What to Do if Your Dishwasher Isn’t Draining

Dishwasher not Drain
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Most people consider the dishwasher such an essential appliance that the absence of one in the kitchen has been known to be a deal breaker in selling a house. But like every appliance, it sometimes has issues. While our master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing typically don’t recommend taking the DIY route, troubleshooting problems with a dishwasher is relatively easy, and can save you money if you’re able to do so.

Knowing the basics of how a dishwasher operates is helpful. The dishwasher is connected to a drain hose that runs water into the pipes under or into your sink. Eventually, the plumbing connections in your sink begin to deteriorate and need to be replaced – or excess debris may be clogging the bottom of your unit. The issue you notice can provide an important clue about what’s wrong.

Try running the garbage disposal

If you find the bottom of the unit filled with dingy water, you may assume the cycle didn’t complete, and run it again. As Bob Villa observes, “If a dishwasher gets inadvertently shut off during a cycle, there’ll be standing water in the bottom when you open it.” If running the dishwasher again doesn’t resolve the issue, an interrupted cycle wasn’t the cause.

Should this be the case, Villa advises running the garbage disposal. Why?  Because the drain hose from your dishwasher empties into the garbage disposal drain. If the disposal unit contains unground food – or if food sludge settles in the drainpipe below the disposal – it can prevent the dishwasher from draining properly.

“Sometimes, just running the disposal is all it takes to get the dishwasher draining again,” Villa writes. “In fact, get in the habit of leaving the water on and letting your garbage disposal run an additional 15 seconds after the food is gone. This clears all remaining food that might otherwise remain in the P-trap drain beneath the disposal.”

Read our blog post – “Garbage Disposal Jammed? What You Need to Know” – to address and prevent problems with this kitchen convenience.

Don’t throw in the towel, dry with it

If running the garbage disposal doesn’t get your dishwasher draining again, you’ll have to remove the standing water before attempting further troubleshooting. Of course, if you don’t have a garbage disposal, go directly to this step.

Back to Villa, who recommends placing absorbent towels around the base of the dishwasher, then removing the bottom dish tray. Use a plastic cup to scoop the dirty water into a bucket. When the water level is too low to scoop, use towels to sop up the last bit in the bottom of the dishwasher.

Could your drain hose be blocked?

If the problem isn’t with the garbage disposal, the dishwasher’s drain hose could be blocked. Family Handyman provides a helpful step-by-step guide – with video – to troubleshooting three of the most common causes. We’re providing a brief overview. Refer to the guide itself for complete instructions.

First, check the drain-hose connection, drain-hose clamp, solenoid and power supply. If these are tight and functioning, look at the following.

1.Check the filter in the dishwasher’s tub. This is located either in the bottom of the tub – surrounding the base of the lower spray arm – or at the back. Although most newer-model dishwashers have small built-in grinders, pieces of food (like popcorn) and paper (such as labels washed off jars) can cause clogging. Clear the debris. Even if it isn’t the source of your current issue, you will have prevented a future problem.

2. Check the drain hose. Disconnect the power by either unplugging the dishwasher or turning off its circuit breaker. Remove the toe-kick, which is held in place by two or four small screws. Loosen the dishwasher drain hose clamp and disconnect the drain hose (which usually has ridges) from the pump.

Try to blow through the dishwasher drain hose to see if it’s clear. If it’s blocked, look for kinks in the hose and straighten them. Also check the disposer inlet or pipe where the dishwasher drain hose connects under the sink. If the inlet has a buildup of corrosion, clear it with a small screwdriver.

3. Check for a valve bracket. If your dishwasher has a valve bracket, it has a drain valve. To test the valve, push on the valve bracket to see if it moves freely. If the valve is frozen, the electrical solenoid that controls it is burned out and needs to be replaced.

Try baking soda and vinegar

If the problem persists, you can try another DIY technique. The Home Depot’s website provides an informative video involving a mix of equal parts baking soda and vinegar. Pour the mixture in the basket at the bottom of the dishwasher and let sit for 15 minutes. Pour hot water down the basket, and run the rinse cycle. By the way, The Home Depot video also includes instructions for the previously described troubleshooting techniques.

Ready to call a pro? We’re here for you!

Should none of these DIY remedies solve your problem – or you just don’t feel comfortable about attempting anything more complex than running the garbage disposal – give us a call! Adams and Son Plumbing has proudly served Central Florida homes and businesses with the highest level of full-service quality and experience for over 60 years. We are family-owned and operated, and all of our plumbers are state-certified master plumbers. Contact us to get – and keep – your home’s plumbing in top repair.


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