Dishwasher not cleaning dishes on the top rack?

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Most homeowners take their dishwasher for granted and simply assume that it will always get their dishes clean.

Unfortunately, there will inevitably come a day when you discover that the dishes in the top rack are no longer getting clean.

There are a number of causes when a dishwasher is not cleaning the top rack.

Below is a shortlist of the most common causes when a dishwasher does not clean dishes on the top rack.

Five common causes for a dishwasher not to clean top rack dishes

Possible clogged under the rack propeller jets

The key to any dishwasher’s ability to clean the dishes inside is the spray jets.

The hi-pressure jets of water concentrates the cleaning solution and directs the cleaning power directly to your dishes.

In order to be able to clean all of the dishes that you place on the top rack is to have a jet sprayer underneath the top rack with multiple spray jets.

Unfortunately, one of the problems that most areas have is hard water.

When you have hard water the biggest issue you will have is a frequent build-up of minerals in and around the spray holes.

All it takes is one or two of the spray heads to be clogged or partially clogged to cause restricted water flow to occur.

To solve this problem you do a little bit of “Do It Yourself” maintenance on your dishwasher.

Before you do any work on the inside of your dishwasher you want to be sure that you shut the power off so that it does not accidentally turn on which will present an electrocution danger.

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Depending on how the water is delivered to the sprayer you should easily be able to disconnect the sprayer underneath the top rack.

Test the operation of all of the spray jets to ensure that the water is flowing.

If you find any clogs you will want to clean out the mineral build-up.

Put the sprayer back on and run a test again. 

Clogged top sprayer

Another problem with a dishwasher that can cause your top rack dishes from not being properly cleaned is if your dishwasher is equipped with a top sprayer.

There is a number of things that can go wrong with a mounted sprayer.

Just like with the underneath mount sprayer, the top-mounted sprayer is susceptible to mineral build-up on the inside and also around openings of the jets.

However, along with the issue of clogs, you could also be dealing with water pressure issues that could easily be restricting the flow of water.

You will want to be sure that you do a complete check for any water leaks from the channel that directs the water from the bottom of the dishwasher all the way to top of the inside of the washer.

To solve the problem when you suspect that the top sprayer is the culprit you should be able to do a basic check for yourself.

By disconnecting the top sprayer from the water supply will make it much easier to evaluate the condition of the

Clogged  chopper blade

Now you determined that the reason why the dishes in the top rack are not getting cleaned is not related to clogged water jets in either the top sprayer of the one located underneath the top rack.

You can move on to next likely culprit which would be a clogged water filter caused by the failure or clogged up chopper blade.

The chopper is designed to pulverize any loose food that remained stuck onto the dishes when you were loading them into the dishwasher.

If you don’t keep the water filter and chopper blade area free of accumulated debris you will likely end up with tiny particles of food matter deposited on the dishes in the upper rack.

While some dishwashers have self-cleaning filters that do not require any intervention if your dishwasher has a manual water filter you will need to check it once a month.

The filter is located at the bottom of the dishwasher.

You will not need any tools to gain access to the filter since it is held in by a twist mechanism.

The filter is cylindrical in shape and is really easy to clean out with a little dish soap and a toothbrush.

Once you have the filter cleaned you will want to check the area inside the food chopper.

If the area is heavily clogged will want to be careful when cleaning it out.

Water inlet valve failure

The ability of any dishwasher to be able to get all of your dishes clean requires that all parts of it to be operating at peak efficiency.

After you have checked all of the other parts of the washer talked about earlier, the last possibility is a lack of steady water pressure or a complete lack of water.

In order for the water to reach the top rack sprayers there needs to be quite a bit of water pressure.

All of the water used by the dishwasher is provided by the water inlet valve.

Be sure that you have checked for possible damage to the water hose before you try to remove and replace the water inlet valve.

If you notice a leak or a collapsed hose quickly replace it.

You will need to contact the manufacturer of your dishwasher in order to get the information about the part you will be needing.

After checking everything and verifying that in fact that the water inlet valve is faulty and needs to be replaced you will want to be sure that you have all the right tools, supplies, and parts that are necessary to get started.

Be sure that before you do any work that you turned off the breaker in your electric panel.

The water inlet valve is located on the bottom of the dishwasher and therefore you will likely have to do a little work to get at it.

Using the right tool to remove the screws that hold the bracket to the dishwasher frame.

After the inlet valve is free from the bracket you need to remove the hose clamp and remove the valve.

To install the new valve, just reverse the steps and button everything back up and turn the power back on to test the dishwasher.

Circulation pump or wash motor failure

If you hear that dishwasher, at the very beginning of the cycle, filled with water and not started to spray water within 30 seconds, that’s most likely circulation motor failed.

There is no way to fix motor, the motor just burnt out.

Reader Comments (5)

  1. I had this problem as well. I replaced the “dishwasher” inlet valve and the circulation pump and still was not getting water to the top rack. I went back and disconnected the 1/4″ flexible piping going to the dishwasher inlet valve and turned on the shut-off valve below the sink draining to a bucket. I had a slow but steady stream but not a forceful stream of water. I cut out the shut-off valve and found the shut-off valve was plugged with calcium. Put in a $5 shut-off valve and the dishwasher works like new. I was trying to fix the dishwasher due to the long lead time of getting one and the problem was outside the dishwasher. So happy I did not buy a new dishwasher only to find I still had a problem. It did cost me about $200 for the circulation pump and the inlet valve which I did not need to buy but the dishwasher is now quieter which makes my wife happier. (-:

  2. Our dishwasher wasn’t cleaning the dishes on the top rack in our new home, so I found your video and we did what you suggested and after the rinse cycle the bowls are full of water, hooray! Hoping for clean dishes after the next cycle. Thank you!


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