Dishwasher not cleaning? Why you have dirty dishes in the dishwasher


Say goodbye to dirty dishes in the dishwasher with our best practices for preventing caked-on food after washing.

It may surprise you to hear this, but you can save more water through using a dishwasher than through handwashing! (Never underestimate the waste caused by a running tap.) However, if you have to run the dishwasher twice, it defeats the purpose. When you open the machine door in the morning and that glorious steam rises out, the last thing you want is to reach in for a fork and find hardened food still on it! We want to arm you with the strongest tips for maximizing your dishwasher’s cleaning power so that never happens again. We’ll show you how to prevent dirty dishes in the dishwasher and make sure every load is sparkling–so you never have to ask yourself “​​why are my dishes still dirty after dishwasher?” again!

How to Prevent Dirty Dishes in the Dishwasher After Cycle

Are you tired of dealing with dirty dishes in your dishwasher that come out less than sparkling clean? From proper loading techniques to whether or not to pre-rinse, we'll cover all the best practices for washing dishes in a dishwasher, ensuring that your dishes come out spotless every time.

Should You Rinse Off Dishes Before Putting Them in the Dishwasher?

Did you know that pre-washing your dishes can actually make them look dirtier after a cycle in the dishwasher? Dishwashing detergent attacks food particles, so when there isn’t enough in those “dirty” dishes, the detergent ends up scrubbing away at your clean glasses, making them cloudy. It’s good to rinse big chunks of food off your dishes before loading up the dishwasher—but for your dishes to really shine, don’t completely remove all the grime. However, if tougher food like oatmeal, rice, smoothie residue etc. has dried and hardened on dishes (no judgement here if they hung out in the sink for a few days), we definitely recommend soaking them to loosen up the debris.

Getting Burnt Food Off of Pots and Pans

If you have burned-on food that won't budge with a simple soak, your strongest weapon is likely sitting right next to your stove! Coat the surface of the pan in table salt, and then top that layer with water. Set it on the stove and bring the solution to boil for 10 minutes. At the end, all residue should disappear with the swipe of a sponge or Swedish Dish Cloth. Ready for the sanitation process of the dishwasher! (Provided your pots and pans are labeled as dishwasher safe.)


Loading Up The Star of the Show

You may think you know how to load a dishwasher, but here are a few tips to make sure your dishwasher can do its best work!

  • Always face dishes inwards towards the center of your machine.
  • Put larger, bulky items like pots and baking sheets on the sides or in the back, paying special attention to the path of the sprayer and the location of your dishwasher’s detergent chamber.
  • Glasses and heat-sensitive plastics should go in the top rack.
  • Avoid water spots by placing glasses between tines, not over them.
  • For super clean utensils, try alternating the way you place silverware into the utensil basket! Place some head-first and others feet-first to avoid accidental nesting during the wash cycle.
  • Add a Dropps Dishwasher Detergent pod to the detergent compartment and run it! Dropps Dishwasher Detergent Pods cut through grease and stuck-on food using natural, mineral-based ingredients, making them perfect for even the dirtiest dishes.

Clean Your Dirty Dishwasher

You can’t expect clean dishes from a dirty dishwasher! That’s right, even your cleaning appliances need some TLC to keep them at their best (and cleanest). We recommend cleaning your dishwasher once a month. Check out this guide for cleaning your dishwasher for the full how-to! If you’ve done a full clean and are still having issues getting it to run properly, check and see if the spray arms are clogged before you call someone to fix it. The spray arm is located at the bottom of the dishwasher and it typically snaps off or can be removed by loosening a screw cap. Use a toothpick to clear the holes and then rinse the spray arm under hot water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have more questions about how to dirty dishes in the dishwasher? We have answers to all your questions about why your dishwasher is not cleaning!

Can you put really dirty dishes in a dishwasher?

Absolutely! While you should scrape or rinse off large chunks of food from your plate before washing, there’s no need to hand wash all of your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. A great perk of using a dishwasher is how much water it saves–so feel free to lean in and let the dishwasher do the work for you!

Why is my dishwasher leaving dirty residue?

There are several factors that could lead to dirty dishes in the dishwasher after running a cycle.

  • Improper loading: Overloading the dishwasher or blocking the spray arms can prevent proper water circulation, leading to residue on the dishes. Ensure that you are following the recommended loading instructions and leaving enough space for water and detergent to reach all the dishes.
  • Ineffective detergent: Using expired or low-quality dishwasher detergent may result in poor cleaning performance and residue on the dishes. Choose a high-quality detergent like Dropps Dishwasher Detergent Pods, which cut through grease and stuck-on food using natural, mineral-based ingredients.
  • A Dirty Dishwasher: For the best clean, you want a clean machine! A clogged or dirty filter can lead to recirculation of dirty water, causing residue on the dishes, while a clogged spray arm could prevent your dishwasher from spraying water effectively. We recommend cleaning your dishwasher once a month to keep your dishes clean and your machine in top working condition.
  • Malfunctioning dishwasher components: If you've checked all the above factors and the issue persists, there may be a problem with the dishwasher's components, such as the pump, motor, or water inlet valve. In such cases, it's best to seek professional help to diagnose and repair the issue.


What to do if the dishwasher is not cleaning dishes?

Why is your dishwasher not cleaning? If you are using a good detergent but still find the dishwasher leaving food residue after washing, there may be a problem with your dishwasher. Check the spray arms to be sure that they are not clogged or obstructed. You may also want to check the dishwasher’s water pressure and clean the filter. Our guide to How To Clean a Dishwasher will help! If your machine is still acting up, it may require inspection or maintenance from a repairperson.