KitchenAid Dishwasher Not Cleaning? (here’s why & what to do)

If your dishwasher isn’t getting your dishes clean it can be frustrating as well as annoying. Plus you’re probably expecting to have to pay a load of money to get it fixed.

Although there are some mechanical issues that can cause your dishwasher not to clean your dishes properly, in many cases you can easily solve these issues without needing to call in a dishwasher technician or pay expensive call out charges.

If your KitchenAid dishwasher isn’t getting your dishes as clean as you would like, keep reading. In this article I look at all of the potential reasons why your dishwasher might not be cleaning as it should. As well as offering solutions to those issues.

Why Is My KitchenAid Dishwasher Not Cleaning My Dishes Properly?

There are several reasons why your KitchenAid dishwasher might not be cleaning your dishes properly including;

Probable CauseSolution
Dishes Loaded IncorrectlyEnsure there is sufficient space between each item
A Lack Of Rinse AidEnsure the rinse aid dispenser is regularly topped up
The Wrong Type Of Detergent UsedEnsure you only ever use dishwasher detergent
Clogged FilterRemove and clean the filter
Clogged Spray ArmsRemove and inspect the spray arms and clean as necessary
Dirty Dishwasher InteriorRegularly clean the interior of the dishwasher
Not Enough WaterCheck the inlet hose for twists or kinks
Damaged Or Defective Detergent  DispenserCheck and replace the detergent dispenser if necessary
Water Temperature Too LowInspect and replace the heating element/thermostat if necessary
Wrong Cycle SelectedEnsure you have selected the correct cycle

Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues;

Dishes Loaded Incorrectly

loading a dishwasher

Not loading the dishes correctly is the main reason why a KitchenAid dishwasher leaves dishes dirty. If the racks are overcrowded water cannot get to all of the dishes which means some items will remain dirty.

Additionally, if there are items blocking the free movement of the spray arms, or detergent dispenser, this can leave dishes uncleaned as well.

To ensure your dishwasher cleans all items properly always stick to the following advice;

  • Ensure there is sufficient space between each item
    Dishes should be loaded one to each slot and you should avoid allowing bowls or glasses from overlapping to allow water and detergent access to them.
  • Ensure all items face the spray arms
    Always place dishes facing inwards and bowls, pans and glasses upside down to ensure proper cleaning and rinsing.
  • Never block the spray arms or detergent dispenser
    Ensure that the spray arm can turn by hand after the dishes have been loaded to make sure it turns freely. Ensure that items in the cutlery basket are positioned in a way that doesn’t prevent the detergent dispenser from opening properly.

A Lack Of Rinse Aid

Rinse aid helps in drying your dishes without leaving water spots. If you fail to top up the rinse aid dispenser the water will form droplets that stick to the surface of your dishes.

Rinse aid allows the water to spread out and slide off the clean dishes. Always ensure the rinse aid dispenser is regularly topped up to prevent these dirty looking water stains from appearing.

The Wrong Type Of Detergent Used

dishwasher pods

You should always use a detergent that is designed for use in a dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent is specially formulated to work in a dishwasher.

If you were to use an incorrect type of detergent in your dishwasher it’s likely to leave detergent stains on your dishes. Plus the detergent could create too many soap suds that could cause your dishwasher to leak.

You should always use the best quality dishwasher detergent you can buy and only ever in the recommended quantity. Using too much detergent, even the correct type of detergent, can lead to problems with stained dishes and cookware.

Clogged Filter

The filter in your KitchenAid dishwasher is designed to prevent food particles from clogging the drain pump and drain hose allowing the wastewater to freely leave the appliance. If the filter isn’t regularly removed and cleaned, it can cause a blockage.

If the filter becomes blocked the dirty water has nowhere to go except to sit on the dishes. This is another fairly common reason why your dishes aren’t coming out of the dishwasher clean.

You should remove the filter and clean it using hot water at least once per month to ensure that the wastewater from your dishwasher can drain away freely.

Clogged Spray Arms

You will find a spray arm that serves the top shelf and lower shelf of the dishwasher. The nozzles on both of these spray arms can become clogged over time. Especially if you live in a hard water area.

If the spray arms are clogged, the dishes won’t get sprayed with detergent to clean them or water to rinse them.

You should remove each spray arm and give them a good wash under running water. Then use a cocktail stick or toothpick to gently prise any blockage from the nozzles.

If the nozzles are blocked with limescale deposits from the hard water and it’s stuck fast, soak the nozzles in white vinegar for around 10 to 15 minutes to loosen the limescale. This will allow you to remove it easily.

Dirty Dishwasher Interior

Along with the filter and the spray arms the interior of your dishwasher needs to be cleaned regularly as well. There’s a good chance that your dishwasher’s interior is coated with grease, food particles and bacteria.

I‘ve already mentioned cleaning the spray arms and the filter above, now it’s time to talk about cleaning the interior. You should run a long wash cycle in an empty dishwasher using either a commercial dishwasher cleaner or 3 cups of distilled white vinegar.

Follow the instructions on the commercial dishwasher cleaner or pour 3 cups of white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher. This should be done at least once per month to ensure the interior of your dishwasher remains clean and germ free.

Not Enough Water

tap running

When you stop to think about it, the dishes in your dishwasher can’t get cleaned properly if there is not enough water to do the job. There are a few reasons why your dishwasher might not be getting sufficient water including;

A Twisted Or Kinked Inlet Hose

If you suspect that your dishwasher isn’t receiving enough water, the first place to check is the inlet hose. If it’s twisted or kinked it can restrict the flow of water which will cause the dishes to remain dirty.

Straighten the inlet hose and see if this makes a difference. If the dishes are still not cleaning as well as they should, you might need to replace the inlet hose.

Low Water Pressure

For your dishwasher to function correctly, it needs a water pressure of at least 20 psi. If the water pressure in your home is below this pressure, your dishwasher will not function properly.

You can check the water pressure in your home by doing a simple test. All you need to do is fill a 1 gallon (4.5 litre) bucket with water from the kitchen cold tap.

If it takes 30 seconds or less to fill the bucket, your water pressure is OK, if it takes longer than 30 seconds, you’ll need to contact your local water authority.

A Defective Water Inlet Valve

All of the water that enters your dishwasher is controlled by the water inlet valve. If the valve is faulty, it could prevent any water from entering or at least restrict its entry.

You can check the inlet valve for continuity using a multimeter and if it fails the continuity test, it will need to be replaced.

Damaged Or Defective Detergent  Dispenser

dishwasher dispenser

If the detergent dispenser is damaged or has developed a fault, there’s a good chance that the dishes won’t get cleaned properly. A damaged detergent dispenser could cause the detergent to be released at the wrong time.

Or not open at all and prevent the detergent from ever reaching your dirty dishes. The problem could be caused by a buildup of old detergent in the dispenser which can cause the spring to jam.

Try cleaning the dispenser along with the spring and see if this fixes the problem. If not, you might need to replace the dispenser completely.

Water Temperature Too Low

The dishes in your dishwasher might not be getting cleaned because the water temperature is too low. Most dishwashers, KitchenAid included, need a water temperature of 48oC (120oF) to run properly.

You might have selected a wash cycle like Water on Quick Clean or the Normal cycle which are set at lower temperatures. However, if you’re sure that you’ve selected the correct wash cycle and your dishwasher seems to not be reaching the correct temperature, you will need to check the thermostat and heating element for continuity using a multimeter.

Wrong Cycle Selected

person pressing a button on dishwasher control panel

Some KitchenAid dishwashers have a Top Rack Only option which is designed for washing small loads of dishes on the top rack. If you have accidentally selected this setting when attempting to wash a full load of dishes, the lower or bottom spray arms will not clean anything on the lower rack.

You might have selected a Rinse Only cycle which would also fail to get your dirty dishes clean. Always ensure that you select the correct wash cycle for the amount of dishes you require to clean.

Other Possible Reasons Why Your KitchenAid Dishwasher Fails To Get Your Dishes Clean 

So far I’ve covered all of the easy to fix likely reasons why your KitchenAid dishwasher might be failing to clean your dirty dishes. Now let’s look at some other reasons which will require you to call in an expert.

Defective Circulation Pump

The circulation pump forces water around the dishwasher to ensure that all items get washed. If your dishwasher isn’t cleaning as it should or making a weird noise, it’s likely that the circulation pump is defective. 

Because you need to dismantle parts of the dishwasher to access the circulation pump, this is definitely a job for a technician to investigate, diagnose and replace.

Damaged Wash Impeller

The wash impeller has several plastic fins or blades which work to move water around the appliance as the impeller turns. If one of the fins is damaged or missing, the dishwasher will not be able to force enough water around to get all of the dishes clean.

If you suspect that this could be the problem, you will need to contact a technician to inspect and replace the impeller if necessary.

SEE ALSO: How Much Salt Do I Put In A Dishwasher?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my KitchenAid dishwasher not getting my dishes clean?

If your KitchenAid dishwasher isn’t getting your dishes clean it could be due to one of the following; the dishes have been incorrectly loaded, the rinse aid dispenser needs topping up, you have used the wrong type of detergent, the filter is clogged, one of the spray arms is blocked, the dishwasher is dirty, there is insufficient water, the detergent dispenser is defective, the water temperature is too low or you have selected the wrong cycle.

Why is my dishwasher leaving residue even after cleaning?

If there is a residue on your dishes after the dishwasher has finished, you will probably find that the rinse aid dispenser needs topping up.

Why is there detergent left in the dispenser after the dishwasher has finished?

Detergent left in the dispenser after the dishwasher has finished is typically caused by the water temperature being too low. You should check the thermostat and heating element are not defective using a multimeter to check for continuity.

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