How to Fix Dishwasher Not Draining

Is your dishwasher failing to drain properly, leaving you with a sink full of standing water and dirty dishes? A dishwasher not draining is a common issue faced by many homeowners. However, with a few troubleshooting steps, you can often resolve the problem without the need for professional assistance. In this article, we will guide you through the process of fixing a dishwasher that won’t drain, enabling you to restore its functionality and cleanliness.

When your dishwasher refuses to drain, it can be frustrating and inconvenient. Understanding the potential causes and solutions for this issue is crucial in order to save time, money, and effort. By addressing the problem promptly, you can prevent further damage to your dishwasher and ensure it operates efficiently.

Check for Obstructions

The first step in resolving a dishwasher drainage problem is to check for any obstructions that may be causing the issue. Begin by clearing the dishwasher filter, which can often become clogged with food particles and debris. Locate the filter, usually at the bottom of the dishwasher, and remove any visible obstructions.

Next, inspect the drain hose for clogs or kinks. Disconnect the hose from the dishwasher and the sink drain and use a flashlight to look for any blockages. If you find any debris, gently remove it using a long, flexible brush or a pipe cleaner. Additionally, check the drain pump for any obstructions and remove any debris that may be hindering its operation.

Ensure Proper Installation

Sometimes, improper installation can lead to drainage problems in a dishwasher. Start by verifying the dishwasher’s air gap, which is usually located on the countertop or sink. Remove the air gap cover and clean out any debris that may have accumulated. If the air gap is clogged, it can prevent proper drainage.

Additionally, check the high loop in the drain hose. The high loop should be installed under the sink cabinet and prevent wastewater from flowing back into the dishwasher. If the high loop is missing or not installed correctly, reposition it to create the loop and secure it in place. This simple adjustment can help prevent drainage issues.

Examine the Garbage Disposal Connection

If your dishwasher is connected to a garbage disposal unit, a clog or improper connection can lead to drainage problems. Start by unclogging the garbage disposal if necessary. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or use a suitable tool to clear any blockages.

Next, ensure that the connection between the dishwasher and the garbage disposal is secure. Sometimes, the drain hose may not be properly attached, causing water to back up into the dishwasher instead of draining out. Check the connection and tighten it if needed.

Investigate the Drain Pump

The drain pump plays a crucial role in removing water from the dishwasher. If the pump is faulty or clogged, it can prevent proper drainage. To test the drain pump, you can follow these steps:

  1. Locate the drain pump, usually at the bottom of the dishwasher.
  2. Disconnect the power supply to the dishwasher to ensure safety.
  3. Remove any debris or obstructions from the pump.
  4. Plug the dishwasher back in and start a drain cycle to check if the pump is functioning properly.

If the drain pump doesn’t work or you suspect it is damaged, it may need to be replaced. Consult your dishwasher’s manual or seek professional assistance to install a new drain pump.

Inspect the Check Valve and Drain Impeller

The check valve and drain impeller are essential components that help facilitate proper drainage. Over time, these parts can become clogged or damaged, hindering the dishwasher’s ability to drain effectively. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Locate the check valve, usually located in the dishwasher’s sump area.
  2. Remove the check valve and clean it thoroughly.
  3. Inspect the drain impeller for any obstructions or damage. Clean or replace it if necessary.

Cleaning these components can often resolve drainage issues and restore your dishwasher’s functionality.

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Verify the Float Switch Operation

The float switch is a safety mechanism that prevents overfilling of the dishwasher. If the float switch is stuck or not functioning correctly, it can interfere with the draining process. To ensure the float switch is operating properly:

  1. Locate the float switch, usually found at the bottom of the dishwasher near the front.
  2. Gently move the float up and down to check if it moves freely.
  3. If the float switch is stuck, try cleaning it or adjusting its position.
  4. If the problem persists, consider replacing the float switch with a new one.

Test the Timer or Control Board

The dishwasher’s timer or control board controls various functions, including the draining cycle. If there’s an issue with the timer or control board, it can affect the drainage process. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Consult your dishwasher’s manual to locate the timer or control board.
  2. Inspect the timer or control board for any visible damage.
  3. If possible, reset the timer or control board to see if it resolves the problem.
  4. If the issue persists, consider contacting a professional technician to diagnose and repair the timer or control board.

Seek Professional Help

If you’ve followed all the troubleshooting steps and your dishwasher still won’t drain, it may be time to seek professional assistance. A certified dishwasher repair technician can diagnose the problem accurately and provide the necessary repairs. When choosing a professional, consider their experience, reputation, and customer reviews to ensure reliable service.

Why is my dishwasher not draining even after following the troubleshooting steps?

If your dishwasher still isn’t draining after following the troubleshooting steps, it could indicate a more complex issue, such as a faulty pump motor, a clogged main drain line, or a problem with the dishwasher’s electronic control board. At this point, it’s best to seek professional assistance to diagnose and repair the problem.

Can I use a chemical drain cleaner to unclog my dishwasher?

No, it is not recommended to use chemical drain cleaners in your dishwasher. These cleaners are designed for use in sink drains and may contain harsh chemicals that can damage the dishwasher’s components. Stick to the manual cleaning methods mentioned in this article or seek professional help if needed.

Is it safe to disassemble my dishwasher to inspect the drain components?

Disassembling a dishwasher can be complicated and may void your warranty if not done correctly. It’s generally best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional technician for any disassembly or repair work.

Are there preventive measures to avoid dishwasher drainage problems?

Yes, there are a few preventive measures you can take to avoid dishwasher drainage problems. These include regularly cleaning the dishwasher filter, avoiding overloading the dishwasher, scraping off excess food from dishes before loading them, and ensuring proper installation and connection of the dishwasher’s drain hose.

Now that you have the knowledge and tools to fix a dishwasher not draining, you can take action and restore the functionality of your appliance. Don’t let standing water and dirty dishes dampen your kitchen experience. Get your dishwasher back in working order and enjoy the convenience it provides.


A dishwasher not draining can be a frustrating issue, but with the right troubleshooting steps, you can often resolve it yourself. By checking for obstructions, ensuring proper installation, examining the garbage disposal connection, investigating the drain pump and other components, and verifying the float switch and timer or control board, you can significantly improve your chances of fixing the problem. Remember to prioritize safety by disconnecting power before performing any repairs or inspections.

If all else fails and you’re unable to resolve the issue on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A trained technician can accurately diagnose the problem and provide the necessary repairs or replacement parts to get your dishwasher back to optimal functionality.

Fixing a dishwasher that won’t drain can save you time, money, and the hassle of handwashing dishes. By following the troubleshooting steps outlined in this article, you can tackle this common issue with confidence and restore the convenience of a properly functioning dishwasher in your kitchen.

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