A picture of the inside of a dishwasher with the words, "What to Do If My Dishwasher is Clogged?"

Dishwashers are a homeowner’s best friend. Just pop the dishes in, add soap, press start, and walk away. When you come back later, your dishes will be sparkling clean—a time-saving miracle! But over time, food, stickers from new dishes, grease, and other debris can build up in the bottom of the machine, causing clogs and weakening performance. Read on for a closer look at how to spot a clog and fix it.

Does My Dishwasher Have a Clog?

You Hear Gurgling

Gurgling or thumping indicates that water may be getting trapped in the main or secondary sewer line.

Water Backups into Your Sink When the Dishwasher Runs

The dishwasher’s drainage system is connected to the sink’s drain, so if water backs up into your sink when the dishwasher runs, it’s possible you have a clog. Garbage disposal clogs can cause water to back up while the dishwasher is running. Run the garbage disposal while the dishwasher is off to eliminate this as a cause. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then you have a clog in the main or secondary sewer line.

Your Dishwasher is Draining Slowly

If your dishwasher is draining slowly, then you have a clog or partial clog in the kitchen sewer line. Run the dishwasher again. If the cleaning cycle was interrupted while the machine was running, it may not drain properly. Rerunning the cycle will give it a second chance to drain. If water pools at the bottom of your dishwasher after it has completed a full cleaning cycle, then you have a clog.

Your Dishes Are Not Clean

Dirty dishes after multiple cycles is a big indication that food and other debris are caught in the drainage system.

What is Causing the Clog in My Dishwasher?

Clogged Filter Basket

The dishwasher’s filter basket prevents food scraps and other debris from entering the pipes. A full filter is the most likely cause of a dishwasher clog. To keep your dishwasher draining, make sure you clean the filter basket regularly.

Clogged Drain Hose

A dishwasher drains water through a hose that is connected to the sink drain or garbage disposal. Over time, food, mineral residue, and other debris can build up in the hose and cause a backup or clog. Check for a clog by blowing through the hose. If it’s clear, this isn’t the source of your clog. Clean the drain hose once a year to avoid drainage issues.

Clogged Drains

Clogs that form further down the sewage line can also cause your dishwasher to back up and not drain properly. If this is the issue, other water lines in your home may also be slow to drain, such as a bathroom sink or bathtub. Check other sinks and toilets for clogged drains.

How do I Unclog My Dishwasher?

Diagnosing the Problem

Before pulling your machine apart, start with an inspection of your dishwasher and kitchen sink drains. Then, run your garbage disposal—sometimes these may be your only issues. Eliminate user problems before dismantling your dishwasher or calling a professional.

Gather the Right Tools

Once you’ve determined the source of your dishwasher clog, you’ll need the proper tools to fix the problem. Some tools may include:

  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Bucket and towels
  • Pliers
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Gloves

Getting Started

Before reaching into your dishwasher, make sure you turn off the electricity running to the machine and the garbage disposal. If you don’t, you could get a severe electrical shock. After the power to the machine has been shut off, remove the water from the bottom of the dishwasher. Scoop it out into a bucket and mop the rest up with a towel, or use a wet vac to suck up the water.

Clean the Filter Basket

As mentioned above, this should be done regularly to prevent a buildup of debris in the dishwasher and sewer lines. Whirlpool recommends using a soft brush to remove caked-on debris, as an abrasive or metal scrubber can damage the filter. If you have hard water, soak the drain basket in diluted vinegar to remove the hard water scale. Beginning with this simple solution can prevent you from investing in unnecessary repairs.

Clean the Drain Hose

The dishwasher’s drain hose can be accessed where it connects to the garbage disposal or behind the front panel underneath the machine’s door. Check the manual to find the access point. Use pliers to disconnect the drain hose. If your drain hose is clogged, use a coat hanger or drain cleaning wire to remove any clogs. Don’t use a drain snake—the sharp edges of the snake can puncture the drain hose.

Check Plumbing Connection Points

Make sure the drain hose is securely connected to the sink or garbage disposal. Inspect the hose clamp and drain solenoid, which keep the drain valve working. If these parts are worn or damaged, replace them immediately.

Clean the Drain

If these options don’t work, clean the drain from the inside of the machine using baking soda and vinegar. Use equal parts vinegar and baking soda; pour the solution into the drain basket, and then let it sit for 15 minutes. Pour hot water down the basket and run the rinse cycle.

Call an Experienced Plumber

If none of these DIY solutions solve the problem or if the clog is further down the sewage line, you should contact your experienced plumbing team. At this point, attempting to fix the problem yourself can result in further damage to your drain, drainage lines, or dishwasher.

The team at Bewley Plumbing can use high-grade video inspection tools to determine the source of the clog and then apply affordable solutions to get your dishwasher up and running again. Contact our team today for more information on our services or to schedule your dishwasher repair!