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12 Apr 2022

6 ways to make your dishwasher last longer

Poor cleaning and clogged pipes are common problems with dishwashers, so how do you avoid them and a bill for a repair or replacement?

One in 10 dishwashers need a repair or are thrown out because of a fault in the first seven years, according to our survey of 7,702 dishwasher owners in September 2021.

Ideally your dishwasher should last at least a decade with no stress. Not only is this easier on your wallet, but it also helps the planet through less electronic waste and less production.

It's not just up to chance - some brands are simply more reliable than others. Our survey found that 30% of dishwashers from the least reliable brand had to be repaired or replaced within seven years, compared with just 4% from the most reliable brand.

Some problems are unavoidable and random, but many are preventable with the right habits and know-how.

Read on for our top six tips on how to keep a dishwasher going, or visit our guide on the best dishwasher brands to find out which to avoid.

1. Keep it clean...

Many dishwasher problems are simply cleaning problems that have been left too long and have built up over time.

Gunk can clog the filter and spray arms over time, which can lead to poor cleaning or even stop the dishwasher from draining.

As a hot and humid environment, the dishwasher can also harbour bacteria and mould, particularly in the door seals which don't get the regular cleaning the insides do.

To keep your dishwasher in top shape and help it last a long time, follow our simple dishwasher cleaning routine:

  • Each week - clean the dishwasher filter
  • Each week - wipe door seals
  • Every 6 months - check and clean spray arms
  • Every 6 months - Run a hot wash with the dishwasher empty (optional extra: add dishwasher cleaner)

This last point is especially important as more of us are opting for lower eco washes that only go up to 50°C.

Read our full guide on how to clean a dishwasher for a complete rundown of cleaning tips and a step-by-step video.

2. ... But avoid using vinegar

When running a hot wash through your dishwasher, many sources online recommend using vinegar for its limescale-busting powers.

However, many dishwasher manufacturers urge you to avoid vinegar as the strong acidity could cause the plastic and rubber parts to deteriorate, with rubber seals being particularly susceptible.

So while vinegar can be useful for some cleaning tasks, there are some items it can damage. Find out more in eight things you really shouldn't clean with vinegar.

Instead we recommend using a purpose-built dishwasher cleaner or, failing that, a dishwasher tablet. Both will help to flush through residual gunk and limescale build-up in a hot empty wash.

While you're at it, you may as well clean the fridge, too. Read our full fridge cleaning guide for our tips and a step-by-step video.

3. Clean up any broken glasses

Accidents happen and glasses break. But if one breaks in your dishwasher, be careful to clean it up before running the dishwasher again.

The dishwasher can't wash away the broken glass itself - shards can work their way through the filter and into the drain pump, causing permanent damage.

If it goes further inside the dishwasher, it could also cause a tear in the drain hose, leading to a water leak.

Many dishwashers come with a lower temperature delicate or glassware wash designed to be gentler on fine glasses such as wine glasses, gin globes and champagne flutes.

4. Keep the salt topped up

It's not immediately obvious what dishwasher salt is for, so it's easy to forget to fill it up regularly.

Dishwasher salt helps to refill and restore the internal water softener, turning your natural hard water into appliance-friendly soft water.

It also helps the dishwasher detergent to work better, so refilling it could also save you from dirty dishes.

Many people rely on all-in-one tablets that are claimed to save you from this extra chore, but we recommend you still top up the salt, as tablets won't have enough.

If you live in a soft-water area, you won't suffer as much, but still top up the salt every few months as a failsafe.

Find out more on what dishwasher salt is and why you need to use it in our guide: dishwasher salt and rinse aid explained

5. Look for spares

A broken basket wheel or spray arm need not be a disaster for your dishwasher.

The new 'right to repair' rules came into place in June 2021, requiring manufacturers to supply a number of spare parts two years after the appliance goes on sale, and between seven and 10 years after it's discontinued.

These new rules only cover dishwashers, washing machines, washer-dryers, refrigeration and TVs.

For dishwashers a number of commonly replaced parts such as door seals, drain filters, baskets and racks are available to everyone for a minimum of 10 years.

There are also several parts exclusively available to professional repairers for a minimum of seven years, including the drain pump, motor, printed circuit boards (PCBs) and internal piping.

Find out more by reading our article on what the new 'right to repair' laws mean for you.

6. Repair before you replace

A broken dishwasher is an inconvenience, but not as urgent a problem as a faulty washing machine or fridge.

As such, you have more time to make a decision on whether to repair or replace.

The good news is that you can fix many of the most common faults yourself at little to no cost. Read our dishwasher troubleshooting guide for more help.

Most faults that you can't sort yourself can be fixed by a professional for much less than the cost of a new machine.

To find a repairer, use Which? Trusted Traders - tradespeople who have been assessed and checked by Which? trading standards professionals.

You can also read our guide to domestic appliance repairs to find out the average costs for a range of jobs, as quoted by Which? Trusted Traders from their years of experience.

If the problem is unfixable and you're considering buying a new dishwasher, we've tested Best Buy dishwashers that cost less than £350.