Our dishwasher wasn’t working so we cleaned it out but I’m not showing any pictures because it was one of the grossest things I’d ever seen and I would like to be able to forget someday

Last time our dishwasher wasn’t working, it made crunching noises and needed the motor to be completely replaced.  The time before it was an ancient dishwasher that the previous owners had left with the house and it flooded our guest bathroom on the other side of the kitchen and the repair person said it wasn’t worth repairing, just get a new one.  So we did.

This time, the top shelf just wasn’t getting clean.  I started scouting new dishwashers and was quickly overwhelmed with the options– Do we spend $600?  $1200?  $2500? Are these smart features going to break in a way we can’t fix ourselves?  DH, decided to take it apart and see if anything was clogging it.  OMG dishwashers are DISGUSTING.  Imagine grease with foodbits in it that is dyed red by that soap loving bacteria.  Imagine a LOT of it.  Everywhere.  I took one look and left the kitchen (after telling DH he didn’t have to do it).  But DH said he’d taken it apart and was committed.  He’s a saint.  A true hero.

And he didn’t find any specific clogs, though he did find the cap to a black skinny crayola marker (how?  clothes washer I would understand, but dishwasher?).  But after cleaning apart all the pieces and putting it back together, it started cleaning the dishes on both racks.

So… we can put off buying a new dishwasher for a while yet.

When do you decide to repair vs. buy a new dishwasher?  Do you go with the newest fancy Miele or Thermador model or a workhorse?  (Ours is Kenmore, but I think the next might be a low-end Bosch like our in-laws have.)


30 Responses to “Our dishwasher wasn’t working so we cleaned it out but I’m not showing any pictures because it was one of the grossest things I’d ever seen and I would like to be able to forget someday”

  1. natalieinne Says:

    We get a crust of gunk along the bottom seal of the dishwasher that I clean up on a semi-regular basis. All I have to do is run a paper towel along the bottom, and it is one of the grossest things ever. I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually open up the parts of the dishwasher to clean them out.

  2. Chelsea Says:

    Our dishwasher doesn’t work very well, and I’m sure there’s a ton of crap inside it that I do no want to know about (It was probably already nasty when we bought our house 5 years ago…). However, the heating element already doesn’t work that well, so when it dies I want to just replace it without ever seeing the evil lurking within… Blech.

  3. Ann Says:

    So lucky that DH is cheap AND handy. So we DIY everything until it is unsalvageable. Our washer and dryer are more than 35 years old! (Geez….that is weird to write down.)
    But a few years ago my husband saw a used Bosch dishwasher selling for $100. I wouldn’t have even thought of it, because it was older than the one we needed to replace. But I’m THRILLED now. It is the best dishwasher I’ve ever had, and it is more than 10 years old and runs beautifully — and quietly. I’m hooked on Bosch now!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If it were just me, I probably would have dragged the dishwasher out to the backyard after looking at it (assuming I had the arm strength to get it open) and set it on fire. It’s the only way to be sure.

      Those must be really great appliances! We’ve had to replace the clotheswasher once already and prior to that DH replaced an engine and a circuit board. They are not built to last at all. And that sounds like a fantastic deal on the Bosch!

  4. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    We have a low end Bosch. Only five years but no issues yet, and it has a drain catcher which makes that relatively easy to clean. Haven’t tried opening up more than that though, sounds grody.

  5. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    Ours is only a few years old so I’m tempted to open ours up now because the top rack doesn’t always get totally clean but I’m afraid I’d never get it back together again. Mostly because I want to see if I can head off that level of disgusting. Did he just wing it or did he have some kind of manual to follow when he went in?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      He’s opened it up a couple of times before so he just winged it. He says it’s not hard or needing a manual until you get down to the motor. (But you do need a manual if you’re getting down that far. Which he didn’t this time around.)

      • Candi Says:

        I replaced a Kenmore that never fit right and didn’t clean impressively with a low-end Bosch. The Bosch is a VAST improvement and is still going strong. It does have a filter which can get pretty gross.🤢

        Earlier this year it started not cleaning one spot on the bottom rack. Turns out the spray arms had some mineral buildup so I cleaned them now it’s working like a champ again. I also used one of those cleaner things (first-time). I also switched from eco-friendly detergent to Finish which unfortunately works so much better.

  6. Linda Says:

    So am I sucker for occasionally buying and using “dishwasher cleaner?” The dishwasher that came with my house is a Frigidaire. It’s quiet (except for the annoying air gap thing that makes a loud and horrible sound when the dishwasher is draining) and it works well, but every once in a while I notice that stuff on the top rack isn’t getting as clean as it usually does. When that happens, I clean out the filters at the bottom of the dishwasher and toss one of those cleaner tablets in with a load. That always seems to work. I’ve also found that a lot of these newer dishwashers don’t seem to work as well with the standard powders and liquids that I would use in the dishwashers I used in the past. For my model, the blister packs of Finish Quantum seem to work the best, but YMMV.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know! We’ve never used it! DH says the filters weren’t that dirty. He says our dishwasher doesn’t really try to filter so much as just flush everything.

      That’s probably a good thing to try first for anybody who would rather set the unit on fire than look at, much less touch, the fatburg inside.

  7. becca Says:

    This is highly relevant to my current interests.
    We are putting in a dishwasher (do not yet have one), and I think I’ve narrowed it down to a 300 series Bosch after reading a lot of Bogleheads and Consumer Reports reviews.
    My SO insists if dishwasher THEN garbage disposal, which I think sounds fine but also I do not trust him not to cook with ALL the fat and make fatbergs down all our drains. I am vegetarian-ish, he is carnivorous-ish, and so the sheer amount of solid fat in our cooking will always be different. What I really want to know is if there are behavioral things (like running cleaning cycles ect) to PREVENT fatbergs. Because OMG URRRRGGGHHH.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      All the housekeeping internet sites are like, do these dishwasher cleaning things daily/weekly/monthly/yearly. So maybe if you follow them you won’t get to the point we were at?

  8. rose Says:

    Like my Bosch.
    Avoid greasy things and caked on food stuff going into washer on dishes. Scrape it off into correct (NOT A DRAIN) receptacle. Much easier to say than to do (and especially with children and other adults in household) I need to add. But it DOES help.
    Hero badge to your husband.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We mostly compost such stuff, but apparently it builds up over time!

      • middle_class Says:

        I try to do vinegar rinses on a regular basis…which means every few months. It is supposed to help break down food build up. I am not sure how effective this is but I hope to keep my dishwasher for at least 10 years!

        We had a Kenmore which was a workhorse. Now I think we have whirlpool. Im too lazy to check.

  9. Omdg Says:

    When our dishwasher broke a few years ago we were told to just replace it with a cheap one because they all function the same, and they are all designed to break within 5-7 years. So that is what we did. 😛

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Good to know! What we like about the in-laws’ Bosch is the design of the three shelves inside, which is probably not the expensive part. Ours has some annoying inefficiencies for space which means we often do two loads a day during pandemic.

  10. Matthew D Healy Says:

    To Google:

    Serratia marcescens
    Lemi Shine

  11. Cloud Says:

    We have a Bosch. Not sure if it is low end or mid range. Probably mid range because I vaguely remember deciding it was worth some extra money to get more water and energy efficiency. We are on our second Bosch. In addition to being very efficient they are also very quiet which is nice. First one lasted about 10 years I think. My husband had to unclog the water jet spinny thing a couple of times. First time was a piece of glass that had chipped off a wine glass and the second time was a tiny piece of walnut.

    We repaired the problem that eventually killed it twice, I think – once by my husband and then a second attempt with a repair guy. That bought us a few more months but in the end we just bought a new one. My husband is moderately handy and also very willing to watch YouTube videos to figure out how to fix things, so he does small repairs on the appliances. I would just call a repair service because I do not have the patience for the YouTube videos.

    The third shelf in Bosch dishwashers is indeed awesome, so much so that we didn’t even shop around for the replacement dishwasher which is quite a statement from my husband who usually requires a multi-day research project before any purchase.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      And it’s not just the third self– on our second shelf, there are big brackets on either side that make it so for that part we can’t fit a regular sized cup in that spot. Also the in-laws’ Bosch does creative things with the silverware holders on the third shelf making them much more useful.

  12. Julia Says:

    Potential question to ask your readers: Any useful sex/pregancy education books for youngish kids? I have a 3 and 5 year old. They have a friend whose mother is pregnant and they are starting to ask pregnancy and “how babies are made” type questions. I want to be prepped and not super awkward about this. Any advice? The book “It’s Not the Stork” seems too advanced for 3 and 5 year olds, but maybe I’m mistaken.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Great question! It will be a few weeks before we can get to it though — there are some appliance emergencies that are queued up first.

      I vaguely remember a really clinical explanation of the female reproductive system and where the sperm went etc when I was 5 and my sister was on her way. I did not at all connect that with the “sex” thing from tv that was considered naughty.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      So… I think It’s not the stork is probably fine. I hadn’t seen it before, but I think the clinical route is in many ways better than more personal stuff. As I looked through lists, I remembered we checked out a bunch of books from the library for our then five year old when DC2 was on the way and the better two were both very clinical: Facts of Life by Miller and Pelham and Being Born by Kitzinger and Nilsson, though that’s only from me seeing the covers again and not having off feelings about them like I did some of the other covers I recognized.

  13. Ask the grumpies: What above-range microwave/hood should we get? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] dishwasher-slash-grossness post prompted me to ask you to ask your (apparently well-informed on appliances!) readership: […]

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    […] Nicole and Maggie gross dishwasher post inspired me to pick up some Lemi Shine to clean our dishwasher. We just ran it today so I hope to […]

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