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6 Steps to Unclog Dishwasher Drain

By July 20, 2021July 23rd, 2021One Comment

Most households have a dishwasher, as with active families, it is hard to keep up with hand washing dishes in the sink. Often, it is easier to throw the dishes into the dishwasher so it can run and clean everything for us. However, the dishwasher drain needs to be cleaned out and if not, it might stop working.

If it does this, you may be wondering how to unclog dishwasher drain? There are a few ways to do this: Locate and remove the dishwasher filters, clean the filters and the drain, check the plumbing connections, turn on the garbage disposal, check the air gap on the sink, and clear the drain.

Let’s take a look at the dishwasher drain, the life expectancy of the dishwasher, and the steps to unclog the drain.

The Dishwasher Drain and Life Expectancy of a Dishwasher

The dishwasher connects to a drain hose that runs either under the sink or above it. Sometimes, this hose and the connections begin to fall apart due to age or chemicals and it stops working. How do you know if it isn’t working correctly? There may be water at the bottom of the dishwasher or there may be food remnants after the cycle. Additionally, dishwashers last about 6 -10 years so if none of the solutions work below, you may need to replace it.

dishwasher filter

1. Locate and Remove the Filter to Unclog Dishwasher Drain

The first step in unclogging the dishwasher drain is to locate and remove the filter. The dishwasher filter is located in the bottom pan, either in the back of the dishwasher or near the spray arm. Remove the filter from the pan by unscrewing the casing. Once you have removed this filter from the dishwasher pan, you may scrub the debris and other particles off of the filter screening. If you ever need to replace the filter, you will look in the handbook for the make and model of the dishwasher to make sure you purchase the right replacement.

Various Models of Dishwashers

Various models may have different directions on how to remove the filter. Consult the guide for the model you have if the filter looks different than the description above. Newer units have smaller grids that are built into the base of the dishwasher pan.

2. Run a Cycle on the Dishwasher

Running a cycle on your dishwasher will allow you to get an idea of the possible clogging that is occurring. Keeping a watchful eye on your garbage disposal during the cycle will allow you to determine if the drain hose is potentially clogged or if the clog is located in the base pan itself. In that case, the filter in the base pan is the likely culprit.

dishwasher drain

3. Check the Drain Hose That is Connected to the Sink or Garbage Disposal

Locate the drain hose that is connected from your dishwasher to your sink. Look at the clamp that has your drain hose securely fastened to the plumbing and remove it. You will likely need a screwdriver or pliers to loosen the clamp. You will also need a bucket to catch the excess water and debris that might be stuck in the hose. Once you have successfully flushed any debris and excess water from the drain hose, you will reattach the hose and then tighten the clamp back up. Then, check to ensure it is securely attached to the plumbing.

garbage disposal

4. Turn on the Garbage Disposal to Unclog Dishwasher Drain

When checking the drainage on your dishwasher, it is important to look into the garbage disposal as a possible source for clogging. Turning on the garbage disposal will allow for any excess food to be removed from the area and a possible solution to the dishwasher clog.

5. Check the Air Gap Cylinder

Some homes will have an air gap cylinder and it is what keeps the water flowing in the correct direction during the dishwasher cycle. It also prevents wastewater from backing up into the dishwasher during its cycle. If you have one in your home, check this cylinder for any clogs or debris as well. If it is not clear, then you will need to clean it out and re-install it securely.

The air gap cylinder is located behind the sink and near the dishwasher outlet hose. If your home doesn’t have one, then sometimes they are built into the dishwasher. If you are buying a dishwasher, check the rules for your state if an air gap is required or not. It will vary state by state.

6. Add Baking Soda and Vinegar

If none of the above works, try an equal mixture of baking soda and vinegar. You will pour this mixture of equal parts into the basket at the bottom of the dishwasher drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once this has run its course, you will pour hot water down the basket and run the dishwasher on the rinse cycle.

dishwasher maintenance

Maintenance of the Dishwasher

A good homeowner will always be cognizant about saving money. One of the best ways to save money in a home is to maintain your appliances. This requires a time commitment to ensure that your appliances stay in top working conditions. Your dishwasher is no different and cleaning should be done on a regular basis.

The easiest ways to ensure that your dishwasher maintains a strong working condition are to not put hard foods into the garbage disposal, rinse your dishes before placing them into the dishwasher and clean the filter of your dishwasher basin regularly. Following these three steps will give your dishwasher a greater longevity.

Here is a great video to check out about why your dishwasher might not be draining.

Other Areas to Maintain in the Home

Be aware of what you put into the garbage disposal. If it becomes clogged with standing water, use a wrench or pliers to loosen the rotor underneath the sink. You can also use a sink plunger.

If you have a basement, check the drain down there to make sure it isn’t backing up. Sometimes this can happen. If you notice the washtub is backing up or maybe improper objects were flushed down the toilet, this can affect the basement drain.

Take a look outside the home. If your yard has places where it is not draining properly and holding water, there may be issues with the pipes. It is especially important to look at the pipes if you have an older home as the sewer lines can fail. Contact a professional if you have concerns.

Lastly, another area to check is the eaves on the roof of your house. These are for keeping basements dry in homes and maintaining cool temps in the house. Check these for holes and make sure that there are no animals making a home inside.

When to Contact a Professional

Contact a professional if you have concerns about your dishwasher not draining properly, it is making noises, or you tried any of the solutions above and it doesn’t work. There may be other issues that only a professional will know how to fix.


Having a dishwasher is a luxury and saves us a lot of time in our busy lives. However, just like with anything, maintenance is needed and sometimes repairs or replacing. Sometimes it may be an issue with connectors, the filter, or even the garbage disposal. Avalon Home Inspectors can check your dishwasher drain when inspecting your home in Atlanta, GA. and surrounding areas.

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