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Dishwasher Not Draining? 3 Troubleshooting Tips

Is your dishwasher not draining all the way? Before calling the plumber, try these 3 DIY troubleshooting tips from Abt Electronics.
Open dishwasher

Getting Started

Dishwasher problems are not uncommon. One frequent issue is opening your dishwasher to find dingy, standing water. When dishwashers fail to drain correctly, they can create a bigger headache in your kitchen, causing damage to kitchen cabinets and flooring. Even worse, standing water often invites the growth of mold and mildew.
So why exactly is your dishwasher not draining? It could be one of several reasons. Before you call a plumber or think you may need to buy a new dishwasher, there are a few troubleshooting tips to try and fix it yourself. To try and prevent accidents and dishwasher mayhem in the future, check out our learn center for other kitchen tips, like our guide to the best way you can load a dishwasher.
For starters, run your dishwasher a second time, as it can often shut off mid-cycle by accident. If there's still standing water, it's a clear indication something is going on, which means it's time to roll up your sleeves.
What do you do when your dishwasher is not draining? Here are three easy troubleshooting tips for a DIY inspection to find the cause of your dishwasher woes:
  • Check the plumbing connections
  • Check the dishwasher filter
  • Clean and unclog the drain
Washing Dishwasher Filter
Before you begin, make sure to empty the dishwasher, remove the bottom rack and discard anything like food or utensils that made their way to the basin floor. Now you're ready to get your dishwasher draining again!

Check the Plumbing Connections

When your dishwasher is not draining, your first step should be to check the plumbing connections.
  • First, check the drain hose that runs from the dishwasher to the sink or garbage disposal, ensuring that the connection is still securely attached. You should also make sure it is clean and clear of food debris or garbage that might have gotten stuck.
  • Inspect the hose clamp and drain solenoid, looking for signs of wear and tear. If either appears damaged, you definitely need to replace them!
  • Turn on the garbage disposal, if you have one. Sometimes, if your disposal has food lingering inside, turning it on can help clear the passageway. If there are loud grinding noises, it may indicate that it needs to be unclogged with a drain cleaner.
  • Lastly, check the air gap cylinder, which is typically located behind the sink and near the dishwasher's outlet hose. This piece is meant to keep water flowing in the proper direction during wash cycles, preventing the back up of wastewater. Any buildup of this sort can prevent your dishwasher from draining, so you need to clean it out and ensure it's firmly secured.

Check the Dishwasher Filter

Once you've eliminated any plumbing issues, check the filter. A dishwasher filter can accumulate food and waste, building up enough that it prevents proper drainage.
  • Locate your filter, which is typically inside the dishwasher along the bottom of the tub, near the spray arm. Take a rag or sponge and clean and scrub the area around the filter.
  • Next, check the dishwasher filter itself, unscrewing it until it pops out. Newer dishwasher units offer built-in grids designed to protect filters and prevent buildup. However, sometimes the debris can still accumulate enough to cause drainage issues.
  • Unscrew the casing and clean the filter, removing any buildup and debris that could keep your dishwasher from draining.
Keep in mind that some portable dishwashers are fitted with a special filter, which may require you to consult the instruction manual for detailed cleaning instructions.
Cleaning drain with baking soda

Clean and Unclog the Drain

If the above tricks don't work, there's still hope. Last but not least, clean and unclog the drain. Instead of using harsh chemicals, however, follow a natural cleaning method using baking soda and vinegar.
  • Create a mixture of baking soda and water, wiping down the door and door gaskets, as well as any stains. If you're going to take the time, you might as well go the distance!
  • Next, mix equal parts of baking soda and vinegar and pour the solution down into the basket. Allow the solution to sit for 15 minutes.
  • Lastly, pour hot water down the basket, place the filter back into the dishwasher and run a final rinse cycle.
As you troubleshoot your dishwasher, you might as well get it sparkling clean. Using Abt's natural cleaning method, you can also fill a dishwasher-safe container with one cup of white vinegar. Set the container in the center and run a sanitizing hot cycle.
If you smell a slight vinegar odor, don't worry! This will go away over time or when you run the next load of dishes.
Discover more through Abt's comprehensive Dishwasher Buying Guide and take a look at our popular brands such as Whirlpool, GE and Frigidaire.

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