If you find a puddle of water in the bottom of your dishwasher after you finish the wash cycle, don’t panic.
Although standing water can be an indication that your dishwasher needs professional-grade repairs, most of the time, it’s a very minor issue that you can fix by yourself.
Dishwasher Not Draining
What is the bottom of the dishwasher results from clogs in the garbage disposal, filter, drain pump, drain, hose, or air gap. When sediment or food builds up inside these systems, the dishwasher won’t drain properly. Locating the blockage source and clearing the debris can solve the problem and get your dishwasher to drain without having to bring in a professional to do the work for you.
If you’re not sure where these parts are, what they are, or how to flush them to get rid of the clog and debris, this is for you.
We’re going to outline several things you can do to help your dishwasher drain again without causing a soapy, wet mess on your floor.
Run the Garbage Disposal
The drain hose on your dishwasher leads to your garbage disposal drain, and if the drain unit has food sludge or unground food that settles in the drainpipe right below the disposal, it can stop the appliance from draining properly. Sometimes, running your disposal is all you have to do to get the unit working correctly again.
You should get in the habit of leaving the water on and letting the disposal run for 15 to 20 seconds after the food disappears.
This will allow the water to clear out all of the remaining food that might stay in the P-trap drain below the garbage disposal.
Clean the Air Gap
When your dishwasher’s hose connects right to your sink without garbage disposal being present, you have a small slotted stainless steel cylinder called an air gap that gets installed at the top of the sink by the faucet.
There is a small hose that starts at the air gap and goes to the dishwasher’s drain hose, and this hose acts as a vent to stop an airlock from appearing in the drain hose.
If this air gap gets clogged with debris, it won’t work properly. If you want to check it, twist the air gap counterclockwise to remove it and look for buildup or blockages. Clean it with a stiff brush or water, replace it, and run the dishwasher cycle empty.
Clean Any Detergent Accidents
Dishwashers come designed for use with an automatic detergent that cleans the dishes without producing a host of suds.
During the course of a day, it’s easy to grab the wrong one and end up with a lot of suds that can block everything and prevent it from draining correctly.
The same thing can happen if you grab laundry detergent in a pinch. Bailout the tub on your dishwasher and run a second cycle with the correct detergent.
Remove Any Standing Water
If you don’t have disposal or running one doesn’t help, you want to drain the water to get a closer look at the potential problems.
Put absorbent towels around your dishwasher’s base and remove the bottom dish tray by sliding it out toward you.
Use a plastic scoop to get the dirty water into a bucket to get rid of it, and use towels to sop up the remaining water when it gets too low to scoop out before inspecting everything.
Check for Kinks in the Drain Hose
The drain hose is a ribbed plastic, lightweight hose that connects from the air cap or garbage disposal to the drain pump, and it can kink and prevent your water from draining.
If you shoved something heavy or big under your sink, it could have kinked the hose. You can straighten it out manually if you find the source of the kink, but it’ll tend to happen again in the same spot. If it keeps happening, you can replace the drain hose.
Remove Gunk From the Drain Basket
You’ll find the drain basket at the bottom of your dishwasher’s interior, and it has a cover that usually looks like an upside-down basket that is held in place by one or two screws or in snaps off.
Remove the cover and check for any food buildup in the basket, and you can do this using your hand or a spoon to remove any debris, replace the cover, and run a cycle.
If you find a lot of food debris in this basket, you can start pre-rinsing your dishes to prevent future clogs.
Most dishwashers today have macerators that grind bits of food down, but they’re not as powerful as standard garbage disposal. So, even if the dishwasher says you don’t have to pre-rinse the dishes, get in the habit of doing so anyway.
Replace Your Drain Hose
For a clog that you can’t remove or recurring kinks, you can replace the entire drain hose. You can do the job yourself if you’re comfortable because a professional can easily charge upwards of $150 for this project.
You’ll have to unplug the unit, slide it out from the countertop, disconnect the old hose from the garbage disposal or air gap and the pump, attach the new one, and put it back into the correct place.
Look for Clogs in the Drain Hose
Even if your hose isn’t kinked, it could have a clog due to debris or food sludge, and you’ll have to remove the lower panel of the dishwasher and look for the spot where the drain pump attaches to the ribbed hose.
The first thing you want to do is unplug the dishwasher and put old towels under the unit. Remove the lower front panel by either snapping it off or removing a screw or two before disconnecting the hose from the pump.
Blow through the hose to check it for clogs. If the air doesn’t go through, you have a clog somewhere in the hose. If the clog is at either end of the hose, you can carefully remove it using a thin implement like a screwdriver.
If the clog is located in the interior of the hose and you can’t get it out, you may have to replace the entire thing because it’s very easy to damage if you start digging around. A plumber’s snake will damage the hose since it’s not designed to handle cutting edges.
The Basic Parts of Your Dishwasher
It’s helpful to know the parts of your dishwasher when you’re trying to figure out how to fix them. This way, you won’t go digging around in parts that aren’t the problem because you don’t know what you’re doing.
Air Gap – The air gap or air cap is a device that stops dirty water from getting back into the dishwasher. So, you’re sure you wash your dishes with clean water. Not every dishwasher has this piece, but some states’ plumbing codes make it mandatory.
Filter – You could have self-cleaning or manual filters on your unit, and the filter is usually on the bottom of the dishwasher. If you can’t find it, the owner’s manual will have an exact location. It catches debris and food during the wash cycle to keep it from recirculating.
Drain Hose – This hose connects your dishwasher’s drain pipe to the air gap or garbage disposal.
Drain Pump – This is responsible for pushing water from your dishwasher into the garbage disposal or drain line.
Spray Arm – The spray arm shoots water at your dishes and rotates during a cleaning cycle.
If you’re not sure which parts your dishwasher has or where they’re located, we’ve put together a quick list of detailed product manuals for some of the most popular dishwasher models and brands. They include:
- Fisher & Paykel
Fixing a dishwasher that won’t drain typically isn’t a hard process, but it does take a little patience and research on your part.
We compiled a list of common problems and how to fix them, and you can also take a look at the attached manuals to get more pointers.
With all of these resources, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your dishwasher up and running in no time.