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How to Tell Your Dishwasher is Clogged

Washing dishes will clog a dishwasher over time due to the formation of mineral deposits and grease – there really isn’t any way around it. If you open your dishwasher’s door and dirty water has pooled on top of your dishes (standing water), there might be food particles or some other debris stuck in the sprayers or filter basket at the bottom of the dishwasher causing it not to drain properly.

7 signs your dishwasher is clogged

There are several warning signs that your dishwasher needs to be serviced by a dishwasher repair expert. The first sign is dirty dishes, if your dishes aren’t coming out clean after a cleaning cycle it could mean there are major issues with your dishwasher unit.

  1. The dishes aren’t coming clean
  2. There are water pools on top of your dishes
  3. Food particles are stuck in the sprayers at the bottom of the dishwasher
  4. You see mold or mildew around where your dishwasher hose attaches to your kitchen wall
  5. Your dishwasher seems to be running much longer than normal
  6. Water is leaking from the bottom of your dishwasher
  7. There’s an unpleasant odor coming from your dishwasher

What causes a dishwasher drain to clog?

There are many problems that stem from a dishwasher not draining. Some of the most common causes of a dishwasher clog are below:

  1. The garbage disposal isn’t running properly
  2. There is a clog in the sink
  3. The drain hose is attached to the wrong place on your sink
  4. Food particles build up over time if they aren’t properly disposed
  5. Food particles can combine with grease to create a sludge
  6. The dishwasher isn’t being used frequently enough for items inside to dry out

How to fix it: Run the garbage disposal before you run the dishwasher, and periodically use a half cup of distilled white vinegar during each cycle to help keep it clean.

How do you unclog a dishwasher?

  1. Turn off the water to your dishwasher and sink and remove automatic dishwasher detergent
  2. Find the drain hose on your dishwasher and run it over to where your sink drain is
  3. Use a plunger to clear out any debris that might be in the pipe/sewer line
  4. If this doesn’t work, you can use a snake or an auger to remove the air gap or any particles that are in the drain system

If you notice a bad smell coming from your dishwasher, run a cycle with bleach in the soap dispenser to help cut down on odors. You can also pour boiling water and vinegar instead of bleach. If all else fails, hire a residential appliance plumbing specialist for help.

Fixing a clogged dishwasher drain hose

To clean and/or fix your clogged dishwasher hose, follow the steps below:

  1. Turn off the power supply connected to your dishwasher by locating the circuit breaker that corresponds to the dishwasher.
  2. Remove the bottom toe panel beneath your dishwasher and access the drain hose. Remove the 2 screws attaching the panel to your dishwasher. Find your dishwasher drain hose – which is a rubber or plastic hose that has a 1-1/2″ diameter. Inspect your hose for kinks or twists. Place a pan under the drain hose to catch any water that might spill out.
  3. Remove the drain hose from your dishwasher pump then squeeze the wire clamp on the pump end of your hose with a pair of pliers. Slide the hose clamp downward to get it out of the way, then pull the drain hose free of the dishwasher’s pump. Finally, pinch the clamp at the opposite end and disconnect from the sink. Once removed you can take either end of the hose and run hot water through it to dislodge any obstructions.

Unclogging a garbage disposal

Does boiling water unclog drains? Before attempting to use baking soda or any DIY method to unclog a garbage disposal, power down your garbage disposal unit by flipping the switch off or plugging it from the outlet. After the power is disconnected, try these three steps before calling a plumber:

  1. Use a plunger by covering the opening in your drain with it.
  2. Pour hot water down the side of the drain pipe to help push through any loose debris that’s in the way of the clog.
  3. Use a drain snake or an auger to get rid of any particles that are stuck inside your disposal system.

Cleaning the dishwasher drain filter

The drain filter is located inside the side of your sink. It’s designed to catch large bits of food before they reach your main drain line. How to clean the drain filter:

  1. Turn off all of your water supplies under your sink. This will help prevent a mess when you’re cleaning out the drain filter.
  2. Unscrew or pop open any fittings on the side of your kitchen sink that might have something covering it.
  3. Remove the drain filter and use a wire brush to scrub any food particles off.
  4. Clean out the drain filter well so you can put it back inside your kitchen sink.

Can you unclog a dishwasher with standing water?

No, you cannot unclog a dishwasher with standing water because it’s more likely that the standing water is the source of the problem. It is best to solve the problem by finding out what happened when the dishwasher was in use. Empty the standing water with a bucket and towels in order to diagnose the clog.

Should you call a plumber if your dishwasher isn’t draining properly?

If your dishwasher isn’t draining properly, you should probably call a professional plumber first. Some issues related to an air gap, a clogged drain hose, a clogged sewer line, the drain pump, drain valve, drain basket and clogged drains require an experts attention to avoid further damage. The time and money you spend trying to resolve the issues on your own, could be more costly than just hiring a pro at Sacramento Plumbing Solutions to diagnose and solve your problem quickly. An expert can efficiently replace and fix the following plumbing system and dishwasher components:

  1. Filter basket
  2. Air cap
  3. Wash impeller
  4. Sewer lines
  5. Faulty motor
  6. Malfunctioning pump assembly
Mike Grijalva

Mike Grijalva

Owner & Lead Plumber

I’ve been a journeyman plumber for over 15 years and opened my own plumbing company in 2011. I’m highly qualified and offer the best prices in the Sacramento area. I’ve done plumbing in every aspect possible, inlcluding new construction, service and repair, commercial, sprinkler service, and custom homes. I take great pride in my work.  You can feel comfortable trusting someone highly skilled with integrity for all your plumbing needs.

CSLB License #963048

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