Living Smart: 4 tips to keep your dishwasher from breaking

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dishwashers are prone to breaking down and even conking out if not maintained correctly. Here are four ways appliance technicians say you can prevent premature dishwasher repairs. 

1. Don’t Overload

Do you ever end up with too many dishes in the sink? Instead of stuffing them all in at the same time, break the dishes up into two loads instead of one. Overloading prevents dishes from getting fully cleaned and may cause you to rinse the same dishes twice, causing additional wear on the unit, says Dave Cardozo, owner of Dave’s Appliance Repair in Dumont, N.J.

"Sometimes it can make the dishwasher leak," Cardozo says. "It diverts water to the tank bottom, which can splash out under the door."

2. Power Surge Protection

Some power surges are strong enough to severely damage or kill your dishwasher, as well as other electrical items and appliances. A power surge is caused during a spike in your home’s electrical current.

Cardozo says buying a surge protector can go a long way to saving your dishwasher. Another option is to invest in whole-house surge protection, which typically costs less than $1,000.

"It’s money well spent," Cardozo says.

3. Scrape Food Off Dishes

Appliance technicians say you should at least scrape the food off plates and dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.

"The worst thing you can do to a dishwasher is not scraping off your plate," Cardozo says. "Food gets into washer arms and pump screens."

How far you need to clean after that, though, is debatable. Although most dishwasher manufacturers say a complete rinse is not required, some appliance technicians say the more food and particles you get off the plate, the less likely the machine will break down.

But Alan Johnson, owner of E & J Appliance Service in Tempe, Ariz., says there is a fine line between rinsing too little or too much.

"If you wash your dishes off completely before putting them in the dishwasher, the detergent has nothing to attach itself to, so it ends up on the walls, racks and spray arms," Johnson says. "This can cause cloudy glasses and film left on plates."

Leaving too much food can damage the pump/motor assembly or drain pump, he says.

"We recommend you rinse your dishes, but not wash them completely," Johnson says.

4. Use Appropriate Amount of Dishwasher Soap

Johnson says many people put in far too much dishwasher soap.

"This will cause buildup in the machine and affect the performance of washing dishes and put a strain on things like the pump/motor assembly and spray arm," he says.

Another common problem to avoid is placing liquid dish soap in the dishwasher when you run out of dishwasher detergent.

"It basically suds up the entire inside of the dishwasher and causes the unit to leak suds out the door," Johnson says.

This could potentially lead to soap buildup inside the dishwasher and damage certain components.

Johnson says placing a full cap of vegetable oil into the dishwasher and running it usually clears up the soap.

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