Dishwashers are one of the greatest inventions of the modern world, taking all the pain and stress away from washing dishes by hand and leaving you free to enjoy your evening. What could be better?
However, a common point of failure for modern dishwashers is that they will suddenly stop spraying water. This is a pretty important part of the cleaning process; without it, your dishes will remain dirty.
So today, we’ll explain why your dishwasher is not spraying water and how to fix it.
Why is your dishwasher not spraying water?
A dishwasher’s fundamental cleaning process is by taking pressurized water from your home, combining it with a detergent, and then using small sprayer arms to shoot the water at the dishes.
But when the dishwasher stops spraying water, it will tell you the wash cycle has finished, only for you to open the door to discover everything is still dirty!
Here are the main reasons why this happens:
1. The dishwasher has been overfilled
When the dishwasher is overloaded, it can appear like it’s not working correctly. When mechanically, it’s working just fine; the problem occurs because of how the dishes have been stacked.
When stacking dishes in a dishwasher, you have to be mindful of anything that might block the water spray from being able to clean the dishes properly. The dishwasher spray arm is commonly located at the bottom and shoots pressurized water vertically.
So if you stack cups upright, the water will not be able to clean the insides. Likewise, if the dishes are stacked on top of one another, there is no path for the water to reach the dishes and be able to clean them.
2. Not enough water is being supplied
Another common occurrence in which the dishwasher is actually functioning just fine but still prevents the dishes from getting cleaned is when there is an issue with the water supply coming from the home.
Without a water supply to the circulation pump, there won’t be any water available to spray and clean the dishes.
An easy way to diagnose this issue is by listening to the sound of the dishwasher as you start a wash cycle. It’s usually relatively easy to hear the sound of the water filling up from the bottom of the unit.
If you notice your dishwasher is unusually quiet, it may indicate that this is the problem. If you have a very good dishwasher with a high degree of sound insulation, you can also try to open the door mid-wash and see if there is water in the bottom of the unit.
3. The circulation pump is broken
The circulation pump takes the water and forces it up through the lower spray arm.
This uses a filter designed to remove any debris from the water before it makes it to the pump. Occasionally this filter can fail, causing dirt to make its way into the pump and clog it up.
You may need to clean/replace the filter and unclog the pump to restore it to working order.
4: Float switch problem
At the bottom of your dishwasher is a small device called a ‘float switch.’ Appropriately named as it’s designed to float as the water level within the dishwasher rises.
Once the water has reached a certain level and the float switch has risen enough, it will trigger a switch that tells the dishwasher that’s enough water for now, and the dishwasher will then turn the water supply off.
However, sometimes this switch can fail, causing it to tell the dishwasher there is enough water present even when it’s empty. The dishwasher will kick the water flow back into action by fixing the float switch.
5. Clogged up spray arm
The nozzles on the spray arm are pretty small, which is intentional to allow the water jets to shoot the water out under high pressure, which helps them clean effectively. But this is a double-edged sword as these small nozzles are also prone to becoming blocked or clogged up.
Many things can contribute to a spray arm nozzle becoming clogged, but one of the most common reasons is that your water is slightly hard, and the mineral/calcium deposits have built up over time and blocked the nozzle.
You will need to unclog the spray arms to allow the water to flow again.
6. Clogged up chopper blade
Many dishwasher models use a ‘chopper assembly’ designed to chop up and mince food into small pieces so they can’t clog up the pump as it tries to eject the dirty water from the machine.
As you can imagine, a device with a large amount of food particulate passing through it can easily clog up, especially if it’s getting old and the blade is dull.
The chopper flows directly into the pump, so when the chopper becomes clogged, the pump stops working. So we need to unclog the chopper to restore functionality to the dishwasher.
7. Blocked water inlet valve
The water inlet valve controls the flow of water into the dishwasher. So when this component fails, either mechanically or has just become blogged, there will be no water supply to your dishwasher.
If your home has hard water, it’s common for mineral deposits to build up and prevent water flow through the inlet valve. So by unblocking the inlet valve, the dishwasher will usually spray water again.
How to fix a dishwasher not spraying water?
These issues can easily be fixed without needing specialized tools and equipment. So by following these simple steps, you can restore functionality to your dishwasher quickly and easily.
1. Arrange the dishes better
Sometimes re-arranging the dishes more logically while being mindful of the spray arm’s direction.
You may also wish to consider removing some dishes, so they’re not as cramped inside the dishwasher. It’s always better to wash two loads of dishes than to wash one huge load only to discover half of them are still dirty afterward.
Remember that the spray arms shoot from the bottom up, so make sure to stack bowls and glasses facing down and ensure the water trajectory has access to all the dishes.
2. Restore the water supply to the dishwasher
There are a few possible reasons why your dishwasher may not be receiving enough water:
- The water may be turned off – sometimes, it gets turned off when plumbing work is being performed in your home, and it can be easy to forget to turn it back on. So check if your water switch is turned on.
- Low water pressure – if the home’s water pressure is low, it might not be able to supply water to the circulation pump fast enough.
- Leak in the supply line – leaks in the piping will cause water pressure and volume drop.
Correct these issues to ensure a healthy water supply to the machine.
3. Fix the broken circulation pump
To remove the circulation pump, you will need to remove the bottom dish rack, the lower spray arm, and the housing mounted underneath it. Once these are removed, you should have access to the pump, which you can remove by hand.
Inspect it carefully for blockages. Things like hair or food may become wrapped around the shaft. Remove the debris and clean it as needed.
If there is no apparent blockage, the pump may have failed, which will need to be replaced.
4. Replace the float switch
To fix the float switch, we have to check two components. First is the float itself. If this has become damaged somehow, you should be able to visually inspect it for signs that it’s been compromised and cannot float – in this case, you can replace it.
There is also a small microchip responsible for communicating with the machine and telling it there is enough water. You can test this chip with a multimeter at 1 ohm to see if it’s working. If the microchip fails, then it will need to be replaced.
5. Unclog the spray arm
To fix the spray arm, you should first remove it and inspect it visually to see if there is an apparent blockage on the nozzles. It may indicate a deeper blockage inside the arm if you can’t see anything.
A simple method to unblock the nozzles is by poking a thin piece of wire down each hole to loosen the deposits and then rinse it through with water.
Alternatively, suppose you cannot reach the blockage yourself. In that case, you can also soak the arm in a cleaning solution, but be careful not to use anything too aggressive here as the spray arm is only made of plastic and can be easily damaged.
A good cleaning solution is just plain old warm water and vinegar, just let the arm soak for 10-20 minutes and then rinse it through with water.
If you notice some physical damage to the sprayer arm or cannot remove the blockage, you can always purchase a new one and replace it.
6. Unclog the chopper blade
Cleaning the chopper blade is relatively easy and considered general maintenance on the machine.
- The first thing to do is make sure the power is completely off. The last thing you want is the machine powered on while working on a dangerous chopper.
- Remove the access panels and any piping that may impede access to the chopper.
- Once you have access to it, remove all the debris and clean it well. Rotate the blade fully by hand to ensure it can turn 360 degrees without impingement.
- Reinstall the pipes/side assembly and test the machine to make sure it runs ok.
7. Unclog the water inlet valve
If you notice a lot of built-up deposits in the inlet valve, you can clean it with warm running water and a toothbrush.
If you notice anything like burn marks or severe discoloration, it may indicate that a blockage wasn’t the issue and that the component has completely failed. If this is the case, you should replace the inlet valve completely.