KitchenAid Dishwasher Not Cleaning: 8 Easy Ways to Fix It

KitchenAid makes some of the best dishwashers around, which are known for their reliability and exceptional cleaning performance. This has made them a popular choice for buyers.

But unfortunately, these dishwashers are not perfect, and users have reported running into a problem where it isn’t washing the dishes properly.

Needless to say, this is a frustrating and confusing problem to deal with. So in this guide, I’m going to highlight what causes your KitchenAid dishwasher not to clean properly and share all the methods you need to get it performing optimally once more.

Why is your KitchenAid Dishwasher Not Cleaning?

When a dishwasher is not cleaning well, it’s usually due to some simple user errors, which can be fixed by adjusting how you use the machine.

With some cleaning, maintenance, and general good use practices, you can ensure your dishwasher performs optimally for many years to come!

1. The Dishes haven’t been Loaded Correctly

While it might be tempting to just throw the dishes in the washer and let the machine handle them, if the dishes aren’t loaded in a way that the water from the stray arms can reach them, there’s a high chance you’ll be left with dishes and cups that haven’t been correctly cleaned.

In most dishwashers, the water sprays up from spray arms mounted at the machine’s bottom. So overloading the dishwasher or placing the dishes in a way that obscures other items will mean they can’t be washed or dried correctly.

So you’ll need to be extra mindful of loading the dishwasher to ensure the water can reach every item.

2. Spots on the Dishes

While this can certainly look concerning, it doesn’t pose any immediate health issue. Nevertheless, spots on your dishes can look unsightly.

Usually, this is caused by hard water. As the water contains excess minerals, when these combine with the washing soap, they can form spots on your dishes that are difficult to remove.

Fortunately, we have several cleaning aids specifically formulated to address these spots. So if unsightly dishes are a problem, you can easily address them.

3. The Filter is Clogged

Most modern dishwashers utilize a removable filter located at the bottom of the machine, which is designed to catch any foot particulate, so it doesn’t get rinsed back around the dishes.

This filter is supposed to be cleaned intermittently, but if left for a while, it can become blocked up and prevent the water from draining away and the food particles from getting on the dishes.

Fortunately, these filters are easy to remove and clean, which you should ideally do once a month.

4. The Spray Arms are Blocked

To clean the dishes, pressured water is ejected through tiny nozzles mounted into the spray arms.

As these nozzles are quite small, they can easily become blocked up with mineral deposits if you live in a hard water area.

These nozzles need to be unblocked by hand; otherwise, the water won’t be able to clean the dishes properly.

5. Improper Detergent Use

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking more is better when it comes to detergent use. But using too much (or too little) detergent can cause more problems where the dishes won’t be cleaned properly and might leave behind unwanted residue.

Additionally, not all detergent types are the same. And using a good high-quality detergent can also make a big difference in how well the dishwasher cleans.

6. The Water Pressure is Too Low

The water inlet valve won’t allow new water to flow into the machine unless the pressure is above 20psi.

So in certain instances, when the water supplied by your home to the dishwasher is too little, the dishwasher won’t be able to receive fresh water to clean the dishes with.

Here you’ll need to inspect your home’s water supply to ensure it adequately provides water to the dishwasher.

7. The Water Temperature is Too Low

Dishwashers wash with boiling water for two reasons. Firstly, hot water helps break down grease, oils, and stuck food far better than cold water.

Secondly, very hot water evaporates into the air faster, which is how many dishwashers drain themselves; the water needs to evaporate and then condense on the side panels to be drained.

KitchenAid recommends the water be at roughly 120 degrees F for optimum functionality. So you may need to adjust your water heater to achieve this.

8. The Pump is Defective

Dishwashers rely on a pump to pressurize the water so it can be ejected from the spray arm nozzles with enough force to clean well.

If the pump is experiencing problems or is defective, it won’t be able to pressurize the water adequately, resulting in poor cleaning.

So, in this case, we’ll have to inspect the pump for functionality, and if it’s deemed non-functional, then it may need to be replaced.

How to Fix a KitchenAid Dishwasher Not Cleaning?

While it may seem like there’s a lot to deal with to get this problem fixed, most of the time, it’s a simple user error that a bit of cleaning, maintenance, and adjustments in how you use the machine will fix right up.

Follow these steps, and your dishwasher will be washing dishes to perfection again in no time.

1. Load the Dishes Correctly

Unfortunately, you can’t just throw the dishes in your KitchenAid dishwasher any way you wish. You should load them in a way that allows the water that gets jetted up from the spray nozzle can reach everything.

This includes:

  • Making sure that cups and bowls are placed facing down.
  • Dishes are stacked vertically as if they are placed horizontally; they block whatever’s placed above them.
  • Leave a reasonable amount of room between each item; if you have a lot of dishes to wash at once, it’s always better to wash them in 2 separate loads.
  • Don’t stack anything directly by the spray arms or detergent dispenser; water won’t be able to distribute throughout the whole machine.

2. Change User Operation to Remove Spots

Not only are wash spots unsightly on your freshly cleaned dishes, but they also indicate that you are not using your KitchenAid appliance correctly.

If you live in a hard water area, try adding a rinse aid to your wash cycle. This helps to reduce drainage and assist the draining properties of the detergent, so it’s less likely to stick to the plates.

Additionally, you can also pick a longer wash cycle which will give the suds more time to wash away before the drying process beings.

Finally, if you are having problems with hard water, you can consider installing a water softener in your home. This will help filter out the hardness from the water before it makes it into the KitchenAid appliance.

3. Clean Out the Filter

KitchenAid recommends cleaning out the filter every month. And while this might seem like a pain, don’t worry! It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

The filter is usually located at the bottom of the KitchenAid dishwasher; you can just pull it out.

All you need to do is rinse it under some warm water to remove the built-up food. If it’s particularly stuck, you can always give it a brush; keeping an old toothbrush just for this job can be a really good idea.

4. Unblock the Spray Arms

In hard water areas, it’s very common for the spray arms to become clogged up with deposits. If this happens, we need to clean them out.

A common fix for this is to take a small piece of wire, something like a paperclip works great for this, and poke it through the holes to unblock them.

In more serious cases where they keep reblocking, you can also remove the arms and let them sit in a sink filled with hot water and dish soap to assist in unclogging the nozzles.

5. Use the Correct Detergent

Using too much or too little detergent can affect how well the dishwasher can clean. Ensure you follow the instructions indicated on the packet and only use the amount specified.

Also, it’s worth avoiding the super cheap detergent brands; these don’t clean very well! We highly recommend spending a bit more money on a slightly more expensive brand for a vastly superior clean.

6. Increase the Water Pressure

As this is technically not a problem with the dishwasher itself, it will require you to check your home’s water supply.

Firstly, you should ensure your water valve is opened the whole way and that the water line/drain hose is correctly attached to your dishwasher without any leaks.

If this doesn’t correct the issue, you may need to contact a local plumber to help out.

7. Increase the Water Temperature

Increasing the water temperature to 120 degrees F can help increase the dishwasher’s cleaning performance. Here you can increase the temperature of your water heater. 

Another excellent tip is to run your kitchen sink’s hot water for a minute before you turn the dishwasher on, which can help ensure hot water is ready and available.

8. Replace the Drain Pump

If you have tested the water pump and found it’s defective or non-functional, then the only solution is to replace it.

If you are not confident in doing this yourself, we recommend contacting KitchenAid support, who will assist you with both sourcing a new drain pump for your dishwasher and arranging a technician to come and replace it for you.

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