11 Possible Solutions if Your Dishwasher is Not Draining

Updated

Since you rely on your dishwasher day in and day out, the last thing you want is for it to fail you. Not only will your dirty dishes pile up fast, finding a solution to the problem can be tough to do. 

If you have opened your dishwasher to find quite a bit of sudsy water collected on the bottom of the tub, it’s possible that your dishwasher isn’t draining water as it should. Here are the most common solutions to try if your dishwasher isn’t draining properly. 

1. Run the cycle again 

It’s possible that the cycle you were running was interrupted somehow so it didn’t complete like it should have. If for some reason a dishwasher is inadvertently shut off during a cycle, there will be standing water in the bottom of the tub when the door is opened.   

Maybe there was a brief power interruption that caused your dishwasher to pause. The only way to find out if the last cycle you were running was interrupted is to run the machine again. You can just run a short cycle to check if it’s still got a draining problem. If you still find water in the bottom after opening it, the problem wasn’t an interrupted cycle. 

2. Check the electrical source 

Many dishwashers are plugged into an outlet that’s controlled by an electrical switch. This switch is often located next to the switch you use to turn your garbage disposal on and off. Check to make sure the switch wasn’t accidentally turned off mid-cycle.

3. Check the door of your dishwasher 

Your dishwasher can’t finish draining if the door of the unit isn’t closed all the way and latched. This is why you need to check the door by closing it, latching it, and running the machine again.  It’s possible that you simply didn’t close the door completely when you ran the last cycle. 

4. If you have a garbage disposal, run it  

Your dishwasher’s drain hose dumps into your garbage disposal drain. If your garbage disposal has some un-ground food or sludge stuck in it somewhere, your dishwasher may not be able to drain well. That’s why it’s a good idea to run your disposal for a minute or so to see if your dishwasher starts draining again. 

Tip: It’s always best to leave the water on and run your garbage disposal for an extra fifteen seconds or so once the food has disappeared from sight. This will help clear away any remaining food that could get trapped in the pipe below. 

5. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, check your sink’s air gap

If you don’t have a garbage disposal, there is an air gap installed at the top of your kitchen sink right next to the faucet. This is a small, slotted cylinder made of stainless steel. There’s a small hose running from the air gap that connects to the drain hose of your dishwasher. 

The air gap prevents an airlock from forming in the drain hose. It’s possible that there’s a clog inside your air gap. To check it for a clog, twist the air gap counterclockwise to remove it. Then take a look to see if there’s gunk inside. If so, clean the air gap out with a stiff brush and water, replace it, and run your dishwasher again. If that didn’t solve the draining problem, move on to the next solution. 

6. Check the high loop 

If your sink doesn’t have an air gap, your dishwasher’s drain hose may be looped up and attached to the bottom of your countertop near the sink. This high loop serves the same purpose as an air gap. 

The high loop prevents drain water from running back into your dishwasher. If this hose is loose, it’s not looped up higher than the level of your dishwasher. That means the water can’t drain out of your machine properly. If the hose is loose, tighten it up and return it to the proper high loop position. 

7. Get rid of the standing water & clean the drain basket

If the above solutions didn’t work, it’s time to remove the undrained water that’s pooled up in the bottom of your dishwasher so you can clean out the drain basket. The drain basket could be gunked up with food debris and an excess of dishwashing detergent. 

Put some towels down near the base of the dishwasher. Then take out the bottom dish tray. Once you’ve slid the tray out, use a cup to scoop the undrained water into a bucket. Then use more towels to get the remaining water out that you couldn’t scoop with the cup. 

You’ll see the drain basket now. It has a cover that looks like an upside-down basket. Remove the cover by unsnapping it or unscrewing one or two screws. Once the cover is off, look to see if there is any food debris inside the basket underneath. Using your hand, reach in the basket to remove anything that’s in there. Then put the cover back on and run your dishwasher through a cycle.

8. See if there are any kinks in the drain hose 

The drain hose is that lightweight ribbed plastic hose that runs from your dishwasher’s drain pump to your garbage disposal or air gap. This hose must be free of kinks in order for your dishwasher to drain properly. Take a good look at the entire length of the hose to see if there are any kinks. If you find one, straighten out the hose using your hands. 

Tip: You may need to replace your drain hose if you find it’s kinked somewhere. Why? Because once you straighten out a kink, the drain hose is likely to kink again in the same place because that part of the hose is compromised. It’s a simple task to swap out a drain hose so look for instructions online. It only takes a few minutes to do and it doesn’t require any plumbing knowledge. 

9. Check the drain pump 

If there’s no problem with the high loop, drain basket, or drain hose, it’s possible that your drain pump is faulty. Check your owner’s manual to find out where the drain pump is located. Once you find the pump, look for any visible signs of damage like cracks or dents. If the drain pump has failed, you’ll have to replace it. 

You could replace the drain pump yourself if you’re the handy type. Just make sure you buy the correct pump that matches the make and model of your dishwasher. If you’re not comfortable changing the drain pump yourself, you’ll need to call a plumber to do the job for you. Alternatively, you could save yourself some money by asking a handyman you know to change the pump for you. 

10. Replace the electronic control board 

Your dishwasher’s electronic control board could be damaged or defective. This little gadget controls all the moving parts of your dishwasher, including the drain pump. If the electronic control board can’t communicate properly with the drain pump, your dishwasher will not drain all the water out from the bottom. If you don’t have any electrical skills, you’ll need to find someone who does. Otherwise, call an electrician to check and replace the control board for you. 

11. Replace the check valve 

Once your dishwasher completes a cycle, the check valve prevents additional water from backing up into the drain sump. A faulty check valve can result in the water left standing in the bottom of your machine after you finish running it. Depending on the brand of dishwasher you have, the check valve could be located in the upper pump assembly or next to the chopper blade assembly. Find out where yours is located. Then take a look at the check valve to see if it’s damaged and clear of debris. If you see any damage or debris, you should replace the check valve right away. 

Conclusion

If your dishwasher still has water standing in the bottom of the tub once it’s finished running, you need to find out why. You should never ignore a draining problem, even if there’s just a little water left in your machine. Sooner or later, that little bit of water will turn into lots of water, which could cause some big problems. In the worst-case scenario, your kitchen could flood from a non-draining dishwasher. 

If your dishwasher isn’t draining properly, there’s a problem somewhere that needs fixing. Starting with number one, try all the possible solutions we’ve listed above. When you pinpoint the problem that’s causing your drainage issue, take your time when working through the solution. If you don’t feel confident carrying out the fix yourself, call in an expert or find a friend who can help you. 

Hint: There are lots of DIY tutorials online that can help you fix any type of problem you’re having with your dishwasher. For example, if you need to change your dishwasher’s drain pump, it’s easy to find a video that shows you how to do it. We’re living in a DIY world today, so why not take advantage of it?

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