The dishes in your countertop dishwasher came out dirtier than they were when they went in. But before you give up and go back to handwashing, take a look at 6 reasons why this happens and what you can do to solve it.

Here’s why your countertop dishwasher isn’t cleaning properly

  1. There are too many dishes inside
  2. The filter needs cleaning
  3. The spray arm needs cleaning
  4. You haven’t used the right amount of rinse aid
  5. You haven’t set the right wash temperature
  6. The salt reservoir cap isn’t closed properly

Your countertop dishwasher might fail to clean properly for a few reasons. To fix this problem, make sure you read what’s coming next.

Why Your Countertop Dishwasher Isn’t Cleaning Properly

Your countertop dishwasher has just finished a load. But when you pull the tray out you see that only a few dishes look clean. The majority look like the water didn’t even touch them. And a handful look even dirtier than they were before they went in. What’s worse, this is the second time you’ve put them on to wash.

Before you put the dishwasher in storage and go back to washing by hand there’s something you can do. Coming up, you’ll see 6 ways of fixing a countertop dishwasher that won’t clean properly. Stay tuned.

There Are Too Many Dishes Inside

Countertop dishwashers usually only have 1 cleaning arm. This means that the water and soap spout out of only one place in the dishwasher. If there are too many dishes in the dishwasher, the soap and water may not be able to reach all of them.

So how should you stack your dishwasher? Here are a couple of tips that will make sure your dishes are as clean as a whistle every time.

  • Make sure that you do not stack the dishes on top of one another
  • Keep gaps between the plates and only clean what the dishwasher can comfortably hold
  • If your dishes are particularly dirty, scrape them. You could also give them a quick rinse to help them wash better.
Small dishwasher overloaded
Do not overfill the dishwasher

The Filter Needs Cleaning

Your countertop dishwasher is not washing your plates clean. In fact, they keep coming out with bits of food on them. This could be because the dishwasher’s filter needs cleaning. If the filter is blocked, food particles will get in the way of the spray arms. This will make the water dirty as it sprays onto your dishes. Not good.

So how can you solve this problem? Take a look at the following instructions that will help.

  1. Turn the dishwasher off
  2. Remove the dishwasher tray
  3. Unscrew the filter and remove it from the dishwasher
  4. Rinse the filter under cold water. If necessary, remove any stubborn debris from it using a cleaning brush.
  5. Screw the filter back into place
  6. Return the dishwasher tray to its place
  7. Turn the dishwasher back on
cleaning filter
Run the dishwasher under cold water to clean it

The Spray Arm Needs Cleaning

Another reason why your dishwasher isn’t cleaning properly could be to do with the spray arm. If the spray arm’s jets are clogged with food particles, these will launch onto the dishes during a cycle.

So, let’s get fixing this problem. Here are all the instructions you will need.

  1. Turn the dishwasher off
  2. Remove the dishwasher tray
  3. Use a pointed object such as a cocktail stick to loosen and fish out food debris stuck in the spray arm jets
  4. Return the dishwasher tray to its place
  5. Turn the dishwasher back on

You Haven’t Used the Right Amount of Rinse Aid

Do you see any of the following on your dishes after they have finished washing?

  • Smearing
  • A cloudy residue
  • A greasy film

Having to rewash your dishes is a pain. So, let’s get to the bottom of this problem. If your dishes appear smeary, cloudy, or greasy, you need to check how much rinse aid is in your dishwasher.

Certain problems indicate that there is too much rinse aid in your dishwasher as too much would make the dishes dirty. Others indicate that there is too little rinse aid in the dishwasher as it ensures that the water does not leave marks on the dishes while they dry.

Before we get into all that, let’s run through how to fill your tabletop dishwasher with rinse aid. Here’s what you should do.

  1. Remove the dishwasher tray
  2. Open the rinse aid reservoir by turning the cap
  3. Add the rinse aid as your countertop dishwasher indicates
  4. Wipe up any spills
  5. Tighten the cap on the reservoir
  6. Return the dishwasher tray to its place

Adding rinse aid is a delicate balance. It is all too easy to use too much or too little. Going in either direction can have disastrous results on your cookware. The following information will help you decide what you should do and how much to use.

Problem Cause Solution
There is smearing on the dishesYou have used too much rinse aidRemove some of the rinse aid or adjust the dial to a lower setting
There is a white residue, clouding, or a greasy film on the dishesYou have not used enough rinse aidAdd more rinse aid to the reservoir or adjust the dial to a higher setting. If this doesn’t help, change to a different brand of rinse aid then try again.
The rinse aid is not being used upYou have used the wrong type of rinse aid. Some countertop dishwashers only accept liquid rinse aid.Check the type of rinse aid suitable for your tabletop dishwasher
opening rinse aid compartment
Use the right amount of rinse aid

You Haven’t Set the Right Wash Temperature

Does your countertop dishwasher clean most of your dishes but struggle with stains? Does it leave lipstick on your mugs? Do your coffee cups and teaspoons remain brown after washing? Then that might be because you have not set your dishwasher to the right temperature.

Here are a couple of tips that should help you if your dishwasher struggles to remove stains.

  • Increase the wash temperature. Cool washes may be more economic. But, if you are washing plates with stains, they may only come out when washed in higher temperatures.
  • Pre-rinse your mugs and teaspoons. You might need to rinse your dishes before you put them to wash.
  • Remove stains with a napkin. Wipe away lipstick stains from your mugs before washing them. Then put them on your regular wash cycle.
rinsing dishes
Rinse the stains off of your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher

The Salt Reservoir Cap Isn’t Closed Properly

Do you find that your dishes come out with a murky white film on them? Then your salt reservoir cap could be to blame. This is a simple problem to fix. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Remove the dishwasher tray
  2. Ensure that the salt reservoir cap has been screwed on properly
  3. Return the dishwasher tray to its place
salt reservroir
Close the cap on the salt reservoir

What to Do if You Still Can’t Get Your Dishes Clean

Ok, so you’ve been through every step in this article but still cannot get your dishes clean. If you feel like you’ve lucked out with your countertop dishwasher, try the following.

  • Check that the dishwasher is still under warranty. If it is, you should be able to get a technician to come and look at it or replace it for no additional charge.
  • If the dishwasher is no longer under warranty, call a professional. If you have gone through all the steps in this article but not had any joy, you should call for outside help. A professional should be able to locate the problem and point you in the right direction.


A countertop dishwasher that doesn’t wash your dishes clean is wasting time and energy – and not just the dishwashers! That’s why I am sure the 6 tips in this article have helped you to see what to do so it washes clean. And if necessary, it has no doubt indicated the right time to call for outside help.

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Have a great day!