the ramblings of a former service tech
Dishwashers are for sanitation. Dishwashers are not garbage disposals.
Garbage disposals are for remnant food scraps. Garbage disposals are not trash cans.
Trash cans are for large amounts of food waste.
Properly dispose of grease from your pans in the proper container.
We’ll touch on grease later in the drain hose ramblings. #greaselogs
Dishwashers need three things. Water, Power, and a Drain.
That’s it. It’s just a computer attached to a box that uses super-hot water to clean and sanitize your dishes.
- Water: Your hot water supply will connect to the water valve on the dishwasher. Water valves may require an elbow to connect to your water supply line. A supply line is usually either PEX or stainless-steel braided.
- Power: You can connect a plug to the terminal box on your dishwasher, if your cabinet is equipped with an outlet. Most of my installations were hardwired, meaning I just used the wires coming from the wall and connected them directly to the corresponding wires in the terminal box. Take the time to properly use the strain-relief clamp. This will prevent live wiring from exiting the terminal box or becoming exposed. Dishwashers are usually on their own circuit, or share one with a disposal. Go ahead and turn that off before install or repair.
- Drain: The dishwasher has a drain hose that will connect to the plumbing under your sink. Make sure the line is hung in the cabinet higher than the connection to the disposal or drain. This helps to “waterfall” the drained water and ensures it doesn’t flow backwards back into your dishwasher. If your dishwasher is new and has water in the bottom, that is normal. *NOTE: When connecting to a new disposal, make sure to knock out the knock-out plug.
That’s it. You just installed a dishwasher. Now, level it, front, back, side to side. Check your manual for the proper instructions. Some fancy dishwashers have adjustable wheels, or can be leveled with a flathead or socket wrench. Many common dishwashers use this style of leveling legs. Legs may either need an adjustable wrench or pliers to break the legs free (WD40 works wonders), but the easiest method I’ve found is to use a small socket on the top of the leveling leg. Some have hex heads that allow you to easily and conveniently raise and lower the legs with a ratchet.
Secure and Mount
Finish it off by securing the dishwasher’s mounting bracket or anti-tip bracket to the countertop or cabinet with a couple of screws. Some dishwashers have side plugs around the door opening to allow for side-mount installations into a cabinet. If your brackets are already installed on top of the dishwasher, and you also have side plugs, it’s likely those top brackets can be switched to the side, if you choose a side-mount installation.
Side-mount installations are usually the method chosen when you have a granite or stone countertop where a top-mount might not be possible without drilling into the countertop and setting anchor points.
These countertop mounting brackets are an excellent option and give your dishwasher’s top-mounting brackets multiple depth options without having to drill into stone, or if your countertop does not have a mounting point.
These “granite brackets” are an adhesive option, but require prep work, patience, and clamps for best adhesion results. Poorly installed brackets, or some sealed surfaces can adhere poorly and break the seal, especially combined with a top-vented dishwasher or poorly-balanced dishwasher where too much weight is being put on the upper bracket. Top or side brackets should not be used for support. They are only there to prevent the dishwasher from tipping forward when the door is opened or the top rock is pulled out. They should not be the main weight-bearing point. A properly-leveled dishwasher will do most of the work. Top and side mounts are secondary supports to prevent tipping.
Take Care Of It
Every 6 months, clean it. There are many dishwasher cleaners on the market. My fav is Dishwasher Magic. It has a wax seal. Do not pop or remove it. That is a time-release feature to ensure the dishwasher is hot enough to utilize the cleaning agents inside. Just unscrew the top and put it upside down in a secure spot in the bottom rack. This will disinfect and sanitize your dishwasher, as well as remove calcium deposits that will leave white spots or white film on your dishes. Just use this, by itself, once every 6 months to maintain the life of your dishwasher, or look into other dishwasher cleaning agents that you feel comfortable using.
If it has a filter, clean it. If it’s not obvious, and you don’t see it, your dishwasher may not have one.
Loading The Dishwasher
Know where your soap dispenser is. Do not block it.
Know where your spray arms are. Do not block them.
Need help loading the dishwasher? Clean My Space knows how. With over 2.1M views, she may be the go-to for dishwasher loading guidance.
I like to load my dishwasher in a radial pattern, since the arms rotate. I try to point or angle all the dishes inward to ensure the spray arm jets will hit them. Watch the height on some of the utensils in the silverware rack, as they may interfere with the middle spray arm that washes the top rack. If in doubt, check it out. Push both racks in and then rotate the arm to be positive the arm will be able to rotate freely during the wash.
Liquid Detergent is not Dishwasher Detergent
BUBBLES! A drop of liquid detergent will put out enough bubbles to cover a kitchen floor. If you pre-wash with liquid detergent, rinse well or you will soon have a foam party in your kitchen. If it happens, don’t panic. Wipe up the bubbles with a towel or a wetvac. Dropping a cap-full of cooking oil or vegetable oil into the dishwasher and turning it on for few seconds to circulate the oil and water (basically just resuming the wash) will “kill the suds.” Then you can drain it. “Well, why not just drain it first or use the wetvac?” Draining it first or just sucking up what you see may still leave water and detergent in the base, sump, or bottom and it would just happen again during the next fill. The oil dilutes the detergent and “kills the suds.” Most dishwasher detergents produce very few suds.
Use Rinse Aid
Remove the rinse aid cap and fill it up. This will leave your glasses sparkly and reduce calcium and hard-water deposits by adding a drying-agent to the rinse cycle to give your dishes a streak-free finish. Plastics don’t dry the same as your ceramic coffee mugs. Plastics as hot as your coffee mug during a drying cycle would melt. This is why they often have water dripping off them. The heat and steam inside the dishwasher condenses back into droplets and collects on your plastics. This is unfortunately normal, but Rinse Aid may help.
- Rinse Aid Quick Demo – https://www.instagram.com/p/CEFMYObD-Xt/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/therepairbrand/
Detergent and Detergent Boosters
Most detergents no longer contain phosphates. Those things are what fought off the white film and hard-water deposits found on your glassware and black plastics. If you have hard water in your area, consider using a detergent booster, like Finish Hard Water Booster Powder or Glass Magic Dishwasher Cleaner. You will use these in conjunction with your main detergent. Fill your pre-wash container in your dishwasher’s detergent dispenser with your detergent booster. Then, your regular detergent or capsule would go in the main wash section.
Pots, Pans, and Grease Logs
Get a Grease Keeper. Doesn’t have to be this one. It can even be the Tik-Tok aluminum-foil-in-the-sink option. But, do not cook fried-chicken or bacon without removing the grease and then think the dishwasher will be able to handle it. Because it will, that’s the problem. The heat will liquify all the grease, fats, and oils, and flush it into your drain…and then it will cool. I like to say coagulate. It’s fun to say, but not fun to fix.
When it cools, it coagulates, or turns back into that waxy, greasy solid. That will eventually lead to a clog. If that happens, it would almost be easier to replace the drain hose at that point. But, for fun, you can remove the drain hose, take it outside, put a garden hose nozzle in one end and hold on tight. With enough pressure, you’ll see a grease log come flying out the other end. Now, you just have to go back inside, reattach the drain line, reinstall the dishwasher, run your test drain cycles to check for leaks, and re-mount the dishwasher.
Or, you could use a grease keeper.
Here’s a useful post from Water-Use It Wisely:
Pumps and Check Valves
Some dishwashers have one motor that does it all. Some have one main motor that washes and circulates the water while a separate, smaller drain pump motor drains the water from the tub. These smaller motors are often magnetic. If you rotate the impeller on the drain pump, you should feel it spring back at some point. That usually indicates the motor is ok. These motors are built well, but they aren’t meant to handle anything but water and maybe a small amount of, if any, food remnants. A toothpick, or even a small chip from a broken wine glass will shut down either motor. This is why it’s important to remove 99% if the scraps from the dishes.
Some Whirlpool models feature a “chopper”, which is a small blade connected to the main wash motor that screens and chops large debris to a more manageable size. These parts may be hidden, but you can often find help videos (like these) to get a step-by-step guide.
Imagine drinking from a cup with a straw that has a hole in it.Check Valve analogy
Check valves and backflow preventers are important. If your model is equipped with those parts, make sure you know where they are. Those should be one of the checkpoints for any drain-related issue. In that video link above, when he replaces the chopper cover, look under the right side of the cover. The rubber, black thing is your check valve. It can be easily removed with pliers. New check valves may appear smaller. Old check valves may appear swollen. This is normal. A faulty check valve may not allow the dishwasher to completely drain. Imagine drinking from a cup with a straw that has a hole in it. You get more air than drink, right? Same applies with a faulty check valve.
Ok, big finish to the first EIKA dishwashers post. (Everything I Know About: Dishwashers…not IKEA…I mean, they also have dishwashers, but my acronym is diff-, yeah, nm, you get it) We got all the big stuff out of the way. Ummmm, drumroll, dishwashers also have:
- Floats. My dishwasher wouldn’t fill. Turns out a noodle was under the float, so the water valve thought the tub was full.
- Door seals. Doors seal on three sides. The bottom is often open, or there is a thin bottom “sweeper” gasket, like a door sweep. If your dishwasher is leaking, it could be 100 different things. The dishwasher is sealed on the top and sides because that’s where the water is spraying. If it’s leaking:
- take off the bottom access panel and run it.
- dripping from the door? ok, open and lower the door. Try to locate the screws around the door frame that secure the outer panel. Watch a couple of videos to see how various ones come off. With the outer panel off, you can now watch the dishwasher more closely. I’ve seen water come right through the soap dispenser.
- still leaking? too much water? Replace the water valve. May be weeping. (trickling water into the tub)
- Door latches. These are, by far, the most problematic part on a dishwasher. Some of yall’s grips are much stronger than you think and are no match for a plastic door handle. Also, don’t slam the door.
- Door hinges. Many dishwashers have door hinges with hooks that connect to cables or springs, or both. Sometimes these can easily be replaced by accessing them through the lower access panel. If you’re lucky, you can unmount it and pull it out a foot or less to access the hinges for an even quicker repair. But all techs know most installs are done with very little slack on the electrical or supply line, and we don’t often get that lucky.
- Spray Arms. Use a pipe cleaner to clean the spray arm jets openings if you notice hard water buildup or debris.
- If you have a center-tower style telescoping spray arm, don’t cover it because it washes the top rack
- After a cycle is complete, make sure it’s completely collapsed before pulling out the lower rack. You could pull out the rack and rip it from the spray arm retainer, potentially causing it to lay across a still-warm element.
- Touchpads and Control Boards. These are tough to diagnose. The touchpad is the user interface, and that’s what instructs the control board, correct? So, use your gut here. If you press one button and another lights up, or the plastic coating is peeling off, that’s like taking the claw end of your hammer to your computer’s keyboard, and then typing a dissertation. Control Boards are often my last resort.
- Fuses and sensors. Some have thermal fuses, thermostats, or turbidity sensors. Turbidity is the measure of relative clarity of a liquid.
- Heating elements. These can often be easily tested for continuity. If they have continuity, more than likely they’re ok. Check all wiring. Possible heater relay on the board, thermostat, sensor, or even door switch breaking the connection to the heater.
- Timers. Some timers have cams on the timer shaft that may trigger the dispenser door to open. Make sure you don’t toss out the old timer with the cam still on it.
- Child Safety Lock Feature. Look at the icons on your dishwasher panel. You should see two, or even one, with a “3 sec” or “Lock” symbol. This is the Child Safety Lock Feature to prevent curious hands and fingers from starting or stopping a cycle. These can be inadvertently enabled by leaning against the door, or even those same hands. Don’t be mad at the technician when you pay a service call for them to hold down a button for three seconds. I tried to be generous during my service days in these embarrassing scenarios.
- Yes, I’ve had to charge someone to disable the child-lock feature. No, it didn’t feel good to charge them $100 for a three-second repair. But, while I was there, I often removed the lower access panel and cleaned underneath, checked for leaks or other visual wear, sell some dishwasher cleaner, and offered to answer any questions or educate the customer on dishwasher maintenance, preferred models or detergent, etc.
- Flooring. If you replace your kitchen floors, don’t trap your dishwasher. Make sure it can be uninstalled and reinstalled. Dishwasher legs can usually be raised and lowered, but I was there when my trainer took a demo hammer to the kitchen floor. With the homeowner’s knowledge, of course.
- Floors. Do not drag your toolbag across the floor. Do not keep screws or tools in your pockets. Place your tools on a piece of cardboard. Be mindful of the floors. This is why checking for water leaks after a repair or installation until you’re 1000% sure everything is good is so important. Water is liquid termites to a home. No scratches. No Drips.
- Water, Power, Drain, Level, Mount. Most everything else is in your user manual or in this post.
Know Your Model Number
Don’t look for a part that looks like your part. Don’t look for your receipt or your owners manual (unless you’re one of the 1% that followed the instructions and wrote it down inside the manual where it tells you to). Find it on your dishwasher. Whenever you have a question or need something in the future, this is often the first piece of information any servicer or retailer will need.
Watch me install a dishwasher in less than 5 minutes.