Try assessing the problem yourself before calling in a professional.

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If your dinnerware isn't coming out of the dishwasher as clean as it once did, you likely already know that your appliance isn't performing optimally. This isn't the only indicator that indicates that a machine is malfunctioning or experiencing another issue, though, which is why we checked in with an expert on monitoring your dishwasher for signs of distress. Ahead, how to identify, assess, and potentially fix the problem on your own.

open dishwasher clean dishes
Credit: Daniil Dubov / Getty Images

You will know if there's a problem.

Beyond seeing chunks of leftover food or debris on your dishes, Laura Johnson, an R&D expert at the LG Electronics Home Appliances Lab, says there a few other symptoms to watch for. A pool of water on the base of the cabin, cold dishes post-wash cycle (if you open the door immediately after a cycle ends, internal items should be hot to the touch!), cloudy glassware, and little flecks of food ("This is called redeposit," she says) all indicate that your dishwasher isn't working as well as it should and that some light maintenance is needed.

Try cleaning the filter.

Start the troubleshooting process, explains Johnson, by cleaning the filter, which should be done every 30 days. "If you use your dishwasher less frequently, cleaning the filter every three months is recommended," she notes. She also recommends removing the spray arms and washing them with hot, soapy water while you clean the filter; you can also run an empty cycle with an accepted cleaner (or a cleaning cycle, if your machine has one) to keep the cabin smelling fresh. Before you perform any maintenance, however, "refer to the appliance's use and care guide," Johnson says.

The problem isn't necessarily your machine.

Your machine isn't always the root cause of your issues. Ensure you are not loading the appliance by "nesting" dishes together; it also shouldn't be so jam-packed that items fall on top of one another, blocking the water from reaching every surface evenly, says Johnson. And keep the area near your detergent dispenser clear—a too-full machine could prevent it from fully opening and releasing the cleaning fluid.

Switch up your detergent.

Your dishwasher might simply need an internal boost to cleanse items more effectively. "If hard water is an issue in your area, a low rinse aid or detergent booster, like LemiShine ($6.99, target.com), can help combat hard water spots and residue," she says, noting this is likely the issue if you are seeing spots on your glassware.

When in doubt, call a professional.

Of course, not every issue can be fixed with a self-inspection, which is why Johnson advises calling in the professionals if your troubleshooting methods aren't fruitful. "If the dishwasher is experiencing start-up issues, fails to complete a cycle, or displays an error code, call an authorized service technician to inspect the dishwasher," she says. "They will be able to diagnose the condition and restore the appliance to optimal running conditions."

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