HELP - My dishwasher isn't getting the dishes clean!

4:59 PM

Having a [kinda] broken dishwasher might be no big deal at your house.  At my house IT'S A BIG DEAL!  We are a family of 6 including the (dog) and there are NON STOP dirty dishes!

The Symptoms:  To be fair, the dishwasher was not entirely broken.  It just wasn't getting the dishes on the bottom rack clean.  I could understand if nothing was clean, but that was not the case.  Top rack dishes where just fine.  Bottom rack - no bueno!  The other weird thing is that the soap dispenser seemed to have a LOT of caked on soap.  It's like the soap door would open and run down the side of the machine.  There seemed to be a LOT of dried soap on the dishes closest to the soap dispenser.

So here's what I did:

The Investigation:
According to about a million websites unclean dishes is a VERY common problem with dishwashers - who knew!?  AND the problem is usually the result of user error.  Meaning I/we did something wrong.  We didn't over load, we didn't use too much soap and the water seemed to be moving in and out of the machine with no problem.  Everything sounded normal when it was running. 

Next, I needed to make sure that the swing arms where spinning when the machine was running.  To test this out I lined up all of the swing arms in the dishwasher.  (my model has three).  I put all 3 arms in the same position (6 o'clock straight up and down).  Next I set the machine to the shortest cycle (rinse only - 4 minutes) and I turned it on.  I waited until I heard the water fill the machine and the wash cycle began.  With the wash cycle underway I opened the dishwasher door. 

A word of caution about opening a running dishwasher.  There's a good chance you'll be squirted in the face with VERY hot water!  Proceed with extreme caution!!!!

That notwithstanding, I opened the door or the [still running] dishwasher and that's when I saw the problem.  The bottom swing arm was not moving.  The top 2 where fine, but the bottom swing arm was still at 6'oclock.  Based on the symptoms that makes total sense.  The top dishes where getting sprayed with water.  The bottom rack - not so much. 

The Fix:
Back on google I read that it's pretty common to get hard water deposits inside the holes on the swing arms of the dishwasher.  I cleaned out the holes as best I could using an unfolded paper clip, but they still where not very clean.  I called the good people over at Appliance Parts Pros (or was it Repair Clinic -I use both) to ask how to remove the lower swing arm.  The awesome lady on the phone told me how and just like that the arm was out!

I washed the arm with soap and water.  I unclogged the holes on the top and bottom of the arm and reinstalled it in the machine.  It worked GREAT!

An ounce of prevention - Maintenance:
While I was googling symptoms I happened to read that there's are many products on the market that dissolve dishwasher rust and lime and prevent build up.  There are all kinds of DIY remedies like lemon Kool Aid and Tang, but my money is on a little product called Dishwasher Magic.  They're not paying me to say this but their product worked GREAT!  It's like $3 at walmart and it does a fantastic job. 

I'd never heard to the stuff and hadn't run any lime removers in my dishwasher in the 7 years we've owned it.  I bought 2 bottles and followed the instructions.  Honest to God my dishes (and dishwasher) have never been so clean!

Finally friends - here's a PRO TIP for you.  I do my best to fix all of my appliances myself.  The problem is I rare have model numbers handy.  I've started taking pictures of my appliance model number stickers.  This way they're stored in my phone!

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