Dishwasher Not Draining: How to Check and Unclog a Dishwasher

Updated: Dec. 04, 2020

Three simple things to check if your dishwasher won't drain completely

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Does your dishwasher not drain or not drain completely? You might need to call a repairman, but try these three simple tests first.

Does your dishwasher drain completely, or is there always about an inch of water left in the bottom? Before you call a repair service, here are three simple things you can try when your dishwasher won’t drain.

Watch this video for more dishwasher repair tips:

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Disconnect Power and Remove Toe-Kick

  • Disconnect the power by either unplugging the dishwasher or turning off its circuit breaker.
  • Remove the toe-kick (the panel near the floor).
    • Note: The toe-kick is held in place by two or four small screws.
Step 2

Check the Filter

  • Find the filter either in the bottom of the tub, surrounding the base of the lower spray arm, or at the back.
    • Note: Although most new dishwashers now have small built-in grinders, pieces of food (like popcorn) and even paper (like labels washed off jars) can still clog the filter.

Step 3

Clean Away the Crud

  • Clear any trash away from the filter.
  • If necessary, remove the two screws holding the filter cage, clean it and check inside for debris.

Step 4

Check the Drain Hose

  • Loosen the dishwasher drain hose clamp and disconnect the drain hose (usually it’s the one with ridges) from the pump.
  • Try to blow through the hose to make sure it’s clear.
    • Note: If the hose is blocked, look for any kinks in the hose and straighten them.
  • Check the disposer inlet or pipe where the dishwasher drain hose connects under your sink, and clear any corrosion with a small screwdriver.

Step 5

Check for a Valve Bracket

    • Note: Most, but not all, dishwashers have a drain valve that keeps water from draining back into the dishwasher. If you have a valve bracket (see photo), your dishwasher has a drain valve.
  • Test the valve by pushing on the valve bracket to make sure it moves freely.
    • Note: If the valve’s frozen, the electrical solenoid that controls it is burned out and
      needs replacing. New manufacturer parts are usually available from appliance parts sources. Sometimes you can get a much less expensive used part from a used-appliance dealer.

Check out more helpful information on dishwasher repair and maintenance.