8 Ways to Unclog Your Dishwasher Drain

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Dishwashers handle a lot of food residue. From salad to lasagna and everything in between. The dishwasher deals with sticky sauce, caked on grease, birthday cake crumbs solidly with every load. But when the drain clogs, everything backs up. That luxury of setting and forgetting it turns into a nightmare of murky water and kitchen flooding. Why does this happen? Because your dishwasher drain is clogged. Like most drains, the dishwasher drain can clog in a couple of different places and for different reasons. Today, we’re here to share eight ways to unclog your drain that run the gamut from a quick cleanse to serious obstruction solutions.

Setup and Safety

A dishwasher is an electronic appliance that also moves water. Which means you want to have special care when working on it, even a system as simple as the drain. Make sure you’re ready and that your work area is safe before beginning.

– Gather Your Tools

Repairing the dishwasher is best done with a few tools in hand. Every dishwasher model is different but Here’s what you’ll most likely need:

  • Towels
  • Screwdriver
  • Bucket
  • Vinegar
  • Plumbing Wrench
  • Straightened Wire Coat Hanger

– Unplug the Dishwasher & Garbage disposal

Once you have everything together, make sure your dishwasher and garbage disposal are both off. You can unplug them from the back or switch off the breaker if they are on a separate circuit from the rest of the house. Just remember you’ll need to turn one or both back on for tests.

– Mop Up Standing Water

With the power disconnected, mop up any standing water inside the dishwasher or on the floor with a towel. This will give you a dry enough workspace and clear up your ability to see what you’re working with.

– Put Down a Towel

Take a second dry towel and lay it out on the floor where you’ll be kneeling. This will absorb any little spills or splashes and can keep your knees dry. 

8 Methods to Unclog the Dishwasher Drain

1) Clear Out the Dishwasher Filter Basket

In the bottom of your dishwasher is the drain where the water clears out when it’s not clogged. In that drain is a filter basket just like in your sink meant to catch the pasta and lettuce leaves that wash off your plates and cooking pans. If this basket is full or blocked by flat items like bits of plastic, the entire dishwasher can back up at this very surface-level point. Pull the catch basket and clear out all debris both in and under the basket.Rinse the basket in

2) Zip the Drain Below

With the dishwasher drain exposed, now is a good time to check it for any nearby obstructions just below the washer itself. A ZipIt is your best tool for the job. A ZipIt is a 20-inch long plastic strip with little tines that catch and pull up debris from a drain. They work just as well in your dishwasher as in a bathtub or sink drain.

Carefully lower your ZipIt into the dishwasher drain below where the basket sat and then pull it up. Be prepared for some gunk.

3) Run the Garbage Disposal Clear

If that doesn’t clear your drain, then the problem might be with your garbage disposal. Reconnect the garbage disposal and start cold water running down the sink. Turn on the garbage disposal and run it until all obstructions within are clear. If something sticks, disconnect the garbage disposal power and very carefully investigate the blades inside for obstructions like a chicken bone or penny.

You can use a special crank to turn your garbage disposal blades from the bottom in both directions as a way to release anything trapped inside. This can work even for glass shards.

4) Pour Hot Water & Vinegar Down the Garbage Disposal

If the problem is in the drain inside or below the sink contraption, then pouring some solvent down the garbage disposal drain can help. Create a mixture of very hot water (from the sink or boiled) and white vinegar. Together, these should be able to melt most drain obstructions. Particularly if combined with rock/sea salt or baking soda for scrubbing action. Another ZipIt may also be useful down your sink.

5) Run Your Dishwasher Empty with Vinegar

If the problem is a slow drain for your dishwasher, rather than a full back-up, then try running the dishwasher empty with the hottest water setting. Instead of dish soap, add a cup of vinegar to the dishwasher before running it. This might melt anything blocking up your drain.

6) Clear Out the Dishwasher Drain Hose

Dishwashers each have a drain hose that snakes out the back of the dishwasher and into a T-connector beneath the garbage disposal. You can most likely find one end connected to the plumbing beneath the kitchen sink. You may need to pull the dishwasher out or open a cabinet panel to reach the point of origin. Pull the drain hose and check it visually. Let it drain into the bucket if there is any water still in the line. Disconnect the drain hose at both ends and fully clear it out. Rinse it, shake it, and use the unwound wire hanger to break up any debris inside.

7) Check the T-Connector Pipe

The clog might be in the T-connector itself or in a piece connected further down the line. Do a visual check of the pipe and run your gloved hand or the wire down the path to see if there is an obstruction.

8) Go Deeper

Test to see if your previous fixes worked. Reconnect everything and turn the dishwasher back on. If all else fails, you may need to solve the clog at a deeper level or with more advanced techniques. The drain problem may have to do with your dishwasher’s function or there may be a serious clog deeper in your drain home plumbing.

For more information on dishwasher drains or to schedule a professional repair service, contact us today!