Dishwasher Soap Dispenser Isn't Opening? (We Have A Fix)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Nothing helps clean dirty dishes like a good helping of Jet or Palmolive. If you have a dishwasher, you already know this and probably are thrilled to pour that dish soap into the dispenser right before cleaning another load of dishes. However, once in a while, you will have a dishwasher soap dispenser that just won’t open. What’s the deal here?

Surprisingly, there are really only three common reasons why your dishwasher’s soap dispenser won’t open up. The first reason is that you might have an extra dish or two that’s blocking the soap dispenser’s door, thereby making it impossible to open up. You also may have a blocked dispenser due to soap buildup or a bad soap dispenser.

If you want to have seriously clean dishes, getting some soap on them is an absolute must. That’s why fixing this problem is fairly important. Thankfully, we have all the answers that you need.

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How Common Is This Problem?

Believe it or not, a malfunctioning soap dispenser is one of the most common problems a dishwasher can have. It might even be the most common problem. Even newer models that were recently installed can have this glitch happen, depending on the circumstances.

Common as it is, it’s rarely a reason to be worried. Most of the time when you’re dealing with this, it’s just a loading issue or a sign that you need to clean your dishwasher a little better.

Troubleshooting Your Dishwasher’s Soap Dispenser

Worrying about your soap dispenser won’t do much, but troubleshooting it absolutely will. Here’s how you can figure out what the problem is and what you can do to fix it:

  • Before anything else, check to see if you have too many items in your dishwasher or tall cookie sheets near the door. If you overload your dishwasher, remove a couple of the taller items blocking the door and wash them by hand. Turn on your washer, and you should be able to see an improvement or a complete fix.
  • If nothing is blocking the soap dispenser, open up the dispenser manually and check to see if you have buildup. Dried, caked-on detergent can easily block the dispenser’s mechanism, making it impossible for the door to open. Fixing this is actually pretty simple. Just grab a wet sponge and scrape away the buildup. Let the dispenser area dry, and then try your washer again.
  • If you haven’t been able to get the soap dispenser to open after this, you probably have a bad dispenser. Now, this issue alone has a bunch of different issues, each of which may need to be addressed in and of itself.

How To Diagnose A Broken Soap Dispenser

Let’s say that you’ve ruled out that extra-large cookie sheet and an excess buildup of detergent. Great…Well, not really. That usually means your soap dispenser is busted. But, what part of it is busted? This is a mini-diagnostic you’re going to need to run in order to determine what part you need to replace. Here’s how to do it:

  • Check the latch of your soap dispenser. Does the latch close, or does it remain open? If it seems like the latch won’t open, check to see if there’s any food in there that could impede movement. Otherwise, you might need to replace the latch.
  • Check to see if the spring is working. The spring is meant to help your dispenser pop open, and if it’s warped, it won’t be able to do that. If you notice corrosion or warping, this is what you need to replace. Fix those springs!
  • Take a look at the actual soap dispenser door. Over time, your dispenser door may warp due to the constant exposure of heat. A warped door will not open the way it should, and this suggests that you may need to replace the whole dispenser.
  • Poke around the rubber ring around the soap dispenser. This is called the dispenser gasket, and it’s meant to keep the area watertight. If it’s cracked or loose, your dispenser may not be able to open properly, and even if it does, your washer may signal that your dispenser should remain closed. Gaskets often need to be replaced, simply because rubber tends to wear out easily.

Generally speaking, if you want to fix the soap dispenser, you probably should consider replacing the entire dispenser. It’s not that different from fixing a sprayer arm or any other piece.

Is There Anything Else That Could Cause A Soap Dispenser To Jam?

Though it’s rare, there are some other issues that could cause your soap dispenser to jam if the stars align correctly.

A Bad Wax Motor

If you’ve been noticing issues with your dishwasher’s timing, what you might have isn’t a dispenser problem, but rather, a wax motor problem. Wax motors are what trigger the dispenser to release soap at the right time as well as a bunch of other functions. Unfortunately, this is usually best left to the pros.

You may need to test and replace yours if you’ve noticed other issues with your dishwasher. However, it’s better to get a full diagnostic from a pro before you splurge on this since this repair can get very pricey.

A Loose Rinse Aid Cap

Does your dishwasher have a rinse aid hatch? If so, you might want to check the cap on it. Most washers that have a rinse aid hatch also have a mechanism that tells your washer to avoid dispensing soap if the rinse aid cap is off.

If you notice that your rinse aid cap is loose, your dishwasher is probably being signaled to keep the soap in the dispenser. Tighten it if you can; most will click when they’re correctly screwed on. If your cap isn’t tightening the way it should, you might need to replace it. Thankfully, most are pretty cheap and you can literally just pop it on yourself without a call to a repairman.

When Should You Call A Repairman?

For the most part, stuck dishwasher soap dispensers are not something you need a repairman to fix. I mean, one of the fixes is literally just taking a cookie sheet out of your washer! However, there are certain points where calling a repairman is the smarter move. If you have a dish soap dispenser that’s busted and you don’t want to replace it yourself, this is a good time to call a repairman.

On a similar note, most people will agree that a wax motor that’s gone off-kilter should not be something you try to fix on your own. It’s just too complicated and can be more of a headache than you’re willing to deal with. Besides, if your wax motor went bad, there’s a good chance it might be time to replace your dishwasher altogether.

How Much Will Repairing A Dishwasher Soap Dispenser Cost?

Assuming that you don’t have a “free fix” like cleaning your dispenser or twisting a rinse aid cap tight, you might have to pay a small sum of money. A new rinse aid cap, for example, will cost around $5 to $10 depending on the brand and the dishwasher model. A full dishwasher soap dispensing unit will cost around $30 to $70, depending on what model you need. That’s for parts alone.

If you decide to get a professional to fix your dishwasher’s soap dispenser, things become fairly pricey. You have to remember that the average dishwasher repair costs $260. Though most of these repairs will be far below that price tag, it’s still something that you need to be aware of. You may end up having to pay hundreds for a wax motor or a water inlet valve repair, for example.

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Related Questions

Can you just throw a pod in your dishwasher?

While you can do this without too much of an issue, the better option would be to place the detergent pod in the dispenser and close the dispenser. This will give you a timed-release that is optimized and will clean your dishes most efficiently. If you really want to get those dishes spotless, add some rinse aid to the rinse aid dispenser, too.

Why didn’t my dishwasher detergent pods dissolve?

A common reason for buildup in dishwasher dispensers deals with detergent pods that didn’t completely dissolve. This often occurs because your dishwasher didn’t reach the temperature necessary for the pods to dissolve. Most, if not all, major pod brands will dissolve at 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.To prevent this from happening in the future (or if you need to clear out your dispenser), make sure to turn the dishwasher’s heat on high.

What happens if you don’t put salt in your dishwasher?

Putting a little salt on an empty run is done to reduce hard water buildup. While you don’t need to do this often, you do need to do it occasionally if you have hard water. Otherwise, you will end up having hard water clogs on your sprayer arms, inlet valves, and other parts.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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