Countertop Dishwasher Isn't Cleaning Dishes
February 12, 2014 7:34 AM   Subscribe

For the past few days, our countertop dishwasher hasn't been working properly. Out of one load, about a third of the dishes look properly clean, a third look like they have just been touched with a little water, and a third look like they weren't even rinsed. Where these three types show up seems to be random. I have cleaned the trap in the bottom of the dishwasher, and made sure the rinse aid compartment is full, and neither has had any effect. What should I try next?

To be clear, this is the kind of dishwasher that sits on a countertop, gets water input from the faucet and drains into the sink.
posted by ocherdraco to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't put as many dishes into it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:40 AM on February 12, 2014

You need some of the AskMe-famous LemiShine. Some Targets have it (or an equivalent) now; otherwise, you'll need to order it online. LemiShine is like the FIRST line of defense for "my previously-fine dishwasher suddenly sucks!" problems. It could be something else, sure, but it could ALSO be correctable via a $3 can of magic crystals.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:41 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

is there a water rinsing thing in there with 3 arms? Maybe there is a clog in one of them (the no rinse section), a bit of a clog in another (some water section) leaving the other prong with all the water. If the rinsing arms aren't moving properly but are moving SOME that could explain why there are moving sections.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:41 AM on February 12, 2014

I have a regular (? under-counter) dishwasher rather than a countertop one, but it has these spinning arms that spray water everywhere. Sometimes the holes in the spinny thing get blocked with food debris which impacts how good the cleaning is, so maybe check for that if relevant.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:44 AM on February 12, 2014 is a great resource for how to clean just about anything - including dishwashers.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:51 AM on February 12, 2014

Sounds like the arm might not be rotating. Is something blocking it? Try checking the owner's manual troubkeshooting section for suggestions.
posted by cecic at 7:59 AM on February 12, 2014

I have a Miele dishwasher, and one day it went boink. Turns out I live where the local Miele repair dude is REALLY INTO MIELE, wants to go to Germany to become a master repair dude, etc. After fixing the problem (which turned out to be due to a problem with the way it was installed), he said two things:
a) Never use liquid detergent.
b) that the very best thing for ongoing upkeep was to run an empty load once a month but put in a cup of Tang instead of detergent. Apparently it's got just the right acidity and as a bonus the house smells like Tang when it's done. It took 3 loads to clean out the built-up gunk, but since then a once-a-month Tang cycle has kept it sparkling clean.
posted by Runes at 8:04 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Runes: "a) Never use liquid detergent."

Can you explain this, please?

Chocolate Pickle: "Don't put as many dishes into it."

Given that the dishwasher has operated perfectly well for two years, I don't think that's the problem.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:09 AM on February 12, 2014

I'm assuming "never use liquid detergent" means "always use dry detergent" such as powder or (if your manufacturer allows) nuggets.

Who's the manufacturer? They probably have a recommended maintenance procedure for removing water deposits and other things that will prevent water from coming out of the sprayers. From your description of what's clean and what's barely even wet, I'd guess water isn't coming out of some of your sprayers. Could be a pressure problem but water deposits are the low-hanging fruit you want to rule out first.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2014

I just recently had to perform a serious cleaning of our undercounter washer. I was getting lots of dirty dishes after the cycle completed. I tried different detergents but without any imporovement.

I finally just started taking the unit apart and found the problem was water starvation. There was sooooo much calcification (not food) and buildup that no water was moving inside the unit. I soaked parts in vinegar and brushed stuff as I could. I also made it a point to clean any of the sprayer opening that I could find/reach.

Things now work fine and I get clean dishes. Based on what I found, I think I'll stick with liquid detergent (that way nothing starts out dry & requires desolving prior to becoming active). And periodically add a couple of cups of vinegar, then running a pre-rinse to work it through the unit.

Don't know if any of this will help you beyond giving food for thought.

Take care.

posted by sandpine at 9:29 AM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: I'm assuming "never use liquid detergent" means "always use dry detergent" such as powder or (if your manufacturer allows) nuggets.

Yes, that much I understand. But what's the reasoning behind it?

stoneweaver, no distinct sections. It's all mixed.

I will try cleaning everything, and see where that gets me.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: While I still haven't pinpointed the exact problem, I thoroughly cleaned everything, ran a load with lemon kool aid, and it seems to be working properly again.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

ocherdraco: "I'm assuming "never use liquid detergent" means "always use dry detergent" such as powder or (if your manufacturer allows) nuggets.

Yes, that much I understand. But what's the reasoning behind it?

The stuff they put in the liquid so that it doesn't separate is actually not soluble, and that's the stuff that builds up.

I've noticed a difference since we switched. YMMV.
posted by Runes at 6:39 AM on February 14, 2014

Response by poster: Interesting. Thanks for explaining.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:38 PM on February 14, 2014

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