How Do You Unclog a Dishwasher Spray Arm

  • Remove the spray arm from the dishwasher by unscrewing it from the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Soak the spray arm in warm water mixed with vinegar or a dishwasher cleaning solution for at least 30 minutes.
  • Use a toothbrush or a small brush to clean out any debris or clogs that may be blocking the spray arm’s holes.
  • Rinse the spray arm thoroughly with warm water and reattach it to the dishwasher.
  • If the spray arm is still not working properly, check for any kinks or bends in the water supply line that may be restricting water flow.
  • If all else fails, consider replacing the spray arm altogether.

Are you tired of opening your dishwasher to find dirty dishes still caked in food? One possible culprit is a clogged spray arm. This essential component distributes water throughout the dishwasher, cleaning your dishes from every angle. But when it’s blocked by debris or hard water buildup, the spray arm can’t do its job effectively.

It’s frustrating to spend time loading and running your dishwasher, only to have it leave behind unclean dishes. But before you resort to calling in a repair technician, there are some steps you can take to unclog a stubborn spray arm yourself. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of identifying and repairing a clogged spray arm. With our expert advice and some elbow grease, you’ll be back to sparkling clean dishes in no time!

The Quick Answer:

Common reasons for dishwasher spray arm clogs include food debris buildup, mineral deposits from hard water, and detergent residue. To prevent clogs, scrape off large food particles, use a rinse aid, and regularly clean the dishwasher with vinegar or a specialized cleaner. Signs of a clogged spray arm include dirty dishes, unusual noises during operation, and standing water at the bottom of the dishwasher.

Common Reasons for Dishwasher Spray Arm Clogs

Food Debris Buildup

One of the most common reasons for a dishwasher spray arm clog is food debris buildup. When dishes are loaded into the dishwasher, small pieces of food can fall off and get caught in the spray arm holes. Over time, this debris can accumulate and block water flow through the spray arm. This can cause poor cleaning performance and even result in damage to the dishwasher.

Mineral Deposits

Another reason for a clogged dishwasher spray arm is mineral deposits. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can build up over time on the interior components of your dishwasher, including the spray arm. This buildup can restrict water flow through the spray arm, leading to clogs.

Detergent Residue

Dishwashing detergents can leave behind residue that accumulates on the interior components of your dishwasher over time. This residue can include minerals and other particles that contribute to clogs in your dishwasher’s spray arm.


– Scrape off any large food particles from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
– Use a rinse aid to help prevent mineral buildup.
– Run an empty cycle with vinegar or a specialized cleaner every few months to remove detergent residues.

How to Identify a Clogged Dishwasher Spray Arm

A clogged dishwasher spray arm will cause your dishes to come out dirty or poorly cleaned. You may also notice that your dishwasher is making unusual noises during operation or that there is standing water at the bottom of your appliance after a cycle has completed.

If you suspect that your dishwasher’s spray arm is clogged, you can perform a visual inspection by removing it from its mounting bracket and examining it carefully for any signs of blockages. You should also inspect the spray arm’s holes to see if they are obstructed with debris or mineral buildup.


– Use a flashlight to get a better look at the spray arm holes.
– If you notice any damage to the spray arm, such as cracks or breaks, it may need to be replaced.

Initial Steps to Unclog Your Dishwasher Spray Arm

Before attempting to unclog your dishwasher’s spray arm, you should first turn off power to your dishwasher and disconnect it from its power source. This will prevent any accidents while you work on your appliance.

To unclog your dishwasher’s spray arm, start by removing it from its mounting bracket and soaking it in hot water for 15 minutes. This will help loosen any debris or mineral buildup that may be causing the clog.

After soaking, use a toothbrush or other small brush to clean out the spray arm’s holes carefully. Be sure to rinse the spray arm thoroughly with hot water after cleaning to remove any remaining debris.


– Wear gloves while working on your dishwasher.
– If you have hard water in your area, consider using a specialized cleaner designed to remove mineral deposits from your appliance.

Do You Need to Remove the Spray Arm to Unclog It?

Yes, in most cases, you will need to remove the spray arm from its mounting bracket before attempting to unclog it. This will allow you better access to the interior of the spray arm so that you can clean out any debris or mineral buildup effectively.

Some newer dishwashers may have easily removable spray arms that can be taken out without tools. However, most older models require some disassembly before accessing the spray arm.


– Refer to your dishwasher’s user manual for specific instructions on how to remove and clean your appliance’s spray arm.
– Be careful not to damage the spray arm or its mounting bracket while removing and reinstalling it.

Household Items That Can Help Unclog Your Dishwasher Spray Arm

There are several household items that you can use to help unclog your dishwasher’s spray arm, including:

  • Vinegar – Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent that can help dissolve mineral deposits and other debris inside your dishwasher. Simply pour a cup of vinegar into the bottom of your appliance and run a cycle on the hottest setting.
  • Baking soda – Baking soda is another natural cleaning agent that can help remove stubborn residue from your dishwasher’s interior components. Mix one cup of baking soda with one cup of water to make a paste. Apply the paste to any clogged areas of your dishwasher and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with hot water.
  • Toothbrush – A toothbrush can be an effective tool for cleaning out clogged spray arm holes. Gently scrub each hole with a toothbrush to dislodge any debris or mineral buildup.


– Be careful not to scratch or damage your dishwasher’s interior components while using household items to clean them.
– Always rinse thoroughly with hot water after using household cleaning agents in your dishwasher.

Commercial Products for Unclogging Dishwasher Spray Arms

If household items are not effective at unclogging your dishwasher’s spray arm, there are several commercial products available that can help. These include:

  • Dishwasher cleaner – Dishwasher cleaners are specially formulated to remove mineral buildup and other debris from inside your appliance. Simply add a cleaner tablet or solution to the bottom of your dishwasher and run a cycle on the hottest setting.
  • Lime scale remover – Lime scale removers are designed specifically for removing mineral buildup from dishwashers and other appliances. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using these products.
  • Spray arm cleaner – Some dishwasher cleaners come with a specialized spray arm cleaner that can help dislodge debris from clogged holes.


– Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using commercial cleaning products in your dishwasher.
– Rinse thoroughly with hot water after using commercial cleaning products.

Maintaining Your Dishwasher to Prevent Future Clogs in the Spray Arm

Regular maintenance of your dishwasher can help prevent future clogs in the spray arm. Here are some tips for maintaining your appliance:

  • Scrape off large pieces of food debris from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
  • Run an empty cycle with vinegar or a specialized cleaner every few months to remove mineral deposits and other buildup.
  • Clean out the dishwasher’s filter regularly to prevent debris from clogging up interior components like the spray arm.
  • Check for damage to your dishwasher’s spray arm periodically and replace it if necessary.


– Refer to your dishwasher’s user manual for specific maintenance instructions.
– Use a rinse aid regularly to help prevent mineral buildup in your appliance.

When to Seek Professional Help for a Persistent or Severe Clog in Your Dishwasher Spray Arm

If you have tried all of the above methods but still have a persistent or severe clog in your dishwasher’s spray arm, it may be time to seek professional help. A qualified appliance repair technician can diagnose and repair any issues with your dishwasher, including clogs in the spray arm.

Additionally, if you notice any signs of damage to your appliance, such as leaks or unusual noises during operation, you should contact a professional right away to prevent further damage.


– Always hire a qualified appliance repair technician to work on your dishwasher.
– Consider purchasing a home warranty or appliance insurance policy to help cover the cost of repairs.

In conclusion, there are several effective ways to unclog a dishwasher spray arm. By following simple steps such as cleaning the spray arm holes, removing debris from the spinning mechanism, and using vinegar or baking soda solutions, you can easily restore the functionality of your dishwasher spray arm and ensure sparkling clean dishes every time.

Frequently Asked Questions about How Do You Unclog a Dishwasher Spray Arm

How do you know if your spray arm is clogged?
If you find that both spray arms in your dishwasher are in the same position when you open it, it may be worth trying a few more times to confirm. If you notice that your dishes are not getting clean and the spray arms are still not moving, it could be due to a clog in the arms or a malfunction in the wash motor. This is important to address in order to ensure your dishes are properly cleaned.

Why is my dishwasher not pumping water into the spray arms?
If a dishwasher is overloaded, the spray arm may become clogged or damaged from hitting obstructions. In this situation, the spray arm must be replaced and to do so, the bottom dish rack must be removed.

How do you unclog a dishwasher?
To unclog a drain, create a do-it-yourself mixture of baking soda and vinegar in equal parts. Pour the solution into the drain basket and wait for 15 minutes. Finally, pour hot water down the basket and run the rinse cycle.

Will drain unblocker unblock a dishwasher?
For example, drain unblockers should never be used in your dishwasher, or to clean any parts of your dishwasher, even if you are struggling to clean out a blockage. These products can leave behind residues that are harmful if ingested.

How do I know if my dishwasher spray arm is broken?
To quickly test for any problems with the sprayer arms, remove any dish racks in the way and manually push the arms to see if they spin in both directions. Keep in mind that some sprayer arms only spin in one direction while others can spin both ways.

How do you unclog a spray gun?
A straightforward and successful technique involves using a wet cloth soaked in paint thinner or cleaning solution to manually clean the air cap and liquid nozzle outlet. However, this particular method may not work on an automatic production line.

Charlie Thomson is Appliance Mastery's expert on laundry appliances. With a degree in mechanical engineering and over 8 years of experience in the appliance repair industry, Charlie is a go-to resource for homeowners who want to tackle common issues with their washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers.

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