Dishwasher Soap Dispenser Broken—What To Do?

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If you hate hand washing dishes, then you're probably pretty dependent on your dishwasher. But what if something goes wrong - like the dishwasher soap dispenser is broken or won't close? We've checked with dishwasher repair specialists for the whole story about what problems can affect your dispenser.

If your dishwasher soap dispenser seems to be broken, the first step is to figure out what the problem is. Many issues are simple and easy to fix - or if not, then you can at least replace the parts.

Sometimes the dishwasher needs reset, or the latch is just "stuck" from leftover gunk or soap. Mechanical problems like a bad gasket, broken spring, or damaged latch require the replacement of parts.

Keep reading, and we'll cover all of these items (and more), plus give you some tips for troubleshooting them. We'll also explain when you need to make a major fix. Meanwhile, while you work on getting new parts, we'll teach you how to keep running your dishwasher with a broken soap dispenser.

Hand putting detergent tablet into dishwater, Dishwasher Soap Dispenser Broken—What To Do?

What Do You Do When Your Dishwasher Soap Dispenser Doesn't Close?

There are a few simple troubleshooting methods for when your dishwasher soap dispenser won't close. These are:

  • Double-check to make sure that the dishwasher is off - the dispenser won't close and latch otherwise.
    • For electronic control dishwashers, you may need to press the start button twice to reset the dishwasher. This may cause the dishwasher to run for about a minute. It would pump out any leftover water if the dishwasher didn't complete the last cycle correctly.
    • For manual control dishwashers, make sure that the timer is in the "off" setting. Advance the control to the correct placement.
  • Make sure that the detergent tablet or pod isn't blocking the dispenser cover. If the tablet is in the way, the cover can't latch. Reposition as necessary.
  • Wipe the latch and the cover. If there's food, soap, or other residues in the way, the cover won't latch. Clean the dishwasher soap dispenser with any of the following methods:
    • Pour vinegar around the dispenser, door, and latch. Let it soak for a few minutes.
    • Wipe with a towel and warm water. You can also let the towel soak over the door for a few minutes, making a warm compress.
    • Scrub with a nail brush.
  • Check the rinse aid cap if you have one. In some models, if this is loose, the machine won't work correctly. Make sure it's in place tight and see if that helps.
  • If none of these methods work, there may be a mechanical issue. This may be a worn gasket, warped door, or a broken spring or latch.

Man hand putting tablet in dishwasher detergent box

How Do You Use A Dishwasher Without A Soap Dispenser?

If you don't have a working soap dispenser, you might be left wondering how to use the dishwasher. One method is to buy an automatic dishwasher tablet dispenser system. It holds several detergent pods or tablets and automatically adds one to each cycle.

Just buy a system like this, and you won't have to worry about detergent for the next twelve loads. The only problem? While convenient, it's a bit on the pricey side.

Click here to see this dishwasher dispenser system on Amazon.

Some people have a dishwasher with a pre-wash soap cup. In this case, many people will use that instead. However, this doesn't always work very well. The pre-wash cycle is very short, and you might find that the soap doesn't get distributed very well.

A third alternative is to open the dishwasher after the pre-wash cycle and add detergent before the main cycle begins.

Can I Just Throw Dishwasher Tablets In The Bottom?

Most of the time, you can just throw dishwasher tablets in the bottom. The best way to do it, however, is the way described above. Let the pre-wash cycle run, then open the dishwasher and add the detergent.

The reason? Your dishwasher works by spraying water (and possibly a pre-cleaner) in the pre-wash cycle to loosen up residue on the dishes. However, this cycle is very short - about 5 minutes. Minimal cleaning occurs at this time.

Next, the dishwasher moves into the main cycle. At this time, the detergent drops out of the soap dispenser. The detergent mixes with water in the machine and repeatedly runs through the sprayer arms to clean the dishes.

You may be able to add the detergent at the very beginning. Or, you may find that the detergent breaks down too fast if you do this. This means a lot of your soap gets used up during the pre-wash when it isn't essential. And there's not enough soap left to clean during the main cycle.

So some people may have luck adding their tablets directly to their dishwasher at the very beginning. It depends on how long your pre-wash cycle is and how quickly your tablets dissolve. But for the best results, just add the detergent at the correct time - between the pre-wash and the main cycle.

Putting detergent into the dishwasher machine

What Opens The Soap Door In A Dishwasher?

The soap door opens thanks to a spring-operated latch. The control board of the dishwasher sends a message, telling the door to pop open at the right time. If it's not opening, it may be an electrical issue with the control board.  You can read more about that, and replacing the control board, here.

If the issue seems to be mechanical, it can be one of the following:

  • The door itself is warped, bent, or damaged in some way.
  • The door's spring or latch is broken.
  • The gasket around the door has a crack or other damage.

In theory, you can replace any of these parts. For example, there's no reason you can't get a new gasket and just change it yourself. The biggest obstacle is that these parts can be hard to find.

Most of the time, you have to purchase the entire dispenser unit. This should include a new door, latch, soap dispenser, gasket, rinse aid cup, etc. You just need to know exactly what your unit's model number is, to make sure you get the right dishwasher soap dispenser replacement.

Click here to see this Frigidaire soap dispenser on Amazon.

How To Replace The Dishwasher Soap Dispenser

Once you have your soap dispenser replacement, you need to install it. This is a relatively simple process for someone handy.

  1.  Always begin by turning off the power to the machine. Turn off power at the circuit - do not just unplug the dishwasher.
  2. Then, begin by opening the door.  Remove the screws from the inner door panel.
  3. Close the door, and then pull the door panel off from the outside.
  4. Disconnect the wires that connect the control panel to the dispenser.
  5. Remove the screws and brackets that hold the dispenser in place.
  6. Open the door, removing the dispenser assembly.
  7. Install the new dispenser replacement, popping it securely into place.
  8. After closing the door, replace the brackets and screws that hold the dispenser in place.
  9. Reconnect the wires that connect the control panel to the soap assembly.
  10. Replace the door panel, then open the door. Use the screws to secure the door panel back into place.

You can follow along with this helpful video if you need a visual.

In Closing

Selective focus on woman hand, holding homemade natural dishwasher pod defocus dishes in dishwasher on background

With any luck, a "broken" soap dispenser can be an easy fix. Sometimes food or soap can clog the door, preventing it from latching correctly. The dishwasher might also be between settings - if it's not set to "off," the door may not latch.

Even if you need to replace the dishwasher soap dispenser, it's a pretty simple fix. In the meantime, you can keep using your dishwasher. Just add detergent by hand, ideally between the pre-wash cycle and the main wash cycle.

For further reading, try the following:

How To Replace A Bosch Dishwasher Front Panel

Method To Reset A Bosch Dishwasher

How To Reset An LG Dishwasher

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