Are Your Dishes Coming Out of the Dishwasher Dirty?

If your dishwasher isn’t washing dirty dishes to your satisfaction, before you call for service, there are steps you can take to correct potential automatic dishwasher problems. When dishes are washed in an automatic dishwasher, and time and time again you’re finding them dirty, you may need to make some adjustments in order for your dishwasher to properly and effectively wash dirty dishes. Many times when dishes washed in an automatic dishwasher remain dirty, the solutions are simple, and a dishwasher repair person is not required. If the dishwasher problem is not mechanical or electrical, chances are you can fix your dishwasher so your dirty dishes come out sparkling clean.

Water Temperature

If your dishes are continually dirty after washing them in your automatic dishwasher, the first thing to check is the water temperature. Test the temperature by running hot water in your kitchen sink, and check the water with a kitchen thermometer. The temperature of your hot water must range between 140 degrees and 160 degrees Fahrenheit or your dirty dishes will probably still be dirty after running the dishwasher. If you discover the temperature of your hot water is less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit, turn up the temperature accordingly. Chances are, the next time you run your automatic dishwasher, your dirty dishes will come out clean as a whistle.

Dirty Black Marks on Dishes

When dirty dishes are placed in the dishwasher, sometimes utensils such as metal spatulas or lightweight metal pans rub against plates and other dirty dishes during the washing process. These dirty black marks make dishes appear dirty when in fact they are only surface scratches caused by the metal. Avoid placing metal utensils and pans where they can scratch dirty dishes. Metal items should never come in contact with dirty dishes or other scratchable items. Making sure metal utensils are separate from other dirty dishes will prevent those dishes from having scratches that make them appear dirty.

Dirty Rust Spots on Dishes

Rust spots on dishes make dishes appear dirty, and no one wants dinner guests to wonder if dishes simply stained or actually dirty. If you are pulling dishes out of your automatic dishwasher that appear to be dirty and spotted with rust, chances are the prongs of your dishwasher racks are rusting and staining the dishes. Unfortunately dishwasher manufacturers make dishwasher racks out of metal that rusts, and the racks are coated in plastic that eventually comes off. Dishwasher manufacturers are counting on selling replacement racks, but you don’t have to buy new racks. There are plastic caps that fit over the ends of dishwasher rack prongs. These caps will help prevent further rust, and they will keep your dishes from looking dirty and spotted by rust.

Cloudy or Dirty Film on Glass

If glasses and other clear glass dishes look dirty and coated in a cloudy film that won’t come off, your glasses and other glass dishes have no doubt become permanently etched. This etching that makes glasses and other glass items appear dirty is caused when too much automatic dishwashing detergent is used. There isn’t anything that can be done to remove the dirty looking film from glassware, but further etching may be prevented by using less dishwashing detergent. If you don’t think you’re using too much dishwashing detergent, consider the pressure of your hot water. If hot water pressure is low, the dishwasher may not be filling properly. A dishwasher not filling to the correct level will also cause glasses and other glass items to appear dirty and covered with a permanent film.

Removable Dirty Film on Dishes

If your dishes are coming out of the dishwasher covered by a removable dirty film, your water may not be hot enough, or you could be using an inferior brand of automatic dishwashing detergent. If you have tested your hot water and find it is between 140 degrees and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, consider how long it takes for the hot water to reach the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. If the hot water has to travel a long distance to reach the dishwasher, chances are the water filling the dishwasher starts out cold. To alleviate this problem, run the hot water nearest to your dishwasher until the water coming out is hot. This will guarantee the water filling the dishwasher is as hot as it should be to properly clean dirty dishes.

To remove this type of film from dirty dishes, after running the dishes through a basic rinse cycle, set a bowl filled with a cup or two of white vinegar on the lowest rack of the dishwasher. Remove any metal pans or utensils, and with the vinegar on the bottom rack, wash the dishes as usual. Dirty dishes that were once covered in film should come out squeaky clean.

Clogged Spray Arm

Sometimes the spray arms of automatic dishwashers become clogged, and dishes that should be clean remain dirty. Clogged spray arms cannot rotate, so the best way to tell if the spray arm of your dishwasher is clogged is by checking to see if the spray arm is rotating properly. Before starting your dishwasher, take note of where the spray arm is positioned. Stop the dishwasher in mid-cycle and see if the spray arms have moved. If the spray arms haven’t moved, chances are they are clogged, and this is why your dishes are coming out dirty.

First remove the dishwasher racks. Then unscrew the hub cap securing the spray arm, and remove it. Use a very narrow wire brush to remove any clogs, and rinse the interior of the arm under a high pressure faucet or hose. Reattach the spray arm, and next time dirty dishes are washed they should be properly cleaned.

Clogged Filter Screen

Many automatic dishwashers are equipped with a filter screen, and sometimes the filter screens become dirty and clogged, especially if the water has a high mineral content. Dirty dishes washed in a dishwasher with a dirty clogged filter screen will often throw food particles back on the dishes. To unclog a dirty filter screen, remove the spray arm as instructed above, and remove any clips holding the screen in place. Remove the dirty screen, and scrub it with a stiff nylon brush. If the filter screen is clogged by mineral deposits, soak it in white vinegar for at least an hour, and scrub it again until it is no longer dirty. Reattach the filter screen and the spray arm, and wash your dirty dishes as usual. Dishes that were once dirty should now be clean and shiny.

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