How to Unclog a Dishwasher

As one of the most common causes of standing water, clogged drains are often the result of food leftovers or grease buildup. If the problem of standing water becomes a regular occurrence for your dishwasher, there are still a few things you can try on your own before calling a professional.

How do I get rid of standing water in my dishwasher?

Before you begin your troubleshooting, you need to make sure the dishwasher is safe. Disconnect the appliance from the power source by either turning the breaker off or unplugging the cord. Prepare a set of towels, a large cup or scoop, and a sizeable bowl or container. Keep one or two towels for later use and line the rest on the floor in front of the dishwasher. Now you are ready to begin working on your main problem.

1. Remove the standing water from the tub

Using the cup or plastic container, move the water from the dishwasher and into the prepared bowl. Eventually, the water becomes too shallow, so you must apply the towel to soak in the remaining moisture. Repeat the steps until the inside of the dishwasher is rid of visible moisture.

2. Clean the drain hose

Over time, your dishwasher’s drainage system can get clogged with hard food particles and other leftover debris, especially if your appliance is utilized for frequent or heavy-duty cleaning.  First place any wide and shallow container under the drain hose to gather any possible water spillage. It can be a large dish or pan. Then use pliers to loosen the clamp around the hose to disconnect it. Once you’ve removed the hose, check for signs of clogging. If the hose is clogged, use a simple wire hanger that must be straightened beforehand to remove whatever is obstructing the hose. Older drain hoses tend to create small twists along their lengths, causing local blockages. Check your hose for any such minor deformities and carefully straighten them out.

3. Clean the garbage disposal

Some dishwashers can drain water through the garbage disposal. However, if the garbage disposal is full or clogged, the drained water might back up and fill the dishwasher. Run the disposal to get rid of any debris and clogging. To prevent any standing water issues in the future, keep your garbage disposal clear to make sure the drained water passes freely.

4. Clean the air gap

Some kitchens have an air gap installed next to the faucet to prevent the sink water from entering the dishwasher and causing buildup. If your air gap is experiencing problems, it often results in water flooding the countertop. To unclog the air gap, take off the cap and clean all buildup and debris.

5. Clean the pump

A dysfunctional pump can often be the cause of standing water at the bottom of your dishwasher. Most dishwasher pumps consist of two impellers, for pumping water inside the tub and for draining used water from the tub. Check the impellers for signs of obstruction and clear all existing blockages caused by food and other debris. Otherwise, the impellers won’t turn and drain the water.

6. Clean the filter

Most dishwasher manufacturers recommend cleaning your filter system at least once a month, especially if you see signs of tough spoilage on the upper filter. As a general rule, the filter is located on the floor below the spray arm, closer to the back. Multi-stage filters are generally easy to remove and disassemble. First, turn the upper filter assembly counterclockwise and remove it from the dishwasher. Gently pull it apart in order to clean each part separately. Use running water to remove all food particles or debris and get rid of accumulated grease. For harder spots, use a soft brush or a soft sponge. Avoid using wire brushes and scouring pads as they might damage the filter surface. Cleaning the filter screen is another useful practice that you should perform more frequently as it helps reduce the chances of clogging.

7. Clean the drain line

A clogged dishwasher drain might result in water backing up and remaining inside the tub. The good news is, you can clean the drain by using common household products, namely vinegar, and baking soda. First, make a paste-like mixture by combining ½ cup of baking soda with ½ cup of water. Find the drain line under the filter screen, usually located at the back of your dishwasher. Pour the mixture in the drain line, then add ½ cup of vinegar and let it settle for 10-15 minutes. Once enough time has passed, pour boiling hot water down the drain to remove the clogs and flush out the cleaning solution.

8. Clean the supply line

If cleaning the drainage and filters doesn’t solve the standing water issue, the cause might be in your supply line that has become clogged. Before you start cleaning the supply line, prepare a bucket and a plumbing snake. Place the bucket under the supply line—which should be located under the sink—for gathering any spillage. Disconnect the line from the drain and let all remaining water escape into the bucket. Check for blockages inside the line and run a plumbing snake through it to remove the clogs. Connect the line to the drain and run your dishwasher through an empty cycle.

Why is there standing water in my dishwasher?

Your dishwasher not draining water properly could be caused by a number of issues. One of the most common causes, however, is the clogged drainage system, meaning the drain hose or the drain line might be blocked. Other culprits include the filter system and the dishwasher pump. A blocked filter or an obstructed pump impeller prevents the drain system from doing its job, causing the water to build up inside the chamber. Even clogged spray arms can contribute to the issue and should be cleaned regularly which you can do when while you are cleaning your filters and filter screens. Don’t forget to run your garbage disposer and routinely inspect the drain and supply lines. If nothing helps to solve the issue of standing water, you may contact a certified professional.

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