How does a dishwasher work

How Does a Dishwasher Work

Dishwashers are the ultimate convenience of any of the home appliance. So you want to do everything you can to extend the life of your dishwasher. Compared to all of your appliances it is the least necessary, but you own one and it looks and smells disgusting.

That look at the smell also tells you that you are slowly killing your dishwasher and just because soap runs through it daily, it is not clean. If you understand how does a dishwasher work you can use it for years without fear of repair costs.

How Does a Dishwasher Work

How does a dishwasher work

The way a dishwasher operates is pretty simple to understand, and understanding it to some degree will help you to understand why you need to clean it regularly, maybe once or twice a year. Of course all explanations are based on the common dishwasher; refer to your owner’s manuals for any differences.

At the start of the operation your drain pump runs. You may look into your dishwasher and see no water at the start of any cycle and ask why? It many cases there is water underneath the filter plate and also in the hose. There also may be water dripping from the dishes that we have rinsed before putting them in the dishwasher. We will talk more about rinsing your dishes before washing them in a bit.

After the drain pump runs it tells the water valve to start pouring water into your dishwasher.Most dishwashers have some kind of small holding tank inside or on the side of the dishwasher and when that fills the water starts running thru the spray arms. The spray arms turn from the force of the water going through them. The cycle begins with a pre-wash or pre-rinse depending on what someone may call it.

Depending on the cycle you set at the beginning of the wash, after a period of time, the heater will turn on and heat your water up an average of 15 – 20 degrees. It is important for you to make sure that your water line is tapped off your hot water line under your sink.

How Hot does a Dishwasher Get

How Hot does a Dishwasher Get

Let’s talk about the hot water line and rinsing your dishes before I continue.Just because you have your dishwasher hooked to your hot water line, it does not mean that hot water is entering your dishwasher.For most people when they turn on the hot water to their sink, they have to let it run for a while for it to get hot.

If you have to turn on your hot water line for 60 seconds for it to be piping hot, you should do this BEFORE turning on your dishwasher. The heater only heats the water up a certain amount, 15 – 20 degrees, so if you put room temperature water in you will be washing your dishes with less that 90 degrees water temperature. Proper water temperature in your dishwasher should be 120 – 150 degrees  F.

Rinsing your dishes is important NO MATTER WHAT the manufacturers tell you. You wonder why you may have smells coming out of your dishwasher. Well there you go. Some dishwashers can handle less rinsing than others but you WILL degrade the performance of you dishwasher over time, it could be a few months to several years but it will happen.

What could possibly hurt by rinsing grease and sauce off your plate just to help maximize the cleanliness of your wash anyway? Dishwashers do more than provide a convenience, they can clean better with the extra heat that the skin on your hands cannot handle because of the heat and pre-rinsing some of the dishes just a little bit helps the process along.

The Normal Dishwasher Cycle

The Normal Dishwasher Cycle

After your heater heats the water up a bit the soap dispenser opens and the soap falls out of the dishwasher. If you are using pods, it may stay in the door, if you are using liquid some of that will stay in the door. It is important that no pans are blocking the space between the dishwasher and the dispenser itself or you will have a lot of soap residue in the dispenser area.

When this is done you will have another draining of all soap and water matter and then we go into the rinse cycle. After that we have the dry cycle. Next to your soap dispenser is a smaller dispenser where jet dry rinse aid is placed. Rinse Aid or Jet Dry as some people call it, is an agent that reduces the adherence of water so that water can slide off of your dishes and you will have less spots.

Jet Dry Rinse Aid WILL dry your dishes so you don’t have to towel them down afterwards, but it is not necessary at all. There are reports about the danger of rinse aids that have cancer causing agents in its ingredients and are bad for the environment, although I have not heard any newsworthy ill effects of rinse aid on either of these and I am not a scientist.

You can use rinse aid if you so choose but if you don’t, please do NOT waste your money calling over a technician and complain your dishes are not drying properly. Even though the dishwasher gets really hot, it is still a moist enclosed environment inside so the water just may dry on the dish and you have spotting. Some people refuse to use rinse aid and don’t mind second rinse and dry by hand as they use the dishes.

You can do that as well. The wash is the most important part of the cycle anyway. On a side note, you do not want to use vinegar as rinse aid in your dishwasher unless you like that smell on your dishes, specifically your plastics.

How to get rid of that smell and Clean a Dishwasher

How to get rid of that smell and Clean a Dishwasher

Let’s start with the dishwasher racks. In most dishwashers there are usually just two racks, an upper and lower. The lower rack usually comes out of the dishwasher and is not attached to anything. Inspect the wheels for food particles and clean and also make sure the wheels are on securely and not cracked to avoid accidents when pulling dishes out of the washer.

The top rack usually has the spray arm for the bottom tray attached to it. Sometimes you may find food particles attached to it. Just poke thru them with a clothes hanger or any other type of small metal that you can get through the holes.

I do not recommend using Q tips or anything with cloth because of the chance that fibers could get caught in the hole and diminish the water going to your dishes themselves. Sometimes you may have calcium deposits in those holes and if they cannot be poked through, use some very diluted CLR and soak the arms in the mixture

Some dishwashers have something that looks like a mushroom hat in the front right corner of the dishwasher and that is the float switch. If you ever have an unseen leak under your dishwasher the switch will activate and your dishwasher will stop running, usually showing you an error.

If anything is caught under this switch it can also cause the error, so make sure you clean underneath this switch as well. The rubber gasket that sits indie of the dishwasher can generally be pulled out and put back in easily. You can use some kind of safe “green” cleaner on this as well as the inner lip and door itself.

Also pull out the filter if you are able to and clean with the cleaner and rinse. I do not recommend using bleach on the inside of the dishwasher; we KNOW that is toxic and who knows how much of it actually is cleaned out before the wash.

After you have cleaned everything you can see on the dishwasher, the gasket, the door, the insides, the racks, the wheels, the filter and the spray arms, place everything back in the dishwasher. You should have a good dishwasher cleaner, no not something that cleans the dishes but the dishwasher itself.

Make sure you use this agent with the hottest cycle on your dishwasher to completely rinse and clean what you have just cleaned and also clean the piping below the dishwasher. If you need to clean the hose that runs from the dishwasher to the sink, I recommend you call a technician as the part of the hose you do not see runs directly to the drain pump and I don’t think you want to be messing around under your dishwasher.


All of this only needs to be done once or twice a year depending on how often you use it. Maintaining your dishwasher enhances its life, cleans your dishes better and keeps those bad smells out. All saving you a lot of money in the long run from technicians and from having to buy a new

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