How Do Dishwashers Work, Anyways?

Many of us who use our dishwashers don’t know the exact mechanics behind this appliance. Dirty dishes go in, and clean dishes come out. The only other thing we know is that it certainly beats cleaning up after big dinners by hand. Today, however, we’d like to delve a little deeper into this time saving machine and get to know the process that allows us to avoid water logged fingers. It’s always a good idea to know how it works, in case you ever experience an issue with your dishwasher.

Your dishwasher relies on pressurized jets of cool and hot water to clean the dishes in its cabinet. The average cycle starts when cold water is drawn in by a hose connected to your water supply. This water is directed through a valve at the back of machine, and it fills the bottom of the machine to a shallow level. At the bottom there’s also a coiled heating element that raises the temperature of the sitting water. Nearby, there’s a filter and an electric pump. Once the water reaches the desired temperature, the pump suctions the hot water through the filter and forces it through the spray arms located at the top and the bottom of the machine.

These arms are perforated with tiny holes through which the water can escape. The force of the water running into these arms causes them to spin, and their rotation allows the water to reach every nook and cranny of the dishwasher. Naturally, because the arm at the bottom of the machine is nearer to the heater, the water released here is hotter. That’s why pots and pans and other hearty crockery that needs extra elbow grease tend to sit in the bottom rack. The top arm, though still warm, is cooler, which makes the top rack ideal for glasswear and other fragile items.

The water that escapes these arms hit the dishes and then drains to the bottom of the machine, where it’s pumped through a filter again to remove any food particles. Then it’s reused and suctioned back into the arms in a function that prevents water waste.

As the water is directed through the arms, the detergent dispenser on the door is opened, releasing the soap packet or powder to drop to the bottom of the machine. There it’s dissolved in the hot water and introduced into the jets of water. Unlike the soap you use when you’re washing dishes by hand, the detergent used in a dishwasher contains alkalines, sulfates, and enzymes that help to break up and remove caked on messes without any scrubbing.

At the end of a cycle, the dirtied water is drained and removed. Then clean water is pumped through the arms to rinse off any remaining detergent and before it’s drained a final time. At this point, the heater at the bottom of the machine raises the temperature inside the cabinet until the dishes are dry.

And there you have it! The basics of your dishwasher explained. As you can imagine, this simplified look at the average dishwasher doesn’t expound upon the intricate parts of its operation. Without an understanding of these parts and their functions, we don’t recommend ever trying your hand at DIY repairs. When you’re faced with a malfunctioning dishwasher, it’s better to leave it for the professionals who know the ins and outs of this appliance.

Our team of dedicated appliance repair technicians are qualified to take on any issue affecting your dishwasher. And not just your dishwasher. Our technicians are trained to tackle washing machines, freezers, refrigerators, and all of the other appliances that find a place in your home. Just give us a call and we can send out one of our team members to inspect your appliances. As your friendly repair team in the GTA, we’re committed to providing the best appliance maintenance and repair!