What to do when your Dishwasher won’t Drain

Whether it’s a small pool of water or a flood that overtakes your dishes, excess water in the dishwasher can be a big problem. When your dishwasher is not draining, there can be several explanations. The key is to troubleshoot your machine to identify the source of the drain problem and then fix it. You can probably fix most dishwasher draining problems on your own, but when in doubt, call a professional to ensure that your machine will be up and running before the dishes pile up.


The most likely cause for a dishwasher drainage problem is a clog. Over time, your filters and pipes can fill up with food particles and other items that don’t always make it out of the plumbing system. You can remove clogs by doing the following:

  • Remove and clean all food traps and filters
  • Use a commercial plumbing cleaner or snake on the hoses and pipes
  • Run your garbage disposal with hot water as your dishwasher operates

Regular cleaning plays a big part in keeping your dishwasher working properly. Since most drain issues are the result of clogs, you should be sure to properly rinse your dishes before loading. Also, regularly wipe out and clean the inside of your dishwasher with a mild cleaning solution or use a commercial cleaning tablet on an empty wash every so often. When you keep your dishwasher free of debris, you keep your water flowing smoothly.

The float

The float switch on your dishwasher may get stuck, causing water to remain in the appliance between washes. Depending on your washer, this may be a small float nestled in a corner, or a hat-shaped device on the floor of your dishwasher. See if it floats with the rising water; if not, investigate to find the source of the malfunction. It may be stuck due to a clog of food particles, or it may be broken. A clog is easily cleaned, while a broken float will require replacement or repair.

Your garbage disposal

If you’ve recently installed a new garbage disposal unit, this may be the source of your drain problems. Your garbage disposal is linked to your dishwasher, and a new garbage disposal comes with a special part that can keep your dishwasher from draining. If you have installed a new disposal, look for the knockout plug. This small part prevents your dishwasher from draining, but is easy to remove. Consult your garbage disposal owner’s manual to locate and remove your knockout plug.

The motor

Finally, a malfunctioning motor may not be able to pump the water out of the machine and into your plumbing. If you suspect a motor issue, it’s best to call in a professional to assess your motor and perform any repairs or replacements safely.


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  1. This is a great article for it was one appliance I had never bothered to run maintenance on! Will be checking the drainage from now on!


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