How to Unclog a Dishwasher

Nothing is more awful than coming home to a faint or growing foul smell only to find that your dishwasher is clogged. Dishwasher promotes convenience to our already tasks-filled day because it only requires you to load up the dishes then it will run the cleaning cycle on its own. Unfortunately, this convenience turns into a burden when it does not do what it is supposed to do.

But first and foremost, how can you tell if your dishwasher is clogged? Well, listen to what your dishwasher tells/shows you, my friend.

Early Signs of Clogged Dishwasher

Most of the time, a dishwasher will not suddenly malfunction. Although water not draining is a common sign, it is not the earliest warning and perhaps indicates that you failed to notice the problem early. To prevent this from happening, look for the following:

Strange Sound

A dishwasher is a silent technology, so hearing a strange sound like gurgling is never a good sign. Hearing such means there is a clog somewhere in the main or secondary sewer line that you need to resolve the soonest. Failing to do so will prevent the water to flow smoothly from the drain down to the pipes.

Slow Draining

A huge amount of food waste and grease that exit the dishwasher drain tends to accumulate in the filter, hose and air gap. This causes blockage resulting in slow draining. You can always troubleshoot and clean and clear the drain hose, filter, and air gap all by yourself.

Water Overflow

The dishwasher is connected to the main water line same as the kitchen sink. If you see water backing up to your sink whenever you use your dishwasher then there is a clog. On the other hand, you can troubleshoot by turning off the dishwasher and running the garbage disposal. If it is only a piece of food that got caught in the sink, then the problem is solved! Your dishwasher is not the culprit.

Standing Water After a Cycle

If you see a stagnant dirty water at the bottom of your dishwasher after it ran a cycle, it only means that your washer did not drain properly. Try to inspect the drain basket. If it does not solve the problem, then there is a clog somewhere. This must be solved fast because the standing water will eventually cause bacteria growth in the washer going to your dishes.

Dishes Still Uncleaned

The moment you see the “washed” dishes dirty as if water has just been poured on it without scrubbing and all, then you absolutely have a problematic dishwasher. On the other hand, you can try adding up dishwashing detergent and try again to be sure. If it is still not doing its job, go for do-it-yourself plumbing or ask for professional help.

Top 5 Reasons Why Dishwasher Won’t Drain

Check if which among these is the cause/s of the malfunction in your dishwasher:

1. Clogged Filter Basket

The filter basket safeguards the dishwasher drain from food pieces collected from dishes. The more wastes you let into the dishwasher, the faster this basket fills up. If you clean your filter basket Irregularly, it will end up clogged.

2. Obstructed Drain Hose

A drain hose is the lightweight and ribbed plastic hose that links the washer’s drainage pump to the garbage disposal. If this hose is clogged, the washer will not drain and water might leak into the floor when you open the washer door.

Drain hose clogging usually happens when a large chunk of disposal goes under the sink and causes the hose to kink. When it does, it will hamper the smooth draining and might require you to take it out and straighten it or replace with a new one.

3. Improper Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal serves as the food processor of the dishwasher because using its spinning sharp blades, it grinds food waste into bits before it exits the small holes of the drain. However, don’t treat your garbage disposal as a trash bin where you can throw anything. Improper disposals such as grease, eggshells, or other fibrous foods can damage the garbage disposal and later on, can clog the pipes.

In general, a garbage disposal should only handle biodegradable food waste so it won’t have to undergo too much pressure, which will, later on, hurt the dishwashing system.

4. Clogged Drains in the Main Sewer Line

Sometimes, the problem is not with your dishwasher but in the main line, which is more problematic. In many cases, clogged main line drains cause not only for dishwashers to not drain properly, but also backing up of water into the sink. Thus, it is like the first 3 mentioned causes of clog rolled into 1.

5. Damaged Sewer Pipe

When your dishwasher together with sink, toilet, and other fixtures connected in the main pipe display standing water or water not properly draining, then most likely, the problem is in your main sewer line. This can happen when there is a ruptured pipe due to soil shifting, use of heavy equipment above ground, among others.

If you suspect a case of a broken sewer pipe, call for a professional plumber since fixing it yourself may not promise an immediate and successful outcome.

How to Fix the Clog

1. Identify the cause of the clog

Inspect your dishwasher and kitchen sink since both of these are interconnected in the main line. Don’t jump to a conclusion that there is a clog unless you see it and what causes it. It will be a waste of time and possibly a further problem if you start to take out hoses and connections when there is no problem with them at all.

2. Prepare the plumbing tools you need

If you found out that there is indeed a clog and that you can fix it by yourself, get ready with all the tools you need so you can work on it uninterrupted. Tools you need may include the following:

  • Bucket
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Screwdrivers
  • Gloves
  • Cable auger or plumber’s snake

3. Begin the troubleshooting

Before anything else, make sure that your dishwasher is turned off or to be very safe, unplugged. Wear your gloves and do the following:

  • Remove the dish racks from the washer to find the drain grate. This is usually found at the bottom and can be removed by using the screwdriver.
  • Use the auger to steer clear the debris present in the pipe. Then, use a mix of baking soda and vinegar as a natural solution so you are sure you are not hurting the drains compared to its chemical counterparts.
  • Put the grate back then re-insert the racks too.
  • Plug and turn on the dishwasher and see if the problem was resolved.

4. Know when to call a professional to do the job

If your DIY plumbing attempt did not succeed, don’t hesitate to call a professional right away. The problem could have required additional tools and expertise due to a more complicated issue that you may have mistaken for clogging.

You should know that blocked or clogged drains at home, be it in the dishwasher or somewhere else, is complicated and can pose health risks if not resolved the earliest. Have a professional visit you and do the work. You may spend more, but you are assured that the issue is completely resolved to prevent further problems.

Final Thoughts

Having a clogged dishwasher is very undesirable because not only it hampers your day-to-day activities since you would have to clean the dishes manually, but it also poses health risks if it is left unresolved. Stagnant dirty water in the washer when it is slowly draining or not draining at all invites a growth of bacterial spores and molds that can eventually go to your dishes and other things in the kitchen, or even in the air.

There are cases of clog that you can fix by yourself, but complicated ones should be handled professionally to avoid further damage not only to your washer but also to your pipes and the main line. The dishwasher gives early warning signs for you to know that it is going downhill, so you must be quick to see it and assess the reasons.

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