clean the float with it still attached.

5. Inspect the water inlet valve

The water inlet valve is responsible for allowing water into the dishwasher. If this valve gets clogged or damaged, it may lead to improper water levels. If that happens, your dishwasher will not clean properly.

The water valve is found at the front of the dishwasher. Inspect this for damage or clogs. If you find anything wrong with this valve, you will need to replace it as soon as possible.

Why does my dishwasher have brown residue?

Brown residue on bottom of dishwasher

Brown residue found in your dishwasher is most likely caused by mineral deposits left after the water has evaporated. However, another possible cause for this is mould.

Water with a high mineral content (hard water) can cause yellow and brown stains. Left untreated, this can build up on the inside of your dishwasher. To help end this problem you can install a water softening system.

Dishwashers can unfortunately be the perfect habitat for mould growth, thanks to the moisture content and warmth. With infrequent use and keeping the door closed, mould can establish itself on the door gasket, rotor, and other surfaces that aren’t completely smooth. Once established, it can be difficult to wash away.

The good news is that both of these potential causes can be handled in the same way: a good old scrubbing. Remove anything you can and wash them in the sink, and scrub anything else you can with vinegar, citric acid, or bicarbonate of soda. You can also fill the soap dispenser tray with vinegar or citric acid crystals and run your dishwasher on empty. It may take a couple of cycles to dissolve and remove the stains.

Is it OK to leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher?

Woman in hot pink gloves placing mug inside of a loaded dishwasher

The greatest amount of time that you should leave dishes in the dishwasher, clean or dirty, is four days. 

Many people disagree with leaving dirty dishes in the dishwasher, even overnight. This is because bacteria and mould can build-up, and spread to other parts of your kitchen. However, this doesn’t become much of a problem until about the four day mark.

Following on from this point, you’ve most likely heard a lot of people talk about pre-rinsing your dishes. The question is, do you need to pre-rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher? Surprisingly, the answer is no. In fact, it’s actually recommended that you don’t.

Good Housekeeping explains that dishes need to be dirty so that the dishwasher detergent has something to attach to. Without it, the enzymes don’t have anything to latch onto and stops it from working efficiently. So, save your time and your water and simply scrape bigger food scraps into the bin before popping them in the dishwasher.

Is it worth fixing a broken dishwasher?

Moody image of an AEG dishwasher with their shelves out using comfort lift. On a black background

A dishwasher has a life expectancy of around 10 years, depending on a few factors. With this in mind, you may be wondering if it’s worth fixing a dishwasher that you’ve had for a few years.

On average it costs between £100 – £150 to fix a dishwasher, depending on what needs fixing. So, if the repair cost is less than half of what a replacement dishwasher would be, it’ll be better to get it fixed. This is true whether your dishwasher is 5 years old, 7 years old, or even over 10 years old.

There will of course come a time where it’s better to replace your dishwasher. There isn’t exactly a hard and fast rule on when it needs to be replaced though.

Related Topic: Is It Worth Repairing? Appliances Overview

If you have a lower-end model that’s older than 10 years, this would be a good time to replace it. This isn’t necessarily because it’s not working properly, but because it simply will not be as efficient as a newer model. Upgrading will save on your water and electricity bills.

Other times when it would be recommended to replace over repair is when you find rust inside your dishwasher (this should be replaced as soon as possible), you find cracks, or any other repair issue that would cost more than a replacement.

Do you think you need to upgrade your dishwasher? Shop our range of high-end dishwashers, including freestanding, fully integrated, semi integrated, and dishdrawers.


In conclusion, if your dishwasher isn’t washing your dishes properly, there are simple steps that you can take to solve this. It could be that you’ve not been using the correct detergent, or your dishwasher needs a deep clean.

Remember to always check the user manual for proper dishwasher usage. This includes using the correct dishwasher detergent, loading it correctly, and maintaining the optimal water temperature.

 Of course there are many other ways in which your dishwasher could not be working, such as leaks or loud noises. This may be due to one of the parts needing replacing, or your dishwasher may need replacing altogether. If you’re unsure, we’d recommend hiring a professional to assess your dishwasher. 

Lastly, if you can’t decide whether to repair or replace your dishwasher, keep in mind the costs. If a repair is cost-effective and your dishwasher is relatively young, it may be worth fixing. However, older or severely damaged dishwashers may need to be replaced.

With proper care and maintenance, your dishwasher can continue to save you time on washing-up for years to come.

Open dishwasher integrated into blue cabinets, with colourful plates arranged in rainbow order.

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