Dishwasher Troubleshooting: Dishwasher Detergent Left in Dispenser

Few things are more frustrating than when you finally work up the energy to unload the dishwasher, but notice the dishes aren’t quite clean. You investigate a little only to find out the detergent is still chilling in the dishwasher, and thus, never washed your dishes.

If you have experienced this phenomenon far too many times, try these dishwasher troubleshooting tips, adapted from Whirlpool.

Dishwasher Troubleshooting Tips

Was the dispenser cup wet when you added detergent?

If dispenser cup is wet, the detergent can clump. This also means that if there’s still detergent left in the cup, don’t think, “Oh, well now I don’t have to refill it!” Clean it out and start over.

Is the cycle incomplete?

If the previous cycle did not complete, the detergent can become caked in the dispenser cup if it is left sitting in the dishwasher. But this probably isn’t the cause for those with chronic detergent-caking issues. Again, clean the detergent from the cup and start over again.

Is the detergent old?

Older detergent exposed to air will clump and not dissolve well, which will cause the dispenser door to stick to the detergent. Buy new detergent, and this time, keep it in a tightly closed container (i.e. not the box with an open flap) in a cool dry place (i.e. not under your sink right next to the wall where your dishwasher runs hot!).

Is the water temperature too low?

For best washing and drying results, water should be 120oF (49o C) as it enters the dishwasher, so check your water heater setting. I also try to remember to run the kitchen sink until hot water comes out to help this.

Were items blocking the dispenser that kept it from opening?

Items blocking the detergent dispenser will keep it from opening. Make sure water action can reach the dispenser.

Other good (if not obvious) detergent guidelines

  • Use automatic dishwashing detergent only.
  • Add detergents just before starting the cycle.
  • The amount of detergent to use depends on the hardness of your water and the type of detergent.
    • If you use too little, dishes won’t be clean.
    • If you use too much in soft water, glassware will etch.
  • Your manufacturer’s suggested amount is based on standard powdered detergent, so follow instructions on the package when using liquid or concentrated powdered detergent.
  • Water hardness can change over a period of time. Want to find out if you have hard water? Get a free testing kit at any Warners’ Stellian location.

Share your best dishwasher tips in the comments section!

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