How to Clean A Clogged Dishwasher

How to Clean A Clogged Dishwasher

Dishwashers like every other electrical appliance we use every day might run into some glitches as a result of usage. Due to the way dishwashers are designed to be used, we do not have to pre-rinse our dishes before we put them in the machine. This helps the dishwasher to wash the dishes effectively. This post would explain how to clean a clogged dishwasher

clogged dishwasher
Photo Credit: Andy Melton,

To clean a clogged dishwasher, follow these steps:

  • Get the dishwasher ready by emptying it. Sort the clean dishes from the dirty one. It will save you time when you return to doing the dishes again. Do not forget to get the dishwasher racks off too.
  • Turn off the dishwasher. This will prevent electric shock.
  • Drain the dishwasher manually. Take out all the water left at the base of the dishwasher. This will give you unrestricted access to the base of the clogged dishwasher.
  • Inspect the dishwasher drain. This is the pipe that connects your dishwasher to the garbage disposal. Physically inspect the drainpipe for clogs.
  • Disconnect the dishwasher drainpipe. Using a de-clogger clean the drainpipe. Have a bowl ready to collect any standing water and grime from the drainpipe.
  • Inspect the clogged dishwasher drain. The dishwasher drain looks like a basket-shaped device at the base of the machine. Thoroughly clean the clogged dishwasher drain. Get rid of anything that might have clogged it.
  • Inspect the garbage disposal. Ensure the knockout plugs on the garbage disposal has been removed before being installed. Old garbage disposal units should be replaced at once.
  • Clean the air gap. Thoroughly clean up the air gap attached to your kitchen unit. The air gap prevents water from backing the sink. A faulty air gap will lead to a clogged dishwasher.
  • Check your sewer line. A faulty sewer line will clog your dishwasher as well as other wastewater disposal units in your home.

Over time, food remains, grime, and other items that go into the dishwasher could clog the machine, particularly the drainage system. This is common when the machine is not cleaned regularly.

These accumulated food particles can clog the filters in the machine and other parts of the drainage system. This can prevent proper drainage of water after a successful dishwasher cycle.

There are other reasons why your dishwasher is clogged. The presence of stagnant water at the base of the dishwasher can be a warning sign. 

Here are a few things you can do before calling a technician: 

If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here.

Get the Dishwasher Ready

How do you get a clogged dishwasher ready for cleaning?

To get a clogged dishwasher ready for cleaning, get all the dishware and other kitchenware out of the clogged dishwasher machine. Also, remove the rack at the bottom of the dishwasher to enable you to access the dishwasher drain. Sort the dirty dishes from the cleaned ones; it will make your job a lot easier when you go back to cleaning your dishes. 

Ensure the Dishwasher is Switched Off

Why should I turn off a clogged dishwasher before I clean it?

You must turn off your clogged dishwasher and unplug it from electricity before attempting to clean it to avoid electrocution. Electricity and water are not a wonderful mix.

After you have emptied your dishwasher, the next important thing to do is to disconnect it from the electric source.

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Remove the Accumulated Water in The Dishwasher

How do I get rid of standing water in my dishwasher?

To get rid of standing water in your dishwasher, use a bowl and scoop out the water at the base of the clogged dishwasher. Remove any remaining standing water at the base of your machine with a clean cloth or a towel. This ensures you do not slip while working on the dishwasher. It also keeps the dishwasher clean while you work.

Inspect the Drain Pipe

What is a dishwasher drain pipe?

The dishwasher drainpipe connects your dishwasher to the garbage disposal. It is located at the back of your dishwasher or underneath it. You would have to move your dishwasher out of the wall so that the drainpipe will be accessible.

Disconnect the Drain Pipe 

How do I disconnect the dishwasher drain pipe?

To disconnect the dishwasher drainpipe, using a piler loosen the clamps on the dishwasher drain pipe. After you have loosened the clamps, pull out the drain pipes.

If your dishwasher model does not come with a clamp, simply pull out the drain pipe. 

Place a bowl below the drainpipe to prevent water from spilling from the disconnected pipe. After doing this, clean out the drain pipe.

You can do this with a de-clogger. In the absence of a de-clogger, make use of a coat hanger. However, if the pipe is not clogged, it might be an indication that your dishwasher drain is blocked.

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Inspect the Dishwasher Drain

How do I clean a clogged dishwasher drain?

To clean the drain of your clogged dishwasher, search for a basket-shaped device at the base of your machine. Disconnect the drain cap with the use of a screwdriver. Clean the drain using a de-clogger and a washing solution. This component helps to prevent scraps from food and any other item from getting into the dishwasher drain pipes. 

Then check to see if the problem has been fixed by running a washing cycle. 

If you live in an area that has hard water, there could be mineral deposits in the drain. After some time, they could clog your dishwasher and prevent the free flow of water from the machine. 

You can use a little quantity of vinegar to get rid of any deposits that would have piled up on the filter basket. 

Garbage Disposal

How does garbage disposal clog a dishwasher?

A faulty garbage disposals unit will clog your dishwasher and cause water to stand at the base of the dishwasher. Garbage disposal in kitchen sinks draws grimes and waste particles into its grinding chamber. It then disposes of this waste. A faulty garbage disposal will clog your dishwasher as well as your sink.

If the dishwasher machine is installed over a garbage disposal unit with the accompanying knockout plugs, it will malfunction. Ensure that the knockout plug of the garbage disposal has been removed before it was installed. 

Removing this plug might solve the issue of a clogged dishwasher. Also, if you have an old garbage disposal, consider replacing it. 

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Clean Air Gap

Can an air gap cause my dishwasher to get clogged?

A faulty air gap will cause your dishwasher to get clogged. When debris builds up in the air gap, it leads to improper or poor water drainage from the dishwasher.  Air gaps prevent water from flowing back into the dishwasher. Air gaps are installed in homes to solve the issues of dirty water backing up to the dishwasher.

If you notice water flooding in the sink or dishwasher basin, then it might be an indication of a faulty air gap. You should take off the cap on the air gap and ensure you clear all the debris accumulated therein. 

A Faulty Sewer Line

How does a sewer line cause my dishwasher to get clogged?

A faulty sewer line will cause your dishwasher to get clogged because the used water will not have anywhere else to go. If the sewer is faulty or damaged, your dishwasher and all the drainage system would certainly be clogged.  An easy way to find out is to see if your shower or your toilets drain properly. If they don’t, you have a faulty sewer.

This may not be the first thing that catches your attention when you hear of a clogged dishwasher. But it might be the cause of a clogged dishwasher.

It would be best to have a professional run an assessment of the home drainage system and repair faulty parts. 

Check out other related dishwasher articles:

Video: Simple fix for a clogged dishwasher

This video will show you how to fix a clogged dishwasher.

How to Clean A Clogged Dishwasher – DIY Instant Solution

Clean the clogged dishwasher drain using vinegar and baking soda solution.

Clean the dishwasher drain from inside using a DIY solution of even parts vinegar and baking soda. This will instantly unclog the drain.

Pour the vinegar and baking powder solution into the filter basket at the base of the clogged dishwasher and let sit for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes add boiling water to the solution in the dishwasher basket and run the rinse cycle.

This process will unclog your clogged dishwasher.

Have You Discovered the Clogged Part of The Dishwasher Machine?

If you still experience drainage issues after following the above procedures, then it might be a good time to reach out to a professional. Sewer systems are designed to work silently and effectively in draining water from the dishwasher and other drainage components in your home.

When this system fails, it usually leaves a big mess that needs urgent attention. Blocked dishwasher drain either at home or public places constitutes a nuisance and a big health risk if not rectified early.

If you continually experience a clogged dishwasher, make sure to contact a professional as soon as you can. You may also consider replacing the machine altogether.


Cleaning a clogged dishwasher is important for the proper functioning of the machine. We advise that you clean your dishwasher either on a weekly or monthly basis as the case may be. This will prevent the accumulation of food particles and grime in your dishwasher drainage system.

Also, make sure you remove large food remains from your dishware before putting them in the machine. Never pre-rinse them as this can result in machine malfunction, leaving you with improperly washed dishes.

Finally, we hope that you found this article helpful. Drop your comments and feedback in the comment section below.

How to Clean a Clogged Dishwasher — Related FAQs

How to Clean a Clogged Dishwasher with Baking Soda And Vinegar?

You can make use of a solution of hot water, vinegar, and baking soda to unclog your clogged dishwasher.

The steps to follow are simple and can be conducted in just a few minutes.

1.       Make a solution of vinegar and baking soda and pour it into the basket at the base of the dishwasher.

2.       After 20 minutes, pour a kettle of boiling water into the basket. The mixture of hot water, vinegar, and baking soda will help to break up the clogs. 

Why Is There Standing Water in My Dishwasher?

There is standing water in your dishwasher because the dishwasher filter is clogged.  Other culprits include clogged garbage disposal, clogged drain hose, the faulty air gap, or a drain pump.

When grime and sediments from food disrupt water flow in your dishwasher then your appliance will not drain effectively. This inefficient drainage will lead to water standing in your dishwasher.

If you notice standing water in your dishwasher, then finding the part of the dishwasher that is clogged and clearing the dirt will solve the issue.

Can I Manually Drain My Dishwasher?

You can drain your dishwasher manually when the drain is clogged.

To manually drain your dishwasher, follow the following steps:

  1. Unplug the dishwasher. To avoid electric shocks.
  2. Lay towels in front of the dishwasher, before opening the door. To prevent water from spilling on the floor.
  3. Empty the dishwasher. To give you unhindered access to the dishwasher base.
  4. Using a plastic cup or bowl, scoop water from the base of the dishwasher.
  5. Soak any water leftover using a towel.

Do Dishwashers Get Hot Enough to Kill Bacteria?

Dishwashers do get hot enough to kill bacteria. The high temperature of the water your dishwasher uses to wash your dishware is sufficient enough to kill off any lingering germ and bacterial. Elevated temperatures will kill off any germ in your dishware. This leaves you with a hygienically clean dish and cutleries.

The detergent alongside the heat from the water will kill the germs on your dish wares while the running water washes off the germs.  Having your dishwasher do the job for you not only saves you time but also guarantees hygiene. 

What Temperatures Do Dishwashers Sanitize?

Dishwashers sanitize at 36 degrees Celsius. This means that the dishwasher will keep running until the temperature of the water is raised up to 46 degrees. This is in order to follow the NSF residential standard. Therefore, the timing of the cycle depends on how long it takes the water to get up to 46 degrees.

Some models of dishwashers use dry heat to sanitize your dish. Sanitization is the process of killing off any germ left on the dish after it has been washed.

Why Do My Dishes Smell After A Wash Cycle?

Food particles and grimes leftover in the dishwasher will cause your dishes to smell. Over time, while using your dishwasher, food particles and grimes from leftover food will accumulate on the filter of the dishwasher. The crevices or the dishwasher filter will smell because of the food particle accumulation.

When the dishwasher runs its dry cycle, it transfers this odor to the dish wares. You must deep clean the dishwasher to get rid of the particles. If you do not, the smell will persist. And your dishwasher as well as your washed dishes will have an awful smell. 

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