The Seven Ways to Unclog a Dishwasher Drain

Fred's Appliance
February 8, 2021
Dishwasher Repair

Every dishwasher has a drain. Most dishwashers pull hot water, cycle it with soap to wash, then run fresh water to rinse. All of it, along with the food cleaned from the dishes, goes down the dishwasher drain. Depending on how thoroughly you pre-rinse dishes, your dishwasher may have quite a bit of debris and washed-down sludge to deal with. Sometimes, a bit of plastic or a single piece of lettuce can cause a temporary clog.

Let’s run down the list of the seven most effective ways to unclog your dishwasher drain. We’ll start with the easiest methods and move progressively to solutions with more disassembly and repair skill required.

1) Clean the Dishwasher Floor

Start by cleaning out the bottom of the dishwasher. Feel free to remove the lower rack. Flip open the ends of the lower tracks and pull the rack straight out. Then wipe down the inside of the dishwasher, paying close attention to the floor and drain assembly. Pull out any food (or non-food) debris and make sure there is nothing apparently blocking the drain.

2) Run the Garbage Disposal

Now run your kitchen sink tap on cold water and flip the garbage disposal on. Count to ten or until the grinding sound evens-out, then flip off the disposal. Your sink and the garbage disposal share the same drain, and running the disposal helps to clear anything clogged in that path. This is a common and reliable way to clear your dishwasher drain of mild clogs.

3) Open and Clean the Drain Catch

Back inside your dishwasher, look for the drain catch or basket. It may look like a slotted bowl or an upturned strainer. It may have screws, clips, or a twist-release to remove the drain catch. Check your manual if necessary.

Take off the drain catch to clean the inner walls of the basket and access the drain inside. Clean out anything you can see or reach. Run hot water, vinegar, and baking soda down this drain line if you think it’s clogged in the traditional way.

4) Run Empty on Hot with Vinegar

Another option is that your dishwasher is built up with scale – minerals in the water that remain when the water dries. These are broken up with vinegar and heat. Run your dishwasher empty. Place a bowl of vinegar upright in the top shelf and splash a cup or more of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher. Then run on the hottest setting – without heat-dry.

5) Snake Your Kitchen Sink Drain

If you have a snake at home or hire a drain service, you can snake the kitchen drain. A snake is a flexible line that spins down into drains, breaking up any clogs and/or catching the clog material to pull it out. Snaking the kitchen drain clears the line shared with the dishwasher. If you have the dishwasher drain cover open, you may snake this line as well.

6) Clear the Drain Hose

Speaking of the dishwasher drain line, most dishwashers are connected to the kitchen sink drain via a flexible hose. If you are willing to uninstall your dishwasher to reach the hose, you can remove, clear, and replace it as needed to resolve your dishwasher draining issue.

7) Replace the Drain Pump

Finally, the drain pump may be at fault. If your drain pump is clogged, damaged, or broken then an experienced appliance technician will need to uninstall the pump and reinstall the new one to ensure it’s done safely. The drain pump is both a plumbing and electrical component that requires careful handling.

Is your dishwasher experiencing drain issues? We can help. Contact us and an appliance technician will help you decide on the right repair steps for your dishwasher.

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