Are your dishwasher pods not dissolving? Top tips for getting your dishwasher working again

Written by David Lewis
6 Min read
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It may be hard to believe, but modern dishwashers are actually more efficient than handwashing! Dishwashers tend to use less water than filling a sink, and feature heaters inside the appliance that warms the water more efficiently than the energy that’s required to heat tap water.

If you’re busy, have a large family, or just love the convenience of being able to pile your dirty dishes into a machine and forget about them until they are sparkly clean, then a dishwasher is probably the most loved appliance in your household.

For the average family eating two to three meals each day at home, the whole process of washing dishes by hand can take between 20 and 40 minutes after each meal, if you have a dishwasher the entire process of loading and unloading it will take approximately 15 minutes. That’s a lot of time saved for busy families.

But occasionally, as with any electrical appliance, things can and do go wrong.  Dishwashers contain a lot of moving parts, heating elements, and electrical programs that can malfunction leaving you with a bit of a headache and a lot of dirty dishes.

One of the most common issues is a dishwasher that doesn’t dissolve the detergent pods properly, leaving soap residue on everything and drawers full of unclean tableware. Here are a few reasons why this might be happening, and what you can do about it.

How do dishwashers work?

Dishwashers are household robots that have been designed to rinse, clean, and dry dirty dishes, pots, and pans. Humans must help these robots by loading the dishes, adding the dishwasher pods, and programming the machine before switching it on – the dishwasher takes care of the rest.

But have you ever wondered what happens when you close the door to your dishwasher? If so, you’re not alone.

Although dishwashers are completely watertight, contrary to popular belief they don’t fill with water. Instead, a small basin will fill with water which will heat the water up to 155 degrees Fahrenheit whilst mixing the detergent. Then a pump sends water up to the spray arms where it shoots out onto the dirty dishes, the force of the water makes the spray arms rotate. This process repeats several times and any food particles that are washed off are caught by a filter.

Once the washing and rinsing process has finished, the water drains back down to the basin where the pump sends the water out of the dishwasher, usually down the pipes that are connected to your sink.

The final step is the drying cycle, and not all dishwashers have this feature. For those that do, the dishwasher will have a heating element at the bottom that heats up, circulating around the cleaned dishes to help them dry.

What are the most common problems with dishwashers?

Some of the most likely problems you will run into with your dishwasher include:

  • Leaking
  • Not starting
  • Not cleaning properly
  • Not draining
  • Not filling with water
  • Dishes not drying
  • Making a loud noise
  • Tripping the electrics
  • Water not heating

And the most common…

  • Dishwasher pods not dissolving!

Five reasons why your dishwasher pods aren’t dissolving, and what to do about it

Low water temperature

The temperature of your dishwasher is fixed to make sure that it’s as efficient and hygienic as it can be. The average dishwasher runs its cycles between 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit which is hot enough to fully dissolve and activate any detergent as well as remove all leftover food – the hotter the water, the better your dishes will be cleaned.

However, if your dishwasher is not reaching these temperatures for any reason, you will notice your dishes aren’t getting clean and will likely be covered in a soapy residue.

The problem may be due to a faulty heating element, a malfunctioning thermostat, or an issue with your water supply. Sometimes you can see that the heating element has been damaged, but you can double-check it with a multimeter if you are unsure.

The detergent dispenser door is blocked

There are several reasons why your dispenser door may be blocked, but the most common is that it has been clogged up with soap scum. You can remove this dried-up detergent by wiping it away with a hot, wet cloth.

If old detergent isn’t the issue, the problem may be due to a broken door spring or hinge pin. If this is the case, you will need to replace the door spring and/or hinge pin.

Faulty spray arms

Dishwasher spray arms can stop working properly in a few different ways – the holes they spray the water out of can get blocked, the tracks they spin on can become jammed, and the supply hose may be misaligned.

The most common reason for malfunctioning spray arms is that the holes have been blocked by limescale because of a hard water issue. This is easy to resolve using a white vinegar solution to unlock the holes. All you need to do is pour white vinegar over the arms and leave for a few minutes to work in, this should melt away any limescale build-up.

If the spray arms are damaged in any way, they will need to be replaced.

Faulty pump

Inside your dishwasher is a circulation pump, a component that helps to distribute the water around the dishwasher. A faulty pump means the water will not circulate and will be unable to fully activate the detergent pod.

Unfortunately, repairing the circulation pump is not a job for the enthusiastic DIYer and should only be attempted by a licensed professional.

Faulty inlet valve

The water inlet valve works by opening up to let the correct amount of hot water in during the dishwashing cycle, it is controlled by a timer or electronic control. If the inlet valve fails for any reason, there won’t be enough water to dissolve the pods fully.

To test the inlet valve on your dishwasher, turn your appliance on and leave it for a few minutes before opening the door to see whether there is any water at the bottom of the machine. If there is no water present, it is highly likely that the inlet valve has malfunctioned.

The inlet valve is located behind the lower kickplate panel in either the right or left-hand corner.  The kickplate will be secured with a couple of screws that should be removed, before taking off the kickplate to reveal the inlet valve.

About dishwasher pods

Dishwasher pods are packed and pre-measured to contain the perfect amount of detergent for a standard dishwasher load. You should only use one pod for each dishwasher load.

Pods are made using a dissolvable, water-soluble film that when dissolved releases the powder and/or gel that cleans your dishes.

Are pods better than powders?

Because pods are pre-measured with a scientifically proven amount of detergent to clean your dishes, pods tend to be the best option for your dishwashing needs. Most pods contain powder and liquid detergent which enables you to skip the pre-wash cycle.

However, pods can work out more expensive than powders or gels, so if you’re keeping a close eye on your household budget then they may not be the best option for you.

Final thoughts

Dishwashers are the unsung heroes of the kitchen and can save us hours of cleaning time each and every week. However, they can be prone to problems that make life a little more difficult for families or anyone with a busy lifestyle – after all, who wants to have to pull on a pair of rubber gloves and immerse their hands in a sink full of dirty dishes unless they really have to?

Problems like dishwasher pods not dissolving can be irritating, and whilst you may think you’re either going to have to invest in a new dishwasher or pay out for expensive repairs, in actual fact you may be able to investigate and resolve any issues yourself with the help of this guide and a little bit of confidence.

FAQs

Can you just throw a pod in the dishwasher?

Dishwasher pods or tablets must always be placed into the dispenser compartment to ensure it is released at the optimum time to ensure the liquid and/or powder can be activated by the hot water to clean the dirty dishes.  If you just throw it into the dishwasher, it will dissolve before the cycle even begins.

Can I use two dishwasher pods?

No matter how dirty your plates are, you should only ever use one dishwasher pod in your machine per cycle. Each pod has been pre-measured with exactly the right amount of powder and/or liquid for a standard dishwasher and adding more will not make the dishes any cleaner.  Avoid overloading your dishwasher.

Do you unwrap dishwasher tablets?

There are a multitude of different dishwasher tablets and pods available, and you should check the manufacturer’s instructions to see whether the ones you have purchased need to be unwrapped.  In most cases, you will not need to unwrap the tablet as it is encased in a synthetic polymer that will dissolve when introduced to water.

Why is the dishwasher soap pod not dissolving?

There are several reasons your dishwasher soap pod is not dissolving, including:
·       A low water temperature
·       Dispenser door blocked or not opening for some reason
·       Faulty spray arms
·       Faulty circulation pump
·       Faulty inlet valve

Appliances made simple. 

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