How to Make Your Dishwasher Last Longer
These easy maintenance tips will keep your dishwasher cleaning well for years to come
How long should a dishwasher last? About 10 years, according to most of the 20-plus manufacturers we asked.
CR members tell us they expect the same life span, on average, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 10 trouble-free years. Survey data from our members’ experiences with more than 140,000 dishwashers reveals that about 24.5 percent of all dishwashers either broke or stopped working as well as they should have within 5 years of ownership.
So how can you get through a decade without calling a repair service? Many factors can affect how long your appliance will last—including how you care for your dishwasher.
5. Inspect the spray arms. Every few months, check the holes in the wash arms—spray nozzles—to make sure they’re clean and unobstructed. If you see food debris clogging a spray nozzle, gingerly try to remove it with a toothpick or pipe cleaner. “You want to be gentle and make sure not to deform the hole,” says Larry Ciufo, who runs CR’s dishwasher test lab. “It can affect the spray pattern and how well the dishwasher does its job.”
If you need to remove the spray arms to clean them, the bottom one should lift off its base with a gentle tug. Unscrew the center wash arm from the bottom of the top rack using a Phillips head screwdriver.
6. Rustproof the racks. If the plastic coating wears off, repair it as soon as possible with vinyl paint or replacement tine tips. Otherwise, the racks could corrode and allow small shards of rusty metal to enter the pump, says Chris Zeisler, technical service supervisor at RepairClinic.com. Imagine the pump is the heart of the dishwasher and rust flakes are like plaque buildup, threatening the system with an inevitable clot and full-system shutdown.
7. Don’t overload it. Cramming too much into one load will restrict the water spray patterns and prevent proper cleaning. You’ll have to rewash your dishes, running the machine unnecessarily, which whittles away the life span of the machine. “Mechanical parts wear out the more they are used,” says CR’s Ciufo. “You don’t want to run partial loads either, for the same reason.”
8. Dishes only—don’t wash anything else. You might find videos online that suggest you use the dishwasher to clean car parts. "Bad idea," says Ciufo. "Car parts are greasy, and the dishwasher and detergent aren’t made to handle this kind of grease. It can clog the filter and ruin the pump."
Zeisler says the biggest problem he sees is people washing candlestick holders. The wax embedded into the crevices of the holders ends up destroying the components of your dishwasher.
3 Top-Rated Dishwashers From the Most Reliable Brands
Beyond maintenance, some brands just tend to last longer than others. These dishwashers are made by brands with the best predicted reliability scores, according to data from CR member surveys—and they performed impressively well in our lab tests, too.
How to Wash Your Dishwasher
It’s hard to imagine cleaning a machine that cleans other things, but dishwashers can get smelly from built-up food. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert Sara Morrow explains how to keep these appliances sparkling fresh.