Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Unclog a Dishwasher Without Professional Assistance

how to unclog a dishwasher custom graphic

Once you have used a dishwasher, it’s so hard to go back to washing dishes by hand! This amazing household unit saves you a load of trouble (quite literally) and a lot of time, too. So, when something goes wrong with your precious dishwasher, it can really send you into a panic! The last thing you want is to deal with piles of dirty dishes while your dishwasher sits there completely useless. Well, that’s exactly what happens when there is a clog in the dishwasher.

During a wash cycle, you might find water leaking from the bottom of the door; similarly, there may be a pool of water at the bottom of the appliance after a cycle is complete. Both of these are indications that there might very well be a clog in the drain. Fortunately, there are a few easy steps to unclog a dishwasher yourself, unless the problem lies in the plumbing. Under such circumstances, it is advisable to call in a professional to have it checked out. Nevertheless, if the blockage is within reach, you should be able to spot and clear it out with no trouble.

How to Determine if Your Dishwasher is Really Clogged

close up of the inside of a dishwashing racks and drainage hole

Very often, what seems to be a clog in the drain is really just a dirty filter, or a glitch in the system during a cycle which simply needs to be rerun. So, before you check for a clog, take a look at the filters instead; if needed, take them out and wash them with dish soap and warm water. After replacing the cleaned filters, run an empty cycle and check if the water is draining properly or not; if the problem persists, it is likely that there is some blockage in the drainage hose. 

Another factor to keep in mind is that sometimes, if you open the door while a cycle is running, you might find a pool of water at the bottom, however, that only means that the cycle isn’t complete or that it has stopped midway and therefore, hasn’t drained. Just to be sure that neither of these circumstances are the issue, restart your dishwasher cycle and check the drainage. Only after confirming that the problem does not lie anywhere inside the unit, should you move on to the steps to unclog your dishwasher.

Safety Measures When Unclogging a Dishwasher

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after turning off the dishwasher before attempting to clear out a clog
  • Turn off and unplug the unit; if you cannot reach the plug point, turn off the power at the breaker
  • Wear rubber gloves

With these safety precautions taken, it’s time to get to the instructions on how to unclog your dishwasher.

Step 1: Unload the Dishwasher

empty dishwasher with opened door in a modern kitchen

After ensuring that the appliance is unplugged or that the power has been turned off, take out the dishes from the dishwasher and place them in your kitchen sink (if they have not been fully cleaned). You can either wash them by hand or run them through another wash cycle after unclogging the dishwasher. Remove the racks as well and give them a wash with soap and water if needed. 

Step 2: Soak Up the Water

man adjusting filter in brand new dishwashing machine

For the water that has collected at the bottom, you can either soak it up with old towels or siphon it with a short hose or hand pump. If the former is your only option, you might need 1-2 large towels and a bucket to get the job done. As you soak the water up, squeeze it into the bucket and keep going until all the water has been removed. 

Step 3: Clean the Mesh/Grate and Filters

close up of the inside of a broken dishwasher

The mesh or grate below the spray arms can also get clogged and create a hindrance for proper drainage. Check the owner’s manual of the appliance to learn how to remove the mesh and filters of the dishwasher; clean and rinse them off manually in the sink. While they are removed, check the area for any food chunks or debris that may be clogging the drain. Wipe it clean with paper towels before replacing the filters and mesh. 

Step 4: Clear Out the Drain Hose

close up of the inside of the bottom of a dishwasher

Typically, the drain hose is connected to the garbage disposal and can easily be detached and checked for blockages. Do this by pouring a small amount of water down the hose and wait to see if it backs up and fills the bottom of the dishwasher; if so, that means there is no clog. 

On the other hand, if there is a blockage, you will need to detach the hose from where it connects underneath the dishwasher, and follow the steps below:

  • Undo a flexible coat hanger and loop it at the ends to prevent the pointed edges from damaging the hose.
  • Gently push the wire through the hose and twist it around to loosen the buildup inside. Do this from both ends of the hose.
  • Place one end of the hose in a basin and pour water down the other end to flush out the debris. 
  • Repeat the process to ensure that you have gotten out all the gunk.
  • Reattach the drain hose.

Step 5: Test the Drainage

close up of man holding dishwasher mesh

Before you put in the racks and run a short cycle to check if the water is draining efficiently, this is a great opportunity to clean and freshen up your dishwasher since you have already done more than half of the job! At the end of it all, if you have successfully unclogged your dishwasher, load it up once again and put it to use! 

While it’s true that sometimes you require the assistance of a trained professional when your dishwasher is suddenly not draining out, more often than not, a clog in the drain hose can easily be cleared out by following MaidForYou’s super simple step-by-step guide to unclog your dishwasher! 

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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