Dishwasher isn't cleaning dishes

If your dishwasher isn’t cleaning the dishes without a thorough pre-wash, you may be left wondering why you bother using the dishwasher at all. Afterall, it’s the dishwasher’s job to do the dishes, right?!

The truth is that while you can forgo the pre-rinse process doing so may result in a clogged or dirty dishwasher pump, which will result in your dishwasher not cleaning properly.

My Dishwasher Isn’t Cleaning Dishes. Should I Have Pre-Rinsed My Dishes?

A dishwasher that is working properly should allow you to place dirty dishes (food well scraped off, of course) into the dishwasher without pre-rinsing. In fact, NOT pre-rinsing dishes before adding them to the dishwasher is the preferred method for loading a dishwasher on newer dishwasher models.

Why? Because modern dishwasher detergents are designed with special enzymes that remove stuck on food. The stuck on food is what activates the cleaning power in the dishwasher detergent, so pre-rinsing your dishes will make your detergent less effective.

However, there are a few rules you should follow if you decide NOT to pre-rinse:

  1. Scrap all food into the trash or garbage disposal. It’s important to remove as much food as possible. Use a fork to thoroughly remove as much food debris as possible. You don’t want any chunks (noodle, ground beef, chunky sauces–all of these things will clog your drain filter and pump).
  2. Pre-soak anything that has hardened on a dish. While most dishwashers are effective at removing food, it’s a good idea to remove burnt on food or hardened sauces before loading them into the dishwasher. Once these thick pieces break loose, they’ll get clogged in your filter.
  3. Avoid overloading. Packing dishes in too tight or including large items that obstruct water distribution will make the wash less effective.

So, should you pre-wash your dishes? The answer is kind of: You don’t have to pre-wash the dishes, but you should definitely not put large amounts of food into the dishwasher (unless your dishwasher was designed to handle food debris).

If you’ve spent years taking the idea of “not pre-rinsing” your dishes a bit too literally, it’s very likely that your dishwasher filter or drain pump is overloaded with grime. In this case, you need to clean your dishwasher’s drain pump and filter.

Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

If your dishwasher isn’t cleaning dishes properly, inspect your machine for food build-up.

Some dishwashers allow easy access to the dishwasher filter with minimal disassembly required. In this case, remove the filter and clean out any visible food debris.

Other dishwashers require complete disassembly. In this case, we recommend that you contact a dishwasher repair technician for assistance.

You should also consider washing your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda to remove any grime, hard water, and calcium buildup. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Start with an empty dishwasher. Inspect the filter (mentioned above) and remove any visible debris from the dishwasher tub.
  2. Add Vinegar. Place a cup of vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher.
  3. Add Baking Soda. Sprinkle the baking soda in the tub.
  4. Run the dishwasher on a hot cycle.

These steps should remove most buildup. Get more detailed instructions for vinegar and baking soda cleaning here.