Skip to content

My dishwasher isn’t draining properly! What do I do?

You’re probably familiar with the familiar scenario of opening your dishwasher only to find a pool of dingy water sitting at the bottom. Why isn’t it draining?

Dish rack

Your first thought might be that the cycle didn’t finish, so you try to re-run your dishwasher again, only to find the same dirty water sitting at the bottom of your appliance. Now you know there’s something wrong.  Are there any ideas for a do-it-yourself fix, or must I call a plumber or an appliance repair man?

The Answer:

Your first instinct to run your unit a second time is usually spot on. Sometimes a dishwasher will shut off mid-cycle for a variety of reasons (maybe there was a power outage?). But if running it through another cycle doesn’t solve the issue, your problem could be due to something else.

Plumbers often get called for dishwasher issues, but fortunately, there are some things you can do yourself before you call in the pros. See below for things you can check prior to making a service call.

Run your garbage disposal.

One of the most common reasons for your dishwasher not draining is due to food or other debris clogging up the drainage system. Did you know that the drain hose from your dishwasher is connected to your garbage disposal drain?  If the garbage disposal is clogged up with food in the pipe, it could prevent your dishwasher from draining properly. Simply running your garbage disposal for an additional 15-20 seconds each time, after any food is gone, will usually clear food that might remain in the drain beneath the disposal. 

Clean your sink’s air gap.

What if you don’t have a garbage disposal? There will be a small hose from the air gap (hose that connects to a sink) connected to the dishwasher’s drain hose. The air gap is typically installed right by the faucet.  The air gap can get clogged, so just twist it counterclockwise and check it for debris and other gunk. You can clean it with a stiff brush then rinse it off before replacing it and running the dishwasher cycle again.

Check for blockages.

If the above steps didn’t help, check the bottom of the dishwasher for any items or pieces of food that may have fallen from the racks and caused the water flow to get blocked.

Try Vinegar and Baking Soda.

To loosen any clogs that are preventing the dishwasher from draining, you might want to try a simple vinegar and baking soda mix to clear it away. Mix 1 cup of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar and pour it into the standing water at the bottom of the dishwasher. Let it stand for about 20 minutes before running a hot water cycle on your dishwasher.

Clear out the filter

Consult our owner’s manual to locate your dishwasher’s filter – the filter can be found on the inside bottom of most dishwashers. Remove the cover and clear out any food buildup, then run your dishwasher cycle again and see if that solves your problem. If you notice a lot of debris in your filter, you might want to try pre-rinsing your dishes before loading your dishwasher, even if the manufacturer claims you don’t need to do this. Most macerators in dishwashers don’t have the same power as a garburator to mince up bits of food stuck to plates.

Inspect drain hose.

The drain hose is a lightweight plastic hose that connects the garbage disposal (or air cap) to the dishwasher’s drain pump. Inspect it for any kinks that could be causing your drainage problem. Perhaps something under your sink is hampering the hose, so remove anything that could be getting in the way of your hose under the sink. If it is kinked, you can try blowing through the hose or manually straightening it out.

You could also use a wire hanger through the hose to check for any clogs. But before you do that, be sure to unplug your appliance as a general safety rule. Don’t try to use a plumber’s snake as these types of hoses aren’t designed to withstand these types of tools and could get punctured

If it’s permanently kinked, then you can replace the drain hose altogether.

Use the right dishwashing detergents.

Dishwashing detergents are specialized to clean without producing suds. Be sure to use only dishwasher detergents in your machines. If you inadvertently put regular dishwashing liquid in (or use laundry detergent, gasp!), it could create suds that would prevent the dishwasher from draining properly. If this happens, bail out the tub and run the cycle again with the proper dishwashing detergent.

Bail out the tub of your dishwasher.

If you want to properly drain your dishwasher of the dirty standing water, first line the floor under your dishwasher with towels. Then scoop the water out from the bottom of the tub with a ladle. When the water level becomes too shallow to scoop out, use towels to soak up the remaining water.

Call the appliance repair man.

If your dishwasher isn’t making the usual sounds when running through a regular cycle, then something could be going on with a faulty drain pump or motor, particularly if you hear a humming or clicking noise.  The issue could also lie with the motherboard or the dishwasher’s timer. If all the above steps still don’t help with your drainage problem, then it’s probably time to call in a licensed appliance repairman.  If you’re in that situation, give one of our friendly professional technicians a call at Airdrie Appliance Repair Pros, and we would be happy to come out and fix your issue.