Dishwasher not cleaning dishes on top rack? 5 causes and easy fix

Dishwasher not cleaning dishes on the top rack? You may have a clogged propeller blade, clogged top sprayer, clogged chopper blade, water inlet valve failure or circulation pump failure. Let’s explore these issues and how to fix it.

Most homeowners take their dishwasher for granted and simply assume that it will always get their dishes clean. You may eventually discover that the top rack is not getting clean enough. There are a number of causes behind this. 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 cleaning top rack

Before you do any work on your dishwasher, you need to be sure that you shut the power off to the appliance. Working near water and electricity presents an electrocution danger if the unit has power. Unplug the dishwasher from the wall (under the sink), and/or shut off the breaker marked “dishwasher.”

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. To clean all the dishes on the top rack, the appliance has 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, you’ll get 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. It could also be clogged with food particles if you loaded the dishwasher with heavily soiled dishes. This is an easy fix…

To solve this problem, you do a little bit of “Do It Yourself” maintenance on your dishwasher. You’ll do this by disconnecting the sprayer under the top rack and test it for water flow through the openings. Gently clean the holes with a toothpick (or similar) and replace the sprayer. Test again to see if this has solved the problem.

Test the spinning operation of all of the spray jets to ensure that nothing blocks the path of spin.

Read Related: Dishwasher Not Spraying Water

Clogged top sprayer

If your dishwasher is equipped with a top sprayer, this could be another problem causing dishwasher not cleaning dishes on your top rack.

There is a number of things that can go wrong with a top mounted sprayer. Just like with the underneath mount sprayer, the top-mounted sprayer is susceptible to mineral build-up around openings of the jets.

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

Although unlikely, you will want to do a complete check for any water leaks preventing the water from reaching the top sprayer. Inspect the channel that directs the water from the bottom of the dishwasher to top of the inside of the washer. You will need to remove the dishwasher from the cabinetry to fully inspect. Disconnecting the top sprayer from the water supply will make it easier to evaluate its condition.

If you don’t see signs of a water leak and the top sprayer appears free of build-up and debris, move on to the next step.

Clogged chopper blade (dishwasher not cleaning dishes)

Now that you have determined the issue is not related to clogged water jets, you need to look into the next likely culprit: a clogged water filter. A clogged water filter is caused by the failure or clogging of the 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 have difficulty getting your dishes clean.

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. Don’t let your dishwasher get filled with junk like the one in the picture below! It will also begin to smell!

dishwasher not cleaning dishes

Read also: Dishwasher smells bad: How to Fix It

Water inlet valve failure

After you have checked all of the other parts of the washer, 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 high water pressure. This also enables the spray arms to spin.

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

First, check for possible damage to the water hose. Make sure the hose is not collapsed or pinched during installation. If you notice a leak in the water supply hose, it will need to be replaced for dishwasher efficiency and to prevent cabinet damage.

Second, you need to remove and inspect the water inlet valve. Be sure to have a bucket and towels handy while inspecting these areas of the dishwasher. Also, make sure the power breaker is off!

The water inlet valve is located on the bottom of the dishwasher, and will likely take a bit of work to get at it. Be sure you have all the right tools, supplies, and parts necessary before you get started.

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. Turn the power back on to test the dishwasher.

Read also: LG Dishwasher Not Cleaning Dishes

Circulation pump or wash motor failure

At the beginning of the cycle, you should hear the dishwasher fill with water and start to spray water within 30 seconds. If you are not hearing this sound, you most likely have a failed circulation motor. These motors cannot be repaired if they are burned out. They must be replaced.

Conclusion: Dishwasher not cleaning dishes

The ability of any dishwasher to get your dishes clean is dependent upon parts operating at peak efficiency. Cleaning out filters, hard water residue, and visually inspecting water supply lines are all good maintenance for the appliance. You will get many years of use out of a quality dishwasher.

Read also: Dishwasher not draining? What to check first and 6 Easy tips

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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