It can be quite frustrating to open your dishwasher expecting clean dishes, but instead, you are met with dishes that are merely wet and a soap dispenser with soap still inside it.
This usually happens when something is preventing your soap cup from emptying completely. A common cause is something blocking your soap cup or your dishwasher spray arms not working properly. There could also be a less common cause of this such as running the incorrect water temperature.
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The Dishwasher Cycle
In a properly working dishwasher, there are a series of steps it goes through in order to clean your dishes.
The simplified version is that the rotating spray arms will wet the dishes and the soap dispenser will open, sometimes right away, sometimes at a certain point in the cycle. The water will spray and dissolve the detergent which will then get on your dishes.
Afterwards, there will be a final rinse cycle with just water and then the dry cycle.
Causes (and Fixes) of Soap Remaining in The Soap Cup
If your dishwasher isn’t working properly, and you notice there is soap still in the dishwasher after the cycle, there are a few things you can check to prevent it from happening again.
Dishes Blocking the Water
An overloaded dishwasher will prevent dishes from getting clean. Too many dishes will also prevent water from reaching your soap cup thus leaving the soap behind, even if the hinge is open.
Avoid overcrowding any dishes or utensils directly above or below the spray arms. Rearrange all of your dishes and attempt to make them as vertical as possible. Put large pieces of dishware towards the sides of the racks instead of in the middle.
Also, make sure there is nothing poking out from the racks that prevent your soap hinge from opening completely. If it only opens halfway, the soap cup will not empty properly.
Malfunctioning, Blocked or Clogged Spray Arm
The spray arms need to be able to rotate freely in order to work. Make sure nothing has fallen down to the bottom of the dishwasher, such as a fork or a spatula.
If everything is clear, you can check to see if your arms are simply not rotating on their own. To do this, simply take a piece of tape or a rubber band and put it on one of the arms. Run the dishwasher for 2 or 3 minutes and then observe if it has moved.
If it has moved, then it most likely was blocked or is just clogged and needs to be cleaned. If it has not moved, you may need to contact your manufacturer for a replacement arm.
Unclog the small holes in your spray arm with a toothpick and make sure you check the food trap on the bottom while you’re at it.
Incorrect Water Temperature
Hot water not only helps dissolve the soap properly but also helps to sterilize dishes. You want to be sure the water running inside the dishwasher is at the correct temperature.
Some dishwashers have a specific setting for increasing the water temperature, while others simply run using the hottest water that runs to your taps. Fill a bowl up with the hottest water you can get from your taps and check the temperature. It should be between 115-140 F (46 – 60 C).
You can attempt to increase the water temperature by raising the settings on your water heater or changing the settings on your dishwasher (if your brand of dishwasher allows it).
If the water temperature seems to be correct, you may have a malfunctioning temperature sensor which, unfortunately, will need to be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
One Last Tip
If you’ve found yourself in the position of having to replace a part in your dishwasher, you can still use it while you wait.
Simply tuck a small dishwasher pod directly on the rack for a quick fix.
The modern-day convenience of a dishwasher can be canceled out by the inconvenience of it not working the way it should. Having soap left over in the soap cup means that your dishes aren’t getting cleaned properly.
Fortunately, the fix can be quite simple and you can have a properly functioning dishwasher again in no time.