The Secret to Saving Your Dishwasher After Using Dish Soap Instead of Dishwasher Detergent

The who is less important than the what in this story: someone (who shall remain nameless) accidentally put dish soap in our automatic dishwasher. Automatic dishwashers require special detergent, and Dawn super suds are great for hand washing dishes but catastrophic for dishwashers.

Thankfully the dishwasher was started before we went to bed (though it’s usually set on a delay timer, which would likely have flooded our kitchen while we slept). So we walked into the kitchen at 10:30 at night, preparing to stow our after-the-the-kids-go-to-bed-snack plates and go to sleep, only to be met with a cascade of bubbles out of the bottom of our dishwasher.

Here’s what we did that saved our wood floor, our less than year old Bosch dishwasher, and possibly our marriage (I kid. Mostly.)

The Secret to Saving Your Dishwasher After Using Dish Soap Instead of Dishwasher Detergent

  1. Cancel the cycle. We opened the dishwasher door to discover a wall of suds.
  2. Remove the dishes/dish racks. We left the dishes in the rack, and carried it to the shower. There we used the shower head to spray the bubbles off. The upper rack wasn’t bubbly, so we just set it on a towel. We also had a towel under the dishwasher door to catch any further leaks.The Secret to Saving Your Dishwasher After Using Dish Soap Instead of Dishwasher Detergent
  3. Remove the bubbles. We used a ShopVac with the wet filter, and vacuumed them out. I also used a bowl to scoop some out and pour them in the sink while my husband retrieved the ShopVac from the garage, because I can’t just look at a problem and wait.
  4. Clean the floor. We wiped up all the bubbles that had leaked out first, and then kept having to wipe up more spills and leaks. Our dishwasher door has a ledge underneath it, so we cleaned that as well. We also removed the panel underneath the dishwasher (where a baseboard would be) to check underneath the dishwasher for water damage. Clean any water or suds on the floor repeatedly throughout to avoid water damage. If you discover the bubbles after the cycle has finished, I recommend cleaning the floor first. Set up as many fans as you have to try and dry it. Check your insurance to see if a recovery service such as ServePro is covered.
  5. Run a speed cycle. We then ran a quick cycle to see if any soap residue remained.
  6. Remove the bubbles again (there were a lot less this time…). We actually chose to go to bed at this point, since children don’t sleep in and my husband had to get up for work on time either way. There was a slim layer of bubbles, so we left them with the door open and they collapsed on themselves in despair during the night.The Secret to Saving Your Dishwasher After Using Dish Soap Instead of Dishwasher Detergent
  7. Run another full cycle without dishes. If you open the door and there are no suds, rejoice! Otherwise, get back to vacuuming. Maybe try wiping everything down (that was my plan if the bubbles didn’t self destruct overnight). The interior of our dishwasher is stainless steel, so keep your dishwasher’s interior in mind while choosing how best to clean it.

We’ve now successfully run a load without any leaking or discernible permanent damage (only after several quick runs without dishes to test its readiness, with the same results). Some sites recommended we use salt, vinegar, or olive oil to get rid of the soap residue. We didn’t do any of that after testing the salt theory on the bubbles in the sink. Not a single site recommended using a ShopVac to remove the bubbles, and that was a huge timesaver for us that we wanted to share.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

The Secret to Saving Your Dishwasher After Using Dish Soap Instead of Dishwasher Detergent

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