If you have a houseful of guests, or are engaged in a holiday baking marathon, a clogged dishwasher can really slow down your operation. Hand washing all your dishes uses more time and water than using your appliance — but getting a professional out to look at your dishwasher during the holidays can be hard to schedule, not to mention expensive. Luckily there are some things you can do yourself to deal with a clog.
First, check the kitchen sink drain
If the drain to your sink is also not working, there’s a possibility that the drain for your kitchen is clogged, and that the dishwasher isn’t the source of the problem. Try using a snake, also known as a drain auger, to clear the drain from the kitchen sink before doing anything to the dishwasher. If the sink and dishwasher begin to drain after that, chances are that the dishwasher doesn’t need any special maintenance. If not, there are some dishwasher-specific steps to try.
First, turn off the power to your dishwasher and garbage disposal. This will help to avoid electric shock while you’re working and will prevent you from accidentally turning anything on. If there’s no shutoff at the machine, you can shut off the power from your breaker box.
How to prep your dishwasher to unclog the drain
The next step is to empty out the dishwasher, removing all the dishes and the shelves and racks to give you room to work. You’ll also need to remove any water from the bottom of the dishwasher. For this part, scoop some of the water out with a measuring cup or use a dish towel, large sponge, or a bath towel to soak up any that remains. (If you have one, a wet vac will also work.) In addition to making the dishwasher more accessible to work on, this will reduce the probability of slipping in water or flooding the area around the dishwasher while you’re unclogging the drain.
Check the drain hose
Once the appliance is prepped, the first thing to check is the drain hose. The hose will connect with the drain to your kitchen sink. The hose could also be attached behind your dishwasher. Once you locate the drain hose, you can detach it by undoing the hose clamp that holds it to the machine. Check it to see if there’s any debris inside and use a hose-clearing tool to pull any clogs out. Run some warm water through after you unclog the hose to make sure that any loose bits don’t cling inside and form the basis for a new clog.
Once you’re finished, replace the hose and make sure to tighten the clamp — if it comes loose, the dishwasher will drain onto your floor, causing a flood.
Check the drain itself
If there isn’t an obstruction in the hose, you might have an issue in the drain of the dishwasher itself. This is in the bottom of the appliance, with a screen or a strainer-like cover. These usually come off with a screwdriver and might have a filter below the drain cover. Once you have removed the drain cover, use your hose clearing tool to clean out the drain. If you think you’ve got the drain cleared, run a small amount of water through it to make sure that it’s running clear. If everything works, you can reassemble the drain cover, put your shelves and baskets back into the dishwasher, and switch the power back on.
When to call a professional
If your drain is still clogged after taking these steps, you should call a professional. A faulty drain in an appliance like a dishwasher can cause flooding, leading to water damage and a much more expensive repair bill. Leave the appliance off until you can get it repaired to avoid further damage.
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