It comes as no surprise that our dishwashers would back up from time-to-time. When you consider the number of dirty dishes we haphazardly cram in there on a daily basis, a clogged dishwasher is an obvious and eventual outcome.
Clogged drains and pipes are just one of life’s unavoidable hassles. Chances are that you’ve run into a clogged drain once or twice in your lifetime, and you may have even tried to clumsily unclog it yourself using makeshift gadgets from around your house. While there is no shame in trying to find an immediate remedy to an overflowing or clogged dishwasher, taking a more calculated approach could prove to be more productive.
So what can you do, short of calling a professional plumber to unclog your dishwasher? Well to start, let’s review some troubleshooting tactics, step-by-step instructions, and preventative care tips that can help you avoid future clogs in your dishwasher.
Is Your Dishwasher Not Draining? Try This Before Calling a Pro
Do you have standing water in your dishwasher or an error message that pops up every time you try to run it? You’re not alone. Typically your sink, garbage disposal and dishwasher are all interconnected and working in unison. So if one backs up, it affects the entire trifecta. Keeping all the drains in your kitchen free of debris is key to avoiding costly plumbing bills in the future.
- Clear the Garbage Disposal – As stated above, your garbage disposal and dishwasher likely share the same plumbing system. Before trying to start your dishwasher again, make sure you run the garbage disposal and ensure that it is fully drained and clear of large food items or obstructions. If your garbage disposal is making odd noises, isn’t draining, or the blades aren’t moving, take a look at the unit from an under-the-counter perspective. Some garbage disposal systems have a reset button, as well as a place to manually make the blades spin with the use of an Allen wrench. Resetting it, as well as manually spinning the blades, may help to flush out stubborn food items. *Never put your hand/hands inside the garbage disposal when the unit is plugged in and has power running to it.*
- Clean the Air Gap – Depending on the type of set-up your kitchen has, chances are you have an air gap installed on the surface of your sink next to the faucet. It’s that protruding cylindrical looking thing that makes gurgling noises every time you run the dishwasher. Yeah, that thing. Anyhow, sometimes food items get stuck in the hoses that travel between your sink, garbage disposal and dishwasher. To clear the air gap, you need to remove the outer casing of the air gap. You should see a white tube with a cap on the top of it. Remove the top part to reveal a smaller tube. Check for any visible food particles or obstructions and promptly remove them. Leave the cap off and run your dishwasher. If water comes shooting out like a geyser after a few tries, then you may have flushed the clog out. Replace the cap, restart the dishwasher and see if it runs through a full cycle without flooding.
- DIY Drain Cleaners – This requires a simple mixture of vinegar, baking soda and super hot water. Mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar, then pour the mixture in the filter basket in the basin of your dishwasher. Let it sit and soak through for about 10-15. Then, with safety in mind, carefully pour boiling water into the dishwasher basin and see if that successfully clears up the clog.
How to Unclog a Dishwasher
Okay, now the hard part. Dishwashers are tricky because they are connected to your garbage disposal and kitchen sink. If you have a basic toolbox around the house, it would be a good time to grab it. Now roll up your sleeves and let’s give this a try.
Step 1: Prep Your Dishwasher
Time to get your hands dirty. If there are any dishes in your dishwasher, you’ll need to remove them so you can work on the dishwasher. Set the dishes to the side and shift your focus to the bottom dish rack. Slide the bottom dish rack out and remove it so you can access the basin, drain and filter.
Step 2: Unplug Your Dishwasher, or Make Sure Your Dishwasher Is Turned Off
Now that your dishwasher is empty and the bottom rack is removed, you need to ensure that there is no electricity is going to the unit. Unplug your dishwasher. The last thing you’d want to do is work on an appliance where both water and electricity are present.
Step 3: Remove the Stagnant Water
Once you have made sure the dishwasher has no power running to it, you’ll have to deal with any standing water that is at the bottom of the dishwasher. A shop-vac or a wet-dry vacuum would be ideal, but not everyone has one handy. Your next best bet is to scoop out as much water as you can and then soak up the excess water with cloth towels. This will give you complete access to the drain and filters where the problem likely exists.
Step 4: Perform a Check on the Drain Hose
This is the important part. Years of putting all sorts of food scraps in the disposal and, at times, the dishwasher, it is no surprise that a few chunks of food could have become lodged in the drain hose. The drain hose is the tube that runs between your dishwasher and your garbage disposal. This is typically located under your sink or behind the dishwasher itself. If it is the latter, you’ll need to pull the entire unit out to be able to access the drain hose. In which case, this may be a good time to wave the white flag and call in a professional plumber to fix your dishwasher.
Step 5: Remove Drain Hose and Clean
After you have located the drain hose, you’ll need to disconnect it to clean it out. This will likely require some pliers and a little bit of elbow grease. You’ll also need a pan to catch any excess water that may drain from the hose. To disconnect the hose, find the clamp that is holding it snug to your dishwasher and unfasten it. Allow the water and any waste to escape. Run warm water through the hose to clean it thoroughly. Once you think you have successfully cleaned the drain hose, reattach it to your dishwasher and follow the other steps.
Step 6: Check Dishwasher Drain
Again, refer to your manual if you are unable to locate the drain. Newer dishwashers have a screen that you can pop out and it will reveal the drain at the bottom of the dishwasher. Use your hands to search for any debris or objects that could be obstructing the drain.
If you have followed all of these steps with no positive results, and are feeling a tad defeated, don’t fret, call a professional. Detour Plumbing is the leading emergency plumber in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and throughout the San Fernando Valley. Detour Plumbing can have a licensed plumber to your home in an instant to resolve the most stubborn of clogged drains and backed up plumbing.
Prevent Future Clogs | Dishwasher Maintenance
Maintaining your appliances is part of being a good homeowner. You can save a lot of money over time by taking proper care of your dishwasher, fixtures and garbage disposal. Taking a proactive approach to your plumbing can prevent more serious clogs from happening in the future.
- Clean the Filter in Your Dishwasher Basin – Every dishwasher is different, but most models have online instruction manuals for situations just like this. To keep your dishwasher running in tip-top shape, you should routinely clean and rinse out the dishwasher filter at the bottom of your dishwasher. Find out where yours is and give it a good rinse in the sink with hot water to get rid of any gunk that accumulated.
- Lightly Rinse Dishes Beforehand – Sounds like something your parents would nag you about growing up, but it’s true. Putting unneeded strain on your dishwasher and its filters makes little sense if you want it to last for years to come. While you don’t have to wash your dishes twice, you should make sure to get most of the food scraps off of your dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher. This will help ensure that your basin remains clear of debris and your filter stays mostly clean.
- Don’t Put Hard Foods in the Garbage Disposal – Be careful of rigid objects or hard foods getting lodged in the garbage disposal. Things like peach pits, lemon seeds, popcorn kernels or even chicken bones shouldn’t be put in your garbage disposal. These tiny hard objects can get flushed down through the disposal drain and become jammed in the hose that connects the sink and dishwasher together.