Your dishwasher is one of those modern conveniences you likely take for granted. It’s easy to load it up, turn it on and forget about it – unless something goes wrong. With many of us staying in more (and eating out less), we’re relying on our household appliances more and more – including our dishwashers.
Because we’re using our appliances more, it’s important to be mindful of the increased wear and tear we’re placing on them. Nobody wants a full load of dirty dishes and a broken dishwasher to deal with. The typical cost to repair/replace a dishwasher is $100 to $650*.
The next time you get ready to run your dishwasher, keep these maintenance tips in mind so it runs efficiently and you can help avoid repair costs.
1. Keep the Filter Clean
You might not know it, but your dishwasher has a small filter that helps trap food particles and keep your dishes clean. When this filter is clogged or dirty, your dishwasher won’t work at its best – and you’ll likely find some small food particles stuck to your dishes after a wash cycle finishes. You should clean your dishwasher’s filter at least once a month. And fortunately, it’s easy to do.
The filter itself is located in the bottom of the dishwasher, below the bottom rack. Simply unscrew it, lift it out and rinse it under your faucet to clean it, then replace it.
2. Use Hot Water
When it comes to cleaning dishes, water temperature matters. It might be tempting to run a cycle using warm water to cut energy costs, but doing so could set you up for problems. Ideally, the water in your dishwasher should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you use water below this temperature, your appliance will have to run longer, and you’ll increase the likelihood of detergent residue building up and affecting performance. Both of these things can quickly reduce your washer’s lifespan.
It's also becoming more common to run the kitchen sink until you get hot water before starting the dishwasher. This is because the new Energy Star rated units don’t use more than six gallons of water during a cycle, which can lead to half of the water in the cycle not getting to 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the cycle. This can then lead to dishes not being completely clean or being left with soapy residue.
3. Check the Sprayer Arms and Nozzles
Every dishwasher has wash arms in the bottom that spin and spray water to clean your dishes. To keep your washer performing at its best, check the small nozzles in these arms each month or so for food debris and other clogs that may prevent water from spraying. The nozzles are small, and you can remove any clogs you find easily by using a toothpick.
Before you run a cycle, you should also spin the wash arms to make sure they don’t accidentally hit dishes – especially if you have large items like casserole dishes or pots in the rack.
4. Load it Thoughtfully
You might think it’s best to cram everything you can into your dishwasher, but don’t do it. If you do, you’ll put increased wear on your appliance, and your dishes are less likely to get clean. For optimum performance, make sure your dishwasher is full but not overflowing – you’ll do fewer loads in the long run and your appliance will last longer.
When loading dirty dishes, be sure to scrape off any large pieces of food (like chicken bones) that could cause clogs or damage. These items should go into the trash. Load the dishes with the dirty sides facing toward the center and make sure cups, bowls and pots face downward so the water and detergent can get them clean.
5. Manage Hard Water
Certain areas of the country have water with higher levels of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, in it. This is called hard water, and it can cause buildup in your appliances, including your dishwasher. If you’re not sure if you have hard water, look for a cloudy film on your clean glassware – that’s a dead giveaway. And if you have hard water deposits on your dishes, you have them inside your appliance, too. To manage this, clean your dishwasher monthly with a descaling product like Affresh or Finish, which are easily found in stores or online.
With so many appliances around your house, it’s easy to forget about your dishwasher. But if you remember these simple maintenance tips, yours should run better and last longer.
*Repair/Replacement costs ranges are the twentieth and eightieth percentile of U.S. costs as reported in A Study of Homeowners’ Appliance and Home Systems Service Experiences, a nationwide survey of homeowners conducted in 2019 by ClearVantage for American Home Shield. Further reproduction or use is expressly prohibited.
Do you need help with your Dishwasher? AHS ProConnect offers Dishwasher repair near you.
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