Top Rack Of The Dishwasher Not Getting Clean? (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

The top rack of your dishwasher is meant to clean and handle delicate dishes and glasses, keeping them safe while still giving them a pristine finish. Unfortunately, if your top rack in the dishwasher is not getting clean, you could be left with dirty dishes, even after running a complete cycle. Luckily, fixing a dishwasher that doesn’t appear to be working is a straightforward process.

If your dishwasher is not cleaning the top rack, the problem is usually related to the spray arms responsible for shooting fresh water to the top rack. The spray arms could be broken, clogged, or blocked. Additional issues with the dishwasher not cleaning the top rack may be related to a clogged filter, broken circulation pump, or malfunctioning water inlet valve.

Most of the repairs necessary for a broken dishwasher can be completed at home by a savvy homeowner. Routine maintenance, like regularly cleaning your filter and soaking your spray arms, will help prevent ongoing problems with the top rack not being fully cleaned. More frequent maintenance may be required in areas with hard water because calcium deposits can block and clog the necessary spray holes in the spray arms.

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Broken Spray Arm Seal

The top rack of the dishwasher is mostly reached by the spray arm, which pushes water to the upper parts of the dishwasher. There is a seal within the spray arm that helps maintain pressure, ensuring water shoots to the top rack. If that seal is damaged, you may not be getting enough water pressure to power the spray arm fully.

How Can I Fix a Broken Spray Arm Seal?

Luckily, repairing a broken spray arm seal is easy with just a few basic steps. To replace a broken spray arm seal, you’ll need to:

Step 1: Remove Upper Rack

To remove the upper rack from your dishwasher, you’ll want first to remove the stop clips that help keep the rack in position. They will be visible on the ends of the rolling rack. Once the clips are removed, the top rack should be easy to slide out.

Step 2: Remove the Spray Arm

Usually, the spray arm will be connected to the underside of the top rack. Flip the rack over and remove the screws holding the spray arm in place. Lift the tube away from the center support to separate the spray arm from the rack.

Step 3: Check and Replace Seal

Now you will be able to see the seal that attaches to the spray arm fully. Visually inspect the seal and look for any damage. You may need to clean the seal or reseat the seal simply. If necessary, replace the seal with a new one.

Step 4: Reassemble

Reassemble your spray arm and upper rack. Be sure to put the stop clips back into place to prevent your upper rack from inadvertently rolling completely out of the dishwasher.

What If I Have a Clogged Spray Arm?

If your top rack dishes are dirty, even after running the dishwasher through a full cycle, your spray arm may be clogged. The spray arm has several small holes that shoot water, which help to clean your dishes. If the holes become clogged, water cannot penetrate the top rack. To unclog your spray arm, you’ll need to:

Step 1: Remove the Arm

With the dishwasher off, you’ll want to remove the spray arm. Most dishwasher models involve removing the top rack and unscrewing the spray arms from the center mechanism.

Step 2: Clean Holes

Visually inspect the spray arms for any noticeable food particles or calcium deposits blocking the holes. Use a thin piece of wire or a toothpick to remove the debris.

Step 3: Soak the Arms

Once visible debris is removed, you’ll want to soak the spray arm to remove any additional food that you cannot remove. White vinegar poured into a baking sheet will work wonders. Allow the spray arm to soak for 15 minutes, then flip the spray arm to soak the other side.

Step 4: Reassemble

Once the spray arm has soaked on each side, reassemble the spray arm and put the top rack back into place.

What About Low Pressure?

Sometimes low pressure can cause your top rack not to be fully cleaned. When the water pressure is too low, there is insufficient power to project the water to the spray arms and onto the top rack. Low water pressure may be caused by several reasons, including:

  • Overuse – If you have multiple appliances running simultaneously, like running the dishwasher and washing machine together, your plumbing may not be able to handle the excess water load, reducing pressure.
  • Hose Kink – Low water pressure may result from a kinked hose leading to the dishwasher. This problem is common because the hose can become bunched up underneath or between cabinets as you push the dishwasher into place. Removing the king may restore water pressure.
  • Clog – A clog in the filter compartment may cause low pressure. When food is clogged at the filter, water cannot get into the circulation pump to allow it to cycle through the dishwasher.

How Can I Clean the Filter Compartment?

The filter compartment is responsible for catching food debris that washes off your dishes, but sometimes this can become clogged, preventing appropriate water pressure from reaching the spray arms. To clean your clogged filter compartment, you’ll need to:

Step 1: Remove Compartment

You’ll want to remove the lower dish rack to gain access to the filter compartment. Look for a cylindrical projection on the base of the unit. You’ll have to turn the top to unlock the compartment. Once unlocked, you should be able to remove the filter gently.

Step 2: Clean Filter

The best way to clean the filter is with warm and soapy water, continually running fresh water through the filter. Examine the filter to ensure all food particles have been eliminated.

Step 3: Reinstall

Once the filter is cleaned, simply place the filter back into the compartment, and turn to lock the compartment in place. Restore the lower rack of the dishwasher and proceed with loading your dishes and starting your next cycle.

What if My Inlet Valve Is Broken?

The inlet valve is an important component of your dishwasher that allows water to flow into the tub. If the valve is not functioning correctly, it could limit the amount of water in the dishwasher, reducing the interior water pressure. When there is not enough pressure or water in the dishwasher, water cannot reach the spray arms at the top rack, leaving your dishes dirty.

The water inlet valve is a small valve that is usually found near the bottom of the dishwasher. Luckily, if the valve is malfunctioning, this is an easy component to replace. You’ll simply need to unscrew the existing valve and replace the valve with a functional, compatible part. Always be sure to turn off power to the dishwasher before attempting to repair or replace components.

Could I Be Loading My Dishwasher Wrong?

Sometimes, when your dishwasher’s top rack isn’t getting clean, it may be because you are loading the dishwasher incorrectly. If a tall item placed on the lower rack blocks the spray from reaching the upper rack, it may prevent the upper rack from becoming clean. Always be sure that the spray tower, located at the bottom of the dishwasher, is free of any large or bulky pans, plates, or dishes.

If one large dish or pan is not blocking the spray tower, you may have an issue with an overloaded dishwasher. Having too many dishes crammed into the appliance can prevent water from spraying properly and reaching the top rack. Plus, too many dishes can prevent the detergent from fully cycling through the dishwasher, cleaning everything on the top rack.

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Related Questions

Is a third rack in the dishwasher worth it?

Some high-end dishwashers will make an optional third rack, placed above the second rack, that can help increase the usable space in your dishwasher. These third racks often come at a higher price point and are considered a luxury feature. Although more costly, many people find the third rack worth it. Not only can you fit more into the dishwasher with a single load, but you’ll be able to wash awkward or hard-to-place items in the dishwasher with the option to lay them flat on the rack.

Can you run bleach through a dishwasher to clean it?

It makes sense to want a clean and sanctuary dishwasher to clean your dishes inside. Sometimes, hard water can create an unsightly interior for your dishwasher, or food particles can start to make your dishwasher smell. A good practice to clean your dishwasher is by using bleach. You’ll want to pour about one cup of bleach into a bowl and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run the dishwasher through a complete cycle to clean.Remember, never use bleach, baking soda, and vinegar simultaneously on the same cycle.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

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