How to Unclog a Dishwasher NOT Draining

What to Do If Your Dishwasher Doesn’t Drain

If you’ve opened your dishwasher to find a sudsy puddle on the bottom, use these troubleshooting tips to fix the underlying issue.


When I opened the dishwasher door, I discovered that the bottom of the machine was filled with filthy water! My first thought was that the cycle had failed, so I restarted the dishwasher, but that didn’t help. Why isn’t my dishwasher draining properly? Do you have any suggestions for a do-it-yourself fix, or do I need to call a plumber?


You did the right thing by re-running your unit. When you open a dishwasher that has been accidentally turned off during a cycle, there will be standing water in the bottom. When that clever move fails to solve the problem, it’s time to look for another solution. In the plumbing industry, dishwasher service calls are common, but fortunately, the fix for a dishwasher that won’t drain is often something you can do yourself. So, before you call a professional, try troubleshooting your dishwasher using the steps below.

Start the garbage disposal.

Your dishwasher’s drain hose empties into the garbage disposal drain. The dishwasher may not drain properly if the disposal unit contains unground food or if food sludge settles in the drainpipe beneath the disposal. Sometimes all it takes is a quick run of the disposal to get the dishwasher draining again.

In fact, make it a habit to leave the water running and let your garbage disposal run for an extra 15 seconds after the food has been removed. This gets rid of any leftover food that might be stuck in the P-trap drain beneath the disposal.

Serviceman Crouching On Kitchen Floor Pressing Button Of Dishwasher While Woman Looking At Him

Clean the air gap in your sink.

A small, slotted cylinder (often made of stainless steel) is installed on the top of the sink, right next to the faucet, when a dishwasher hose connects to a sink without a garbage disposal. The air gap’s small hose connects to the dishwasher’s drain hose. This serves as a vent to keep an air lock from forming in the drain hose, but it can become clogged with debris on occasion. To investigate, remove the air gap by twisting it counterclockwise and inspecting it for gunk. Replace the air gap, clean it with water and a stiff brush, and run the dishwasher cycle once more.

Remove any water that has accumulated.

If running the disposal doesn’t solve the problem (or if you don’t have one), drain the water to get a better look at the problem. Place absorbent towels around the dishwasher’s base, then remove the bottom dish tray by sliding it out. With the tray out of the way, scoop the dirty water into a bucket for disposal with a plastic cup. When the water level in the machine is too low to scoop, use towels to soak up the last bit in the bottom.

The Most Common Reasons Your Dishwasher Doesn’t Drain

The first step in dealing with water in the bottom of your dishwasher is to identify the source of the problem.

Clogs, poor maintenance, operating errors, and broken or malfunctioning parts are the most common causes of water in the bottom of your dishwasher.

The most common causes of water not draining properly are clogs and blockages. Dishes should be rinsed before being placed in the dishwasher to avoid clogs.

There are a variety of parts and systems in your dishwasher that can become clogged, and I go over how to clear each one in detail in under a minute.

Inadequate Maintenance The majority of people are unaware that regular maintenance is required to keep their dishwasher in good working order.

Emptying the drain basket, inspecting the hoses, and cleaning the filters are all examples of routine maintenance.

Cleaning and inspecting the spray arm every six months, or as directed in your owner’s manual, is also a good idea.

Errors in Operation To ensure proper operation techniques, always consult your owner’s manual. It is critical to understand how to operate the machine and which products are recommended.

In a pinch, using regular dish soap could cause a clog and result in water in the dishwasher’s bottom.

Parts that have been broken To avoid voiding your warranty, have parts replaced by a licenced professional when they wear out.

You can use Home Advisor to find highly-rated, licenced professionals in your area if you don’t know who to call.

Obtaining completely free, no-obligation quotes takes only a few minutes.

If cleaning and inspections fail to show anything, seek professional assistance. If your dishwasher is acting up in any of the following ways, it may need to be serviced:

  • Will not fill
  • Will not drain
  • Making a racket is a form of leakage.

Dishes are not being washed.

Dishwasher Tip: To learn how to load the dishwasher properly, visit GE’s website. If you detect a puddle near your dishwasher, call for service right away! A leaking dishwasher can cause extensive water damage to your home’s structure.

Dishwasher cleaning instructions

Get the most out of your machine by setting it and forgetting it.

We expect our dishwasher to last more than ten years, but if you don’t invest a few minutes in routine maintenance, it may not survive as long.

Dishwasher maintenance gives you the creeps? If you merely want to replace your dishwasher, our shopping guide will tell you what to look for. A little dishwashing TLC isn’t too difficult for the rest of us. Here are some suggestions to keep your dishwasher functioning smoothly.

What to do if your dishwasher’s filter is clogged If your dishwasher isn’t draining, it’s likely that the filter has become clogged. Even if it isn’t, cleaning the filter is a necessary, albeit nasty, part of your dishwasher routine because grease and foodscraps can accumulate in it, causing clogs, poor odours, and other hygiene issues. Maintaining a clean filter helps your dishwasher function more efficiently and reduces the likelihood of food scraps getting deeper inside the machine.

Filters in modern dishwashers are designed to be easily removed and cleaned, so there’s no reason to put it off any longer. Empty the dishwasher and remove the bottom basket – the filter will be in the sump, or lowest portion of the dishwasher, and should twist out without the use of tools; however, if you get stuck, consult your handbook.

Remove the grease and filth by washing the internal filter under hot running water and lightly scrubbing it with a plastic brush. The larger trap filter only requires a hot water rinse.

Simply reverse the removal operation to replace the filter.

How to Get Rid of a Moldy Dishwasher A mouldy dishwasher isn’t simply unsightly; it can also be dangerous to your health. No home can ever be entirely mould-free since mould spores float about in the air, and the hot, wet interiors of your dishwasher are the ideal setting for mould to thrive.

While visible black spots or a musty odour coming from your dishwasher are evident symptoms of a mould problem, you may be suffering from mould without ever realising it — Because many varieties of mould are small, colourless, and odourless, it’s prudent to assume that mould is present in your dishwasher even if you can’t see it.

To get rid of mould in your dishwasher, remove the racks and wash them in hot, soapy water. With a soapy sponge or washcloth, clean down the interior of the dishwasher as well as the door seal. Reassemble the racks and allow everything to air dry completely.

After that, destroy the mould with vinegar. Fill a dishwasher-safe container halfway with vinegar and place it on the top rack with the lid off. Run a hot cycle and dump everything except the vinegar receptacle.

Run a second hot cycle after adding a cup of baking soda to the dishwasher cabinet.

Scrub any leftover mould with soapy water and a toothbrush, paying special care to sharp corners and around the door seal.

If vinegar isn’t cutting it, go for the big hitter in the shape of chlorine bleach, which is a highly powerful mould killer that also removes mildew spots as a bonus. Bleach is a strong chemical, so avoid pouring it directly on rubber seals, wear gloves, keep your kitchen properly aired, and never mix bleach with other chemicals, including the aforementioned vinegar, since it can produce poisonous gas.

To de-mould your dishwasher with bleach, first clean the racks, then dilute 1 cup of bleach in four litres of water and scrub the insides of your dishwasher with a stiff plastic brush (don’t use a wire brush, it will damage your appliance), then an old toothbrush to get into any sharp corners or behind the door seal (though it may not kill mould that has penetrated deep into the porous surfaces of your seals). After that, run an empty cycle to remove any remaining bleach.

Allow air to circulate between cycles by leaving the door slightly ajar. This can help lessen the possibility of mould returning.

There are various commercially available cleaning products that claim to clean the insides of your dishwasher and restore it to new condition.

Is it necessary for me to use a commercial dishwasher cleaner?

Cleaning your dishwasher with a cleaner is a terrific method to get rid of built-up oil and limescale, but unless you’ve let neglect get the best of you and are dealing with a decade’s worth of dirt all at once, you could be better off with plain old white vinegar.

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