Dishwasher Maintenance Tips for Homeowners in Louisville, KY

Maintain your dishwasher regularly and give it a good cleaning, and this appliance will run properly with fewer repairs over the years. Dishwasher maintenance is a service you can perform at home to protect this important kitchen machine against issues that could occur, such as hard water deposits, soap buildup, a food debris clog in the drain or pump, leaking dishwasher door seal, and even rust on its stainless steel exterior.

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling shares key maintenance tips to help you keep your dishwasher clean and all its parts in good working order, including the door gasket seals, spray arm, drain, and racks. Our Louisville plumbers also share how to run the dishwasher the correct way so you can protect it with each wash cycle!

1. Cleaning the Dishwasher’s Filter

Dishwashers have a filter that traps food debris before it goes down the drain and causes a clog or comes to rest on a clean dish or cup after a wash cycle. Older dishwasher units may have a filter that is self-cleaning; newer dishwashers usually use a filter you must clean yourself. It’s important to clean your dishwasher filter to prevent the possibility of a clog and to rid the dishwasher of food particles that can cause odors as they break down.

You should clean your dishwasher filter about every month or so. Follow these tips to clean the filter:

  1. Find the dishwasher filter – in many dishwashers, the filter is underneath the lower rack and lower spray arm.
  2. Figure out whether the filter is self-cleaning or if you need to clean it. Check your owner’s manual for information. If the manual isn’t available, look closely at the filter to determine its type. Self-cleaning filters look like a circular plastic grid with holes along the piece. A filter that needs a manual cleaning is cylindrical and looks like the disposable filters in water pitcher filtration systems.
  3. Empty dishwasher lower rack and remove it from the machine.
  4. Remove any food debris sitting around the filter housing. Use an old toothbrush if you need to scrub to remove hard buildup.
  5. Rotate the filter to unlock it, then remove from its housing.
  6. At the sink, turn on the hot water and rinse off the filter. Scrub with an old toothbrush to remove mineral deposits and food buildup, then spray with water to rinse clean.
  7. Reinsert the filter into its housing and rotate to lock the filter in place. Put the rack back in the dishwasher.

2. Check the Dishwasher Door Seals and Gasket

A rubber seal sits around the door of your dishwasher. This gasket keeps water and detergent inside when you run the dishwasher, preventing leaks. If the gasket becomes damaged or food particles get stuck along the rubber seal, you may experience a leak during the next wash cycle.

  1. Each month, examine the gasket seal around the door of the dishwasher. Check it for wear, damage, cracking, or other signs repair or replacement is needed. If a new gasket is needed, you can repair this yourself or call a plumber to make repairs and install a new gasket seal.
  2. Use a damp cloth with a small bit of dish soap to wipe down the gasket. Be sure to clean in between its folds, as food can easily stick in these areas.

3. Spray Arm Care

A dishwasher’s spinning arms spray hot water during a cycle to rinse and clean dishes. Each spray arm has several tiny holes which emit a jet of water as you run your dishwasher. When these holes become clogged, the dishwasher will not properly rinse your dishes.

Many dishwashers have two spinning arms – there is a spray arm underneath the upper rack and one underneath the lower rack on the bottom of the dishwasher. Use these tips to clean the spinning arms:

  1. Each month, use a damp cloth to wipe down the surfaces of the spinning arms which removes deposits.
  2. Once every six months, remove each spray arm to clean the jet holes. Check your owner’s manual for steps to uninstall and reinstall spinning arms. Once a spray arm is removed, take a toothpick and insert it into each jet of the spray arm to break up and remove soap scum, mineral deposits, and food debris buildup that clog the holes.

4. Avoid a Clog to the Drain

When dishes don’t get a good rinse or scrape before you load them onto the racks, there can be a lot of food particles that get trapped inside your dishwasher. After the pump sends water into the dishwasher during a cycle, the wastewater will exit through the drain – food debris usually accumulates down by the drain opening. When this buildup reaches a certain point, it will clog the drain. A clog will cause your dishwasher to decline in energy efficiency and struggle to effectively clean your dishes.

Clean your dishwasher drain components regularly to avoid a clog. Follow these tips once each month:

  1. Disconnect power by unplugging the dishwasher.
  2. Remove bigger bits of food by hand from the bottom of the dishwasher’s interior.
  3. Unscrew the screws holding the drain cover in place and remove the cover.
  4. Remove food debris from the cover and underneath it. Be careful not to knock bits of food down into the dishwasher drain.
  5. If needed, use an old toothbrush or cleaning cloth to scrub away hard food debris.
  6. Replace the cover of the drain and secure its screws.
  7. Plug the dishwasher into its power outlet.

5. Clean Your Dishwasher

Mineral deposits and soap scum build up inside a dishwasher, which can be more of an issue in homes with hard water versus those using water softeners. These deposits can make dishes appear dingy even after a wash cycle is finished. To prevent this issue, clean your dishwasher regularly with an acid like vinegar. Also, clean the exterior of the dishwasher to protect its stainless steel from rust.

Use these tips to clean your dishwasher each month:

  1. Add one cup of white vinegar to a dishwasher-safe bowl.
  2. Set the bowl filled with vinegar on the dishwasher’s lower rack.
  3. Run the dishwasher on a short wash cycle with hot water. During the cycle, the vinegar will bust through soap scum and mineral deposits.
  4. Use a dishwasher-safe rust remover to treat any rust spots you see inside the dishwasher or along its exterior.
  5. Use a cloth with baking soda or mild dish soap detergent to wipe the stainless steel or other exterior material clean.

Dishwasher Maintenance Tips for Everyday Use

Along with the above maintenance steps you should perform regularly, using the dishwasher properly will help keep this appliance in good condition and limit repairs. When you run a wash cycle, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use the dishwasher regularly. When dishwashers sit idle for long periods, the motor seals may degrade. Run a dishwasher cycle at least once per week, even if you do not have enough dirty dishes to make a full load.
  • Properly select the cycle. Most dishwashers have multiple cycle settings that allow you to vary the washing power or cycle length. Choose the correct cycle for the type of wash you need – heavy cycle for pots and pans, or a gentle cycle for delicate dishware. Check your appliance manual to learn more about the different cycle options on your dishwasher.
  • Pretreat the dirty dishes. Before you load dishes onto the dishwasher racks, remove food debris. Either scrape pieces off into the trash or down the garbage disposal in your sink when appropriate, and quickly rinse dishes as needed. This pretreatment keeps more food bits out of your dishwasher which could prevent a drain or pump clog.
  • Properly load dishwasher racks. Place dishes in the proper location inside your dishwasher, loading onto the appropriate rack. Check your appliance manual to see where certain types of dishes are best placed amongst the racks in your dishwasher. Do not overload the racks or the dishwasher’s cleaning power may be compromised.
  • Run fuller cycles. You cannot lessen the amount of water or energy your dishwasher consumes when you want to wash only a few dishes versus a full load. To run your dishwasher efficiently, wash dishes only when you are able to run a sufficient number of items at once.
  • Use proper detergent. Dishwashers should only use dishwasher detergent – not regular dish soap like the kind that sits next to your kitchen sink. Dish soap produces too many suds in a dishwasher, causing the appliance to overflow and sending suds out all over your kitchen. Add a rinse aid to your dishwasher to help keep clean dishes looking shiny and spotless.

Plumbing Help in Louisville

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling keeps your dishwasher in top shape with maintenance advice that comes straight from our licensed plumbing professionals. When you need plumbing repair or service in your Louisville area home, contact us anytime to request an appointment.

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