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Dishwasher Still Not Cleaning?

Why do my “clean” dishes still look dirty? Is this dishwasher even working?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions then we’re in the same boat. A few posts ago I discussed how I cleaned our dishwasher and changed from a gel detergent to a powder. It took a few weeks but the dishes started to look amazing. One assumption is that the gel and powder didn’t play nice together. Not to mention there was unidentifiable grime underneath our coarse filter that I couldn’t remove without a grinder (just kidding, please don’t use a grinder on your dishwasher-it won’t work out well in the end).

So I cleaned the dishwasher the best I could and sure enough the grimy film dissipated over several weeks.


This past weekend I bit the bullet and decided to purchase both the center and lower spray arms.

The total cost with tax plus shipping & handling was $36.

The parts that you will need to order for your dishwasher repair:

  • Center Spray Arms
  • Lower Spray Arms
  • (Both of which should be available from
Spray Arms Are Cheap

And since the arms were super easy to remove I decided it was a no-brainer to do this fix myself.

Why would you want to do the same thing?

Well, I noticed that GE (the maker of our 4-year-old dishwasher) redesigned the center spray arm.

Different Spray Arms

They repositioned some of the holes and made them bigger in certain areas. This confirmed my suspicion that the engineering kinda sucked. Sorry for my harsh words but it’s completely frustrating that

  1. A relatively new dishwasher wasn’t cleaning THE DISHES
  2. We didn’t get any notice about the redesign!!

Okay, I admit that I’m being a bit whiny about this whole ordeal. There are worse things happening around the world than dishwasher dismay.

But here’s the lesson, if your dishwasher isn’t performing the way you want it too then maybe check to see if the spray arms are clogging and replace them. You can buy the arms separately and in fact the center assembly was a WHOPPING $8.30.

I bet you any money that your spray arms can be found at All you need is the model number of your dishwasher to find every part you could possibly need. Plus, you can return a part for any reason within 365 days of placing your order-now that’s customer service.

What’s Next

It’s always a good idea to try and clean the dishwasher before replacing the arms. You might just save yourself some money.

If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and need help, join one of our online courses – they’ll make your bathroom renovation much easier!

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.

Thanks as always for reading, watching, and being part of our awesome community.



Dishwashers Not Cleaning

  1. SheilaG @ Plum Doodles says:

    I would have never thought of just replacing the spray arms. I’m pinning this for future reference.

    1. Sheila, I honestly couldn’t believe how affordable it was!! Definitely add a bookmark for Hope you’re having a superbly awesome day 🙂

  2. Cindy Richmond says:

    A few months ago I cleaned the holes in the spray arms even though they didn’t look plugged. I use vinegar in the dishwasher every cycle, with powdered detergent. I turned up the temperature on our water heater. Even after all this, our dishes still don’t come clean! Can there be something in the spray arms that cannot be seen from the outside? I have to completely clean off every dish before putting it in the dishwasher or it, or a residue from it, is still on the dish after the cycle is complete. The dishwasher is only a few years old and it should do a better job than this. I do have extremely hard water and am considering installing a water softener.

    1. Cindy, we have hard water too!! If you switched from gel to powder detergent this could have left a residue under the coarse filter or within the spray arms.

      Once we switched to powder tablets the cleaning got better but occasionally the dishes still had grime on them. It almost looked like sand was on the surface of glasses and dishes. The spray arms are do affair bake that you might want to try replacing them before calling in a repair person. Our old arms just got to the point that try seemed clogged on every cycle.

      This indicates or hints that food particles or old hard water deposits are lodged inside the arms where it’s hard to reach. Home this helps.

      1. Cindy Richmond says:

        I appreciate your personal reply Jeff – how rare is that? !! I’m certainly willing to replace the spray arms to see if that helps since they don’t cost a lot. The holes look clean and it never occurred to me that there may be a problem inside the arm. I notice that the holes look clean in the photo of your old spray arm also – guess all sorts of build-up could be hiding inside. Thanks again for your help. Cindy

        1. Cindy, responding to emails and comments is one of my favorite things to do. So thank you! Our spray arms were mostly clogged on the outer holes. The picture probably doesn’t show this well but it was always the outside holes that got jammed full of debris. Let me know if replacing them helps.

          1. Cindy says:

            Hmm – Well, thanks!! There is no visible clogging or residue in the holes of the spray arms. Maybe a water softener would be the more beneficial route since our water registers 18 on whatever test they use to measure (particles per ??). I know a softener would benefit everything in the house – except drinking water (and my hair which would be too soft but I’d manage). The dishwasher is a 3-4 yr old Maytag and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it ?? What do you think about the softener as opposed to the spray arms? We were considering the softener already. Gosh, I appreciate your unbiased feedback! Cindy

          2. I had the same question Cindy about softening our water. So I called the plumber we use, Charlie, and asked for his feedback. His quick answer was don’t fiddle with water softeners because they’re expensive to maintain and tend to malfunction.

            Unfortunately that doesn’t solve our problems, right?? Back to your dishwasher issues-did you originally use a gel detergent then switch to the powder?

          3. Cindy Richmond says:

            Hi Jeff, I don’t believe I have ever used gel detergent with this dishwasher, although I can’t say 100% positively because I did use it at some point in the past. Would I be able to actually SEE any evidence of that anywhere inside the dishwasher? I guess I can replace the spray arms, just in case that’s where the problem is.
            That’s good to know about water softeners. The problem is all our appliances, pipes, plumbing fixtures, clothes, etc are negatively affected by the build up and corrosion of the hard water. I’m wondering if the expense of the water softener wouldn’t offset all that. But then that’s a dilemma for another time.

          4. Cindy, the evidence would likely be under the coarse filter which is directly below the bottom spray arm. This filter can be propped up a smidge (is that a word?) and if there’s a hard residue under it then that indicates a reaction between the old gel and new powder detergent. At least this is what happened in our case.

            I feel your pain with regard to the hard water deposits. They’ve ruined a set of oil rubbed bronze faucet handheld which are only a few years old. But certainly base your own decision on your personal experiences because a water softener might be a great option for you.

          5. Cindy Richmond says:

            Jeff, I received both of your replies. Sooo … I checked underneath the bottom of the filter area with a flashlight and, unfortunately, I DO see some white crusty buildup! I will need to take apart that whole assembly to clean it, but I think I can probably handle that. In case it won’t ‘clean up’ I guess I will replace it along with the other parts. This is not the most urgent item on my To Do List, but I’m glad to know there is a possible solution. Again, I appreciate all your time and suggestions. Your original post regarding replacing the spray arms was a great tip in itself. Best wishes in your business endeavors! Cindy

          6. Thanks Cindy, let me know how it all works out and if cleaning under the filter helps with the cleaning 😉

    2. Frank Carrera says:

      Never turn up the house water heater, it is a of waste money. The dishwasher has its own heater to get water to the right working temperature, no matter if water getting in is cold, warm, hot or very hot.

      1. Hi Frank,

        Thanks for your tip, always a good idea to conserve on energy when possible.


      2. Cindy says:

        Thanks Frank – I know there is a heater in the dishwasher but I was desperate and trying everything I could that might help. The water heater had been set very low and even after turning it up to Medium it wasn’t scalding. However I just turned it down to the lowest setting. In the summer, especially, there is no need to have it very hot – we live in the Phoenix desert and even our cold water is hot! So now our gas bill will be a little lower. I appreciate the reminder. Cindy

  3. Cindy Richmond says:

    Forgot to say, the inside of the d/w is spotless everywhere that I can see. I use vinegar with each load and never leave ANY food on the dishes, so nothing indicates that there is a build up – nothing that is visible anyway.

    1. This is just a hypothesis but maybe your water is so hard that when it dries on the dishes it leaves behind all the minerals? And maybe this happens inside the spray arms, too?

      I’d replace all the arms and if the problem persists or comes back then look into the more expensive option of a water softener.

  4. Kate says:

    It could also be that your heating element bit the dust. Try using a cleaner designed for diswashers with a wax plug. If the wax doesn’t melt, you should check your heating element. FYI – them puppies are much more expensive than spray arms.

    1. Thanks Kate for that great idea, it sounds like you’ve changed out a heating element and it wasn’t fun!!

      I was curious and looked up the price of our heating element. It cost $49.90. Not too bad but I’m sure there might be mark up by some repair companies.

  5. Laurel says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Great advice here, thanks! I’ve been fiddling with our Maytag Quiet Series 200 (not getting dishes clean in a “dead zone” on the lower right bottom rack. I’ve taken apart and cleaned the machine twice, soaked the spray arms in white vinegar and am now soaking the fine filter (though all of the coffee-like particles aren’t coming out but some did). The spray arms don’t appear to be clogged at all. I did look up the cost to replace, and it’s $70 through (26.75 upper, 37.75 lower plus shipping). I can’t see any difference between the new spray arms and my 3-year-old ones, so will hold off on that fix just now. Looks like the price went up in the last two years!
    Between this latest cleaning (esp of the spray arms), dishwasher magic on the way and a continued use of Powerball detergent (which I’ve always used), I’m crossing my fingers that the dead zone is no longer. May also try citric acid, which was suggested on the forumm.
    If that area still isn’t getting things clean, I’ll spring for the $70 for the new spray arms. Do you have any other suggestions? And is it normal for the fine filter to still have some of those coffee-ground-looking white particles inside? If not, how is it best to get rid of them?

    Thanks again!

  6. Kimberly says:

    same thing with our spray arms! so frustrating I use a pin and pull hard pieces of food out of the last 2 holes after almost every wash. so the top rack outter 2 rows of glasses are dirty every stinkin wash! ugh. I don’t have 30 min every day to mess around w pulling things out of those stupid holes. I am going to replace them and see if the problem goes away. I wish they would put a fine screen inside to block food from going in the holes. my question I have is under the heavy screen theres always a little water in there. is that normal? my husband said it is but I’m curious how to get it out so I can seem if theres some grime in there? 665.13259k113

  7. Thomas Robicheaux says:

    I recently learned that a few dishwashers can have parts that will make another dishwasher better. I took the arms out of one and the plastic turbowash section and made my old one wash like new. I just hope it will keep working.

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