Should You Ever Run A Dishwasher Empty

The dishwasher is designed to clean, but did you know the appliance itself needs to be cleaned periodically? Between stuck on food accumulating on the interior and loose food gathering in the filter, your dishwasher may fail to work properly.

Fortunately, cleaning your dishwasher can be a nearly effortless task. In fact, the dishwasher may be one of the easiest appliances to keep clean in your entire house but we often get asked if you should run a dishwasher empty?

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Signs Your Dishwasher Needs Cleaning

There are several warning signs to look out for to determine if your dishwasher needs to be run on empty.

Unpleasant odor

Is your dishwasher giving off a foul smell? Smelly dishwashers can ruin the feel of a beautiful and clean kitchen. Unpleasant odors can be caused by a variety of reasons, including clogged filters, food residue and build-up, too hot of water, and using too much detergent. 

Food build-up in the filter

Your dishwasher filter goes through the wringer, so keeping foreign and solid objects out is imperative. Perhaps the most visible sign of a clogged dishwasher filter is the dishes not getting clean or only some of the dishes getting clean. If your washed dishes still have food particles, check your filter for debris and clean the fine screen filter. Refer to your owner’s manual to see if your dishwasher has a removable, cleanable filter.

Faulty Appliande?

Rusting inside the machine

Rust is not only unsightly, but it also may be dangerous to your health. If your dishes come out with noticeable quantities of rust, make sure you rinse them well before eating off of them. Along the same lines, a significant danger of rust lies within the dishwasher itself. It may clog dishwasher components, which leads to a faulty appliance. Keeping up on maintenance and keeping the dishwasher clean with lessening the likelihood of rust developing. 

Food in the sprayer arm

To have dishes that are clean as a whistle, your dishwasher’s sprayer arm should be free of food particles and other debris. To clean, remove the arm and place it into a water and vinegar solution. Allow it to soak until the debris becomes loosened. Then shake out debris and flush with clean water. 

How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Ready to clean your dishwasher? First, start with an empty dishwasher. Pour 1 gallon of white distilled vinegar in the bottom of the unit, and let it sit for three to four days. Some newer dishwashers that are low water will not require an entire gallon.  Once it’s time, run a cycle on the hottest and longest cycle with no dishes or detergent. This will clean out old food particles to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh. This will remove the accumulation of food in the pump and motor and will wash away grease and remove musty odors. We recommend cleaning your dishwasher once a quarter.

Now that the dishwasher motor and filter are clean, you’ll want to clean the spray arms, tub, and racks with Finish dishwasher cleaner. If the spray arms are still clogged with food deposits, repeat this step until the arms are clear. This important step will strip the dishwasher of the build-up and reduce hard water issues.  Keep in mind that this may take multiple cycles of Finish dishwasher cleaner.

Tip: Homeowners should also run an empty load after hooking up a new dishwasher. This will ensure that all the parts and pipes are correctly connected.

Other Dishwasher Parts You Should Clean:

  • Under the door

To clean the bottom of your dishwasher’s door, use paper towels and a vinegar solution to clean.

  • The silverware basket

Soak the silverware basket in a sink full of warm water and dish soap. Make sure to completely rinse the basket before putting back in the dishwasher.

  • The gasket

The dishwasher gasket can be cleaned using a brush and a mixture of vinegar and warm water.

  • The detergent dispenser  

To clean the detergent dispenser, use vinegar solution and a brush

Additional Dishwasher Tips

Practice Proper Loading Techniques: Proper dishwasher loading techniques are both an art form and a science. In fact, loading your dishes requires a well-thought out plan. Although it’s best to read the owner’s manual for specific instructions, the following steps on how to load your dishwasher will ensure that your dishwasher cleans the dishes properly.

A dishwasher filters job isn’t just to clean your dishes. It should also limit particles of food from recirculating onto your clean dishes and through the pump. However, the dishwasher isn’t a garbage disposal, so it’s essential to keep up the habit of scraping off large food particles or anything substantial and anything solid.

Although this may seem counterintuitive, there is no need to do a pre-rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. If you do, the built-in soil sensor may misread the amount of dissolved debris in the water as well as the detergent having nothing to break down. If the detergent doesn’t break down food it will breakdown seals and other dishwasher components. So it is important not to use too much detergent and have proper soil.

Place pots, plates, and other heavy-duty dishes on the bottom rack where heat and water pressure are most intense. Fill the top rack with cups, glasses, small bowls, containers, dishwasher-safe Tupperware, and larger utensils. Load all cutlery into the silverware rack. Alternate placing handles up and down so that all surfaces are sufficiently cleaned. Finally, bypass putting knives, wood, brass, cast iron pans, china, and crystal in the dishwasher.

Use the Right Kind of Dish Detergent

We recommend using high-quality dishwasher detergent. Our personal favorites include Finish or Cascade pods, pouches, or tablets. These are designed to break down food particles and help the dishwasher perform efficiently. Make sure to stay away from liquid detergent, as it can stick to the gears and parts inside the dishwasher, causing them to malfunction.

Make Sure Your Dishwasher is Level

If your dishwasher isn’t level, it could leak and lead to costly and time-consuming repairs. To check if your dishwasher is leveled correctly, place an air-bubble level along the edge of the door. If the dishwasher isn’t balanced, adjust the feet to raise or lower either side.

The Takeaway

Deep cleaning and deodorizing your dishwasher will keep it performing at its best and ensure your dishes and utensils stay clean and sanitary. If these steps seem daunting or out of your expertise, we’re happy to help.

Contact iFiX Today for Your Dishwasher Repair

Let us know if these tips helped and if you run a dishwasher empty. Inspections, regular maintenance, and education of overall operations will keep your dishwasher and its filter running smoothly. Since the dishwasher is a complex machine, we recommend contacting a professional for repairs. Call our locally-owned and operated dishwasher appliance repair service at 801.731.4349 for all your dishwasher needs.


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