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What to Do When Your Dishwasher Won't Drain

lady lookin a broken dishwasher

A broken appliance is never much fun, but when your dishwasher clogs up, it’s also pretty gross. Water pools up at the bottom — usually dirty water filled with grease and food scraps from your last load of dishes. So, what to do when your dishwasher won’t drain?


Kitchen plumbing can seem like a mysterious puzzle with interlocking hoses just waiting for one little thing to go wrong, sending the whole assembly into a downward spiral of plumbing issues.

You’re not wrong to feel that way. There are several elements working together that rely on each part to function correctly. Follow these steps to put them back into harmony.

1. Run the garbage disposal

Your dishwasher drains into your garbage disposal. So, if the disposal is filled with waste, your dishwasher won’t empty.

Run the disposal with hot tap water until it sounds clear, and then leave it on for another 15 seconds just to be sure. The extra seconds help remove any residue that’s stuck in the P-trap under the disposal unit.

2. Clear the air gap

The air gap is a break in the plumbing line that prevents wastewater from backing up into your dishwasher. It’s located in a cylindrical fixture behind the sink, by the dishwasher outlet.

Make sure there is nothing clogging the gap. Clean out any buildup and tighten the cylinder.

3. Clean the dishwasher filter

Your dishwasher has a filter screen over the outlet that prevents food waste from draining out into your waste pipes. You’ll find it at the lowest part of the tub in the back.

First, remove any standing water by either bailing it out or using a shop vacuum. Then, remove the filter per the manufacturer’s instructions. You can usually find PDF files online.

Once removed, clean the filter thoroughly and replace it. Now that you know how easy it is, you can clean the filter regularly, along with your garbage disposal, to prevent future clogs.

5. Check the drain hose.

The hose for drainage runs from the pump to the garbage disposal. It may be kinked, but you can straighten it out by hand. You should replace the hose entirely if it’s badly damaged.

The drain hose may also be clogged. After unplugging the dishwasher, remove the front panel and carefully remove the hose from the drain pump. Check the hose visually or by blowing air through it.

Gently remove any clogs with a stiff wire or replace the hose with a new one.

When to Call the Plumber

These steps should get you back in business, but for more serious issues, it may be time to call a plumber. A bad pump or belt, fried electronics, or valve failures require a trained technician.

Don’t void your warranty with amateur repairs. Make an appointment with the pro technicians at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Port St. Lucie.