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My Dishwasher Is Not Cleaning With a Burning Smell

Jamie Conrad

Dishwashers keep dishes clean and sanitary while reducing the workload of those who would otherwise wash the dishes by hand. This convenience quickly becomes an inconvenience when a dishwasher malfunctions. A dishwasher that no longer cleans well and produces a burning smell is the sign of various problems, all of which lead to more severe damage if not addressed and repaired.

Sprayer Arm Problems

Dishwasher problems leave dishes dirty and make odors.

The sprayer arm in dishwashers spins in circles while spraying jets of water throughout the dishwasher's interior. If the sprayer arm becomes clogged or stuck, water will not properly clean the dishes. Furthermore, sprayer arm problems may prevent the arm from rotating properly, making the motor work harder to move the arm. This creates a burning smell. To repair sprayer arm problems, check sprayer arm holes for clogs and clear them when necessary. Check the underside of sprayer arms for debris or clogs that may prevent the arm from moving.

Other Clogs

The sprayer arm is not the only part of a dishwasher that becomes clogged. Drains, filters, detergent dispensers and rinse aid dispensers all become clogged occasionally due to bits of food, detergent, hard water deposits or other debris. These clogs cause malfunctions in the machine that prevent dishes from becoming clean and may cause internal problems that create burning odors. To keep drains free from debris, clean internal filters regularly. For dispensers, run a cycle with no dishes and replace detergent and rinse aid with distilled white vinegar to clear out clogs.

Inlet Valve Malfunction

The inlet valve is a mechanical device that allows water to flow into the dishwasher. This valve is powered by electricity and is wired to the dishwasher's power source. Over time, the inlet valve may malfunction or wear out, reducing the appliance's cleaning efficiency and producing a burning odor. The inlet valve is replaceable if a malfunction occurs. Check the owner's manual for your specific dishwasher to order a replacement and for instructions regarding installation of the new valve. An appliance repair specialist can also replace a dishwasher inlet valve for you, if you prefer.

Heating Element

The heating element is a major culprit for dishwashers with reduced cleaning efficiency and burning smells. If dirt, debris and leftover food collect on the element, a burning smell is produced. If plastic dishes or items that are not dishwasher safe are placed close to the element or fall onto the element, they melt and produce a burning smell. These problems along with normal wear and tear can cause a dishwasher's heating element to malfunction and wear out, also causing a burning smell. A worn out heating element can also prevent a dishwasher from cleaning, as the element maintains proper water temperature. This temperature ensures the water is able to throughout clean dishes. Dishwasher heating elements can be cleaned off to prevent problems and replaced if the problem has become severe.