Help! My Dishwasher is Clogged. What Could it Be?

Help, My Dishwasher Is Clogged

Having a working dishwasher is critical in my household. I have a large family of 6 and we cook a lot, so it’s not unheard of to run it twice in just one day. I couldn’t imagine not having one! With that said, there have been a few instances where my dishwasher has gotten clogged and backed up into the sink.

Since this has happened a few times before, I’ve already done plenty of research to figure out all of my options. Knowing why there is a clog can help you avoid future issues.

Why Is My Dishwasher Clogged?

Dishwasher clogs can be caused by a lot of factors, but the most common reasons for a clog are:

Garbage Disposal Issues

If you have an existing disposal or had one installed recently, there are two main issues that can lead to a dishwasher clog:

  1. New installs may not have been performed properly. In most cases, the knockout plug wasn’t properly removed leading to your clog.
  2. Older units may become clogged leading to your dishwasher being clogged. You’ll need to clean this clog by disassembling the garbage disposal if running it doesn’t work.

Garbage disposals aren’t the only issue that leads to clogs, you may also be experiencing a drain hose issue.

Drain Hose Clogs

The drain hose can become clogged. Buildup and sludge can begin to form in these hoses and pipes which connect to your kitchen sink’s drain or even your garbage disposal. You’ll want to clean these hoses or pipes.

Locate the pipes or hoses under your sink and eliminate the clog to help resolve your dishwasher’s clog.

If the hose isn’t the culprit, it may be an issue with your drain.

Clogged Drain

Your dishwasher will connect to a drain that is one part of your entire plumbing system. If there’s a clog in your sewer line, it may be causing your dishwasher issues. A few of the signs that you may have a drain clog that is leading to your dishwasher issue are:

  • Gurgling water in your sink
  • Multiple drains in the home are clogged

Pinpointing these clogs can be difficult and may require the help of a plumber.

Sewer Line Issue

Your home’s sewer lines can become damaged, and if this occurs, you’ll want to call in a plumber to fix the issue. The sewer line damage can lead to multiple issues in the home, including issues with your dishwasher, toilet and shower.

Rapid repairs are necessary in this case.

If you’re lucky, your issue may be a simple filter basket issue.

Dishwasher Filter

Your dishwasher’s filter is important, and it should be cleaned regularly to prevent clogs. Unfortunately, may people don’t even know where their filter is located or how to clean it.

Each time you run a wash cycle, little bits of food and debris make their way down into the dishwasher’s filter. Without regular cleaning, the filter will eventually get clogged.

What Happens if a Dishwasher Filter is Clogged?

A clogged dishwasher filter can cause food debris to:

  • Redeposit onto your clean dishes.
  • Clog your dishwasher drain.

In most cases, dishwasher filters are located under the bottom rack.

  • If you have a dishwasher that’s 10+ years old, you probably have a self-cleaning filter.
  • If you have a newer dishwasher, you likely have a filter that needs to be cleaned manually.

If you have a manual filter, cleaning is simple.

  • Turn and remove the filter.
  • Rinse the filter under running water to remove debris.

5 Signs That Your Issue Is A Clog

Not sure if your dishwasher is clogged or if you’re experiencing another issue? There are some telltale signs that you’re dealing with a clog and not something else:

  1. Your dishwasher is making an odd gurgling sound when you run it.
  2. When the dishwasher is running, water is backing up into the sink.
  3. Your dishwasher is draining slower than normal.
  4. When opening the unit after a cycle, you notice that there’s water backed up inside the dishwasher.
  5. Your dishes are no longer clean following a wash cycle.

If you experience one or more of these signs, it’s time to take steps to identify the reason for the clog.

5 Steps To Take If Your Dishwasher Is Clogged

If your dishwasher is clogged and you can’t pinpoint the issue, follow these steps:

  1. Run the garbage disposal. If you have a garbage disposal, run it. Coffee grounds and other food items in the disposal may be clogging the drainpipe that is connected to the dishwasher. Running the disposal will help remove these food items and may fix your problem.
  2. Inspect the air gap. Your dishwasher, when you don’t have a disposal, will have what’s known as an air gap. The air gap is a small cylinder that is on top of the sink and located near your faucet. Twist the cap off, check for any buildup and remove as necessary.
  3. Clean the drain basket. The drain basket is inside of the dishwasher on the bottom. You’ll want to find the cover that looks similar to a basket and remove it. Your manual will have this information in it. Once open, remove all of the food items and debris before reattaching the cover and running the unit.
  4. Examine the drain hose for kinks. The drain hose can become kinked making it difficult for the water to drain. Locate the hose that connects the dishwasher to the sink or garbage disposal. Inspect the hose and remove any kinks that you find.
  5. Clean the drain hose. While inspecting these hoses, you’ll want to examine them to see if they’re clogged. You’ll want to remove the food debris or sludge inside of the hose. You’ll want to follow the instructions below to drain the unit before cleaning or replacing the respective hose.

If you used the wrong detergent, you’ll want to remove it by draining the dishwasher and then running the unit again. Dishwasher detergent isn’t designed to produce suds, so if you have them, you’ll need to follow the steps below to drain the unit.

How To Drain A Clogged Dishwasher

If your dishwasher is clogged and isn’t draining properly, you may need to remove the standing water before you can figure out what’s causing the clog.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to drain a clogged dishwasher. Here’s what you need to do:

  • First, cut the power to the dishwasher. If you haven’t pulled the dishwasher out from under the counter, it may be easier to switch off the circuit breaker on your electric panel. Check the label on your breaker to make sure that you’re turning off the dishwasher. If your dishwasher is already pulled out, you can simply unplug it.
  • Next, line the floor with towels.
  • Use cups or plastic containers to scoop the water out from the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Use towels to soak up any remaining moisture.

The goal is to remove as much water as possible. Standing water not only makes the dishwasher heavy and difficult to move, but it also makes it harder to figure out the cause of your clog.

Can You Use Drano To Unclog A Dishwasher?

Drano is a popular and effective solution for clogged sinks, tubs and showers. But what about dishwashers?

Never use Drano to unclog a dishwasher. Drano and other similar drain-clearing products are only designed for sinks, tubs and shower drains.

The main ingredient in Drano (and other drain cleaners) is sodium hydroxide – also known as lye or caustic soda. When it mixes with water, it generates a lot of heat. Dishwasher drain hoses are made from thin, flimsy plastic that can easily be damaged by that heat.

Along with potentially damaging the hose, drain cleaners can also damage dishwasher pumps. If the product doesn’t go all the way down the rain, it may splash back into the dishwasher and onto your dishes.

The bottom line? Drano isn’t made for dishwashers. There are plenty of other, more effective ways to unclog your dishwasher.

Can You Use Baking Soda And Vinegar To Unclog A Dishwasher?

If a clogged drain is the problem, you can use a solution of baking soda, vinegar and hot water to try and clear the clog.

  • Start by pouring baking soda down the basket in the bottom of your dishwasher.
  • Next, add the vinegar. The solution will bubble and hiss – this is normal.
  • Allow the mixture to sit for 15-30 minutes.
  • Carefully pour a pot of boiling water down the basket.

Hopefully, this simple solution is enough to fix the problem. If not, follow the steps outlined in the “Steps to Take If Your Dishwasher is Clogged” section above, or call an appliance repair technician.

How To Clean A Dishwasher Pump

Sometimes, a blockage in the dishwasher’s pump can cause clogs and keep your dishwasher from draining properly. Fortunately, cleaning a clogged dishwasher pump is relatively easy.

  • Start by removing the filter and rinsing it clean.
  • Next, remove the pump cover. The cover should be right underneath the filter you just removed.
  • Carefully wipe down the pump with a clean sponge. Remove any large debris or pieces of food. Rinse the pump clean.

Replace the pump cover and the filter. Run a test cycle to see if the cleaning helped clear the clog.

Dishwashers can become clogged for many reasons, but the culprit is usually one of the reasons listed above. If you’re still having trouble figuring out the cause of your clog, it may be time to call in an appliance repair technician.