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Home Care Library



QUESTION from Matt on 3/11/2009
There is a large buildup around the heating element. I tried to soak it in vinegar and some chunks came out. Should I scrape the crust surrounding the element, or should I get a new one?
Another question, lately there has been a lot of film surrounding the dishes, is it because of the dirty element? I tried rinse aid.


Dear Matt:

It sounds like the scale problem that you are having with your dishwasher is likely due to your house having hard water.

When hard water is heated, it causes minerals to come out of solution and deposit on your heating element (because it is the hottest area inside your dishwasher), but also causes minerals to deposit on your dishes which have been heated up.

Depending on how hard your water is, you can help control this by regularly treating your dishwasher regularly with vinegar or Tang (yes, the powdered breakfast drink). After removing all of dishes, pans, silverware etc. and with NO detergent in your dishwasher, place about half of a small container of Tang brand orange-flavored drink mix and then run it for a regular hot cycle. The citric acid in the Tang helps to loosen hard water deposits and cleans the scale from your dishwasher. You can also try placing a cupful of white vinegar in your dishwasher and then run it for a full cycle. An alternative to vinegar is baking soda.

If neither of these are successful in loosening up and removing the build-up on your heating element, then you might want to try using a product called CLR (calcium-lime-rust remover).

If you are finding that your scale problem continues despite regular treatments with vinegar or Tang, then your hard water problem may be severe enough that you might want consider a water softener or filtration system.

Hope this is helpful.


QUESTION from "Mare":

How do I clean melted plastic (Nalgene cap) from the heating element? Do I have to replace the element?



I assume that you are referring to the heating element of your dishwasher, where you were washing your Nalgene bottle and that somehow the plastic cap came in contact with the heating element.

Here is something that you can try, that will hopefully work for you. First, remove all of your dishes, etc. from your dishwasher. Then scrape off all of the plastic that has melted onto the heating element. Be sure to remove it from the underside of the element as well. Try to get all of the plastic off that you possibly can scrape off. Next pour about a half gallon of white vinegar into the bottom of your dishwasher so that it completely covers the heating element. Let the dishwasher sit like this for a day if you can, or at least overnight. Then turn on your dishwasher and let it run with the vinegar in it (but still with no dishes in it). Then run it again with nothing in it.

Hopefully this will remove what little plastic residue that might have been left on the heating element, and also gets rid of the burning plastic (and vinegar) smell from your dishwasher.


QUESTION from Erik on 8/25/2010 When running the dishwasher it goes through the cycles but i don't think the heating element is working since the dishes are still wet after the drying cycle and the dishes aren't fully clean. It's fairly new as well.


Dear Erik:

The heating element of your dishwasher does not actually raise the temperature of the water in your dishwasher, but rather, it just helps to keep it as hot has it is when in comes in from your hot water supply tap. And the temperature of the water in your dishwasher is an important factor in getting your dishes clean.
So from what you've described, the problem with your dishwasher could be one of two things:

1) The water coming into your dishwasher may not be hot enough. What you can try is to turn on the hot water in the sink next to your dishwasher for a few minutes, and let it get good and hot before you turn on your dishwasher.
2) The heating element in your dishwasher may have gone bad. And here is a link to a webpage that describes how to test your water heater element:

Hope this is helpful.