What can I do about a stuck dishwasher main soap dispenser lid?
October 16, 2008 9:44 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about a stuck dishwasher main soap dispenser lid?

The main soap dispenser that you fill with your dish washing detergent of preference and close the lid on is stuck closed. I can manually open it, but it fails to open during any of the various wash cycle options. I have instead just been filling it and leaving it open but I know this likely loses the soap in the pre-clean phase (which the un-enclosed dish is intended to be used for). My dishes, however, come out fairly clean.

I was wondering if anyone knows the likely cause OR if any of the pre-packaged dish washer detergent balls/cubes can just be tossed in at the start and successfully make it past the initial pre-clean phase all the way to the primary wash cycle. They all say to put them in the main dispenser and close lid (yet they all say "contain pre-wash cycle cleansers") so I am hoping someone can speak from experience.

It is a Kenmore dishwasher if that matters. If no one has any input, I will just have to call the home warranty company and shell out $65 for them to come fix it (not so worried about the money but arranging to be home from work is an issue).
posted by criticman to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A short term workaround might be to toss in the detergent after x minutes. Where x is the amount of time the initial pre-clean phase takes.

I'm assuming you've had it for a while, but if not, are you stacking something (like tall knives) in the cutlery tray that blocks the thing? I had that problem with a new one a while back.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2008

I lived with a situation similar to yours for years. We just left the dispenser open. Nobody ever complained about unclean dishes. Nobody ever got sick.
posted by philip-random at 10:00 AM on October 16, 2008

Ditto phillip-random. I think the high temperature of the water will kill any nasty germies.

Can you pry the dispenser out somehow? Maybe it just needs a good degunking.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:14 AM on October 16, 2008

I have only used those soap gelcaps in my dishwasher. No complaints.
posted by adamrice at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2008

Oh the irony...I had been facing this lately. What worked for me:

1. Get a LOT of hot water and with main door open AND the soap door open, pour water to flush any hard, sticky, etc. gunk off of it. Same with the little spring-attached "arm" that releases said soap door. In my case, there was sticky gunk on the gasket that helps the door seal.

2. We have some left over baby bottle micro-sized brushes, so I then used that to clean all around, especially that arm.

3. I moved the tray-basket that holds forks and what-have-you as far away as I could. And then I made sure there were no other plates that were close to where the gate/soap door would open.

Give that a shot before you make a service call.
posted by fijiwriter at 11:38 AM on October 16, 2008

Response by poster: Nick: Dishwasher is a couple of years old but bought house in July. It didn't work, they came out and fixed a transistor/resistor but had no idea then about the dispenser lid. Nothing blocks it from opening unfortunately. And I don't have the patience (at least not for this) to add the detergent mid-cycle.

philip: Yeah it all looks good to me. I run it on hottest cycle (boo for energy, yay for clean) and it comes out without anything stuck on dishes, cups, or silverware.

Squirrel: I ran one of those dishwasher cleaning things through it - it looks all shiny, even hand wiped with rubbing alcohol around the dispenser. It isn't "stuck" due to stick residue. The little piece that tilts out to release the lip of the lid just fails to move as intended (but moves manually with finger).

Adam: Do you just toss it in or do you close it up in your main compartment as instructions state?
posted by criticman at 11:45 AM on October 16, 2008

I just throw it into the bottom of the dishwasher.
posted by adamrice at 12:51 PM on October 16, 2008

Dish washer soaps are mostly anti-foaming and anti-spotting agents, the hot water under pressure does the vast majority of the work. As long as you toss some in the initial wash the dishes will be sanitized. Use a rinse aid (IE: JetDry) if you notice spotting. The efficiency of all these products is going to depend on the softness of your water.

As far as fixing it goes: the door is actuated in most cases by a bi-metallic strip. It's about 50/50 either the strip or the timer. The strip is cheap, a few dollars, and the timer fairly expensive, anywhere from $60-$200+.

If you are at all handy the strip is pretty easy to replace. You need to remove the outer door which is usually held on by 4-6 screws accessible along the edge of the door when open. Then the strip has a couple screws holding it in place.
posted by Mitheral at 1:28 PM on October 16, 2008

Response by poster: Adam: thanks, I may try one of the packets next time I am out of soap.

Mitheral: I wish I had an owner's manual. I Googled it...places claim I can buy them ("sign up now and you can get access" BS) but not on Sears' website for download. A parts diagram would be great. I haven't torn apart a dishwasher, but I am handy when it comes to vehicles, everything from small wiring issues to superchargers, so I would be comfortable giving it a shot (unless the parts are more than the $65 warranty service fee to get someone out there and just take a day off of work).
posted by criticman at 1:41 PM on October 16, 2008

Here are a couple of sites for appliance manuals.


Manage My Home - Find Product User Manuals
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:29 PM on October 16, 2008

There is probably a wiring diagram either behind the lower access panel or inside the door. If you pop the door off nothing is really hidden so you could physically see what is happening. If you watched a volt meter hooked up to the bimetallic strip during the cycle you could verify that the timer is working correctly.
posted by Mitheral at 12:41 PM on October 17, 2008

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