If Your Dishwasher Isn’t Draining, This Is How to Fix It

Dishwasher not draining? Standing water and dirty dishes aren't fun. Here's how to fix your appliance in no time!

Once you have a dishwasher, doing dishes in the sink feels like a strenuous, impossible task. If the dishwasher breaks, all I can think about is stacking plates and silverware in neat rows, popping in a detergent tablet and hitting “Normal Wash.”

Fortunately, if your dishwasher stops draining, you may be able to fix the problem with DIY repair ideas from Family Handyman.

1. Start with the Sink

Your dishwasher and sink are connected by the dishwasher’s drain hose, which empties out into the garbage disposal drain. This means that if there’s anything blocking your garbage disposal drain, it will affect the drainage of your dishwasher, too. Start by running your garbage disposal with some water.

If there’s still standing water in your dishwasher, the next thing you can try is cleaning your sink’s air gap. This little cylinder is often found on your sink, adjacent to the faucet. Its purpose? A tiny hose runs from the air gap to the dishwasher’s drain hose, meant to bust any air locks through ventilation. Unfortunately, the air gap itself can sometimes get backed up. To clean it out, twist off the cap and remove any debris with a stiff brush.

After each of these steps, try running your dishwasher to see if the problem has been solved. If the problem is solved, check out these ways you’re shortening the life of your dishwasher. If the dishwasher still isn’t draining, go on to the next step.

2. Get Rid of the Standing Water

The next thing to do after running the garbage disposal and cleaning out the air gap is to remove any standing water in your dishwasher. This may take some time; the goal here is to get as much of the water out as possible so you’re able to check for any possible mishaps inside the appliance. Start by scooping out water carefully. Use absorbent towels to mop things up as the water level gets low.

3. Make Sure You’re Using the Right Detergent

In college, I definitely made the mistake of using liquid soap instead of specifically-made dishwasher detergent several times, and the results were not good. It’s common sense but also a common mistake—make sure you’re using the right type of cleaning solution in your dishwasher. The appliances are made to run without soapy suds, and the proper dishwasher detergent is suds-less. Liquid sink soaps, on the other hand, will create enough bubbles to prevent proper drainage. If this sounds familiar, invest in quality dishwasher detergent and run the dishwasher again to make sure the problem is solved.

4. Clean Out the Drain Basket

This filter exists in your dishwasher to catch and filter any food debris. It might have a pretty significant build-up that will need to be removed.

Look for the drain basket or dishwasher filter at the bottom of your dishwasher. It should resemble an upside down metal basket. Detach it, then remove the gunk by scraping it off with a spoon or cleaning it in your sink. Replace and try running your dishwasher normally.

Did you know there’s a right way to load your dishwasher?

5. Check the Drain Hose for Kinks and Clogs

You’ll be able to access your dishwasher’s drain hose by checking under the sink—look for the plastic tube connecting the appliance’s drain pump to your sink’s garbage disposal. First, make sure that it isn’t being twisted by anything large stored under the sink. Then, check for clogs.

This requires a little more attention. Unplug your dishwasher first, then place towels under the front of your dishwasher and remove the lower front panel. It’s best to take a look at your appliance’s manual to figure out how to disconnect the drain hose from the dishwasher’s pump—that’s the next thing you’ll need to do. Once it’s disconnected, take a look inside the hose for any blockages. You can try carefully removing any clogs before reattaching and running the machine again.

It’s always nice to be able to solve a problem with your dishwasher, but don’t be afraid to call a plumber or kitchen appliance expert. Sometimes, parts like the drain hose need to be replaced, and it’s easy to have a professional take care of it if you aren’t comfortable with the task. Either way, you’ll be able to get your dishwasher back up and running soon!

Prevent future issues by keeping track of the things you should never put in the dishwasher.

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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.