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How To Extend the Life of Your Dishwasher

Updated Nov 22, 2022

Updated Nov 22, 2022

Home > Maintenance & Renovation > How To Extend the Life of Your Dishwasher

Kitchen appliances are some of the most expensive purchases homeowners make. As a result, maintaining your appliances and extending their life spans is crucial to saving money and frustration.

So, how long should your dishwasher last? According to Consumer Reports, most dishwashers should last around 10 years. Here’s how you can extend the life of your dishwasher and make it last 10 years or longer through proper maintenance and usage.

1. Don’t Use Your Dishwasher Incorrectly

loaded dishwasher inside of a home ready to run a wash
Image Source: Canva

While using a dishwasher may not seem challenging, certain habits can wear it down faster by breaking down mechanical parts and clogging the drain hose.

Here are some common dishwashing mistakes to avoid:

  • Always scrape plates but avoid rinsing them. Most modern dishwashers don’t need a pre-rinse to work well. However, you should always scrape solid items, like toothpicks, bones, or meat, off your plates before loading them into the dishwasher. Solid and hard bits can tear the dishwasher filter, damage the pump, or clog the drain hose, so take an extra moment to scrape these bits into the trash first.
  • Have your dishwasher set to use hot water. Cold water forces the dishwasher to run longer and work harder to reach an optimal temperature. Double-check that your dishwasher runs with 120℉ or higher hot water.
  • Run full loads. Running half-full loads takes a toll on your utility bill, the environment, and your dishwasher because you’ll need to run more loads to clean all your dishes. Likewise, it would be best never to overload your dishwasher as this limits the water spray pattern, preventing your dishes from being properly cleaned. In the long term, this will result in running your dishwasher more frequently and wearing down the mechanical parts faster.
  • Don’t put “do not wash” items in the dishwasher. You may think these items are labeled “do not wash” because the dishwasher will destroy them during a wash, which is true in some cases. However, some items are labeled this way because they can damage your dishwasher, costing you a pretty penny to fix it. A few things that a dishwasher should never wash include fine china, delicate glassware, cans with paper labels, and candle jars.
  • Load your dishwasher correctly. Pots and pans should always be facing downwards so that water can spray up into them. Load the dirtiest items facing the center of the dishwasher for best results and to avoid having to rewash certain items.

2. Clean Your Dishwasher Filter Regularly

Food buildup has to go somewhere in your dishwasher. For most modern dishwashers, this location is the dishwasher filter. As a result, the dishwasher filter needs to be cleaned regularly or whenever you notice that your dishes feel gritty after a wash.

Clean your dishwasher filter by removing the bottom rack and locating a plastic cylinder. Unscrew the plastic cylinder to lift it out of the dishwasher and run the filter under warm running water until all the debris is loosened and removed. If stubborn food particles remain, take a soft sponge and warm soapy water to the filter, but avoid steel wool or abrasive cleaning tools, which will damage the filter.

Examine the filter for holes each time you clean it. If it has holes, immediately replace it to prevent seeds, bones, or solid bits from slipping inside the dishwasher pump, which will cost far more to repair or replace than the filter.

3. Examine the Dishwasher Spray Arms

Every couple of months, check the spray nozzle in the wash arms. Examine them to see if the holes are clean and food debris-free. A clogged spray nozzle will affect the dishwasher’s spray pattern and ability to clean your dishes well, so if you notice your dishes are suddenly not clean after a cycle, check the spray nozzle immediately.

If the spray nozzle has food debris caught in it, remove the bottom one gently from its base with a soft tug. Then, use a Phillips head screwdriver to unscrew the center wash arm from the base of the top rack. Then, rinse the wash arms to free them of debris.

If your dishwasher has standing water remaining in the bottom of the dishwasher after a load, check the spray nozzle first to see if it’s clogged, then examine the other parts of the dishwasher for a clog. If you cannot locate the issue, call a dishwasher repair service to have the problem addressed. Don’t run the dishwasher until it’s examined and fixed by a professional, as you can further damage the appliance.

4. Take Care of Hard Water Residue Immediately

If you live somewhere with hard water, your dishwasher may become discolored or develop mineral deposits, which look like a cloudy film on the machine and your dishes. Hard water may also cause the dishwasher rack rails and wheels to get caught or move with resistance. If this happens, use a citric-acid-based dishwasher cleaner or descaler to remove the hard water deposits and limescale once a month or as the package label instructs.

If possible, use a regeneration salt in the dishwasher’s water softening system to address the hard water problem directly. A regeneration salt will improve your dishes’ cleanliness and reduce cloudiness and spotting, as well as mineral buildup in the interior of your dishwasher.

5. Remove Gunk or Crust Around the Dishwasher Door Seal

Does your dishwasher have gunk or crust built up around the dishwasher door seal? Tackle this issue before it develops into mold or mildew growth, odor-causing bacteria, or prevents you from closing the dishwasher door completely.

A simple step to address this is taking a clean rag and white vinegar solution to remove the residue. Follow this cleaning step any time you notice gunk or crustiness around the door seal.

6. Rustproof the Dishwasher Racks

Are your dishwasher racks rusty, or is the plastic coating worn off?

While this may appear like merely a cosmetic issue, this can actually lead to corrosion and tiny bits of rusty metal falling into your dishwasher pump. Unfortunately, the dishwasher pump is integral to your dishwasher’s health and life span, so if the rust flakes build up, it can cause the entire dishwasher to break down. Avoid this problem by immediately touching up the racks with vinyl paint or replacement tine tips.

man pulling loaded dishwasher rack out
Image Source: Canva

Closing Thoughts

Clean dishes with the push of a button are a blessing many of us take for granted until our dishwasher breaks down. Avoid expensive appliance repairs using these DIY dishwashing cleaning steps to prevent broken parts, mildew, mineral buildup, and more. Don’t hesitate to call an appliance repair expert if you notice any issues, like standing water at the bottom of your dishwasher or spotty dishes after a load. A professional repair will almost certainly be less expensive than replacing mechanical parts or the entire dishwasher later.

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