A dishwasher cleaning dishes

HOW TO UNCLOG A DISHWASHER

Is your dishwasher not draining properly? While it’s normal for there to be a bit of standing water at the bottom of your dishwasher from time to time, if you’re seeing an inch or more, it’s highly possible you have a clogged dishwasher. The good news is, there are some steps you can follow to unclog a dishwasher that won’t require a visit from a service technician. For specific information and maintenance instructions for your particular dishwasher model, consult your product manual, and for more tips on other dishwasher issues, check out our troubleshooting guide,or read about the different parts of a dishwasher.

Stainless steel Maytag® front control dishwasher

Why doesn’t my dishwasher drain completely?

The most common cause for a dishwasher not draining is a clog or obstruction in your dishwasher drain or nearby garbage disposal. Removing the blockage typically resolves the problem.

Why is there standing water in the bottom of my dishwasher?

It is typical for a small amount of standing water to remain in the filter area of your dishwasher as it helps to keep the seals in that area from drying up. Occasionally, a dishwasher may have standing water remaining if the cycle has been interrupted before the draining process has been completed. Excessive standing water that fills the bottom of your dishwasher after a complete wash cycle is likely due to a clog in the drain or nearby garbage disposal.

Can I manually drain my dishwasher?

You can manually remove excess standing water by removing the bottom rack and placing absorbent towels on the bottom of your dishwasher to soak up the remaining water.

If your dishwasher has standing water due to an interrupted wash cycle, simply run another cycle without interruption. If it still won’t run, try resetting your dishwasher. Learn what to do if you are having the opposite issue, and your dishwasher isn’t filling with water.

How to unclog a clogged dishwasher

In some cases, you can fix a clogged dishwasher with a little bit of elbow grease. Use the following instructions as a guide to unclogging your dishwasher.

SUPPLIES
  • Clean, dry towels

  • Toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush

  • Plastic cups

  • Bucket or large bowl

TOOLS
  • Screwdriver

Open dishwasher

STEP 1. EMPTY DISHES

For easier access to the inside of your dishwasher, remove all dishes from the racks and empty out all utensils and glassware.

Stainless steel dishwasher tub with spray arm and heating element

STEP 2. REMOVE ANY STANDING WATER

Once your machine is unplugged and emptied, pull out the bottom rack. Place clean, dry towels at the bottom of your dishwasher to absorb any remaining water. If there is a large amount of standing water at the bottom of your dishwasher, use a cup to scoop out the water into a bucket or large bowl.

Dishwasher filter

STEP 3: REMOVE & RINSE YOUR DISHWASHER FILTER TO CHECK FOR CLOGS

If your dishwasher has a filter, it might be the source of the clog. Tough food particles or wet chunks of paper from container labels can get caught in the filter and keep water from draining. As a first step, clean the filter, then rerun the dishwasher to see if it drains.

 

The filter is located at the bottom of the dishwasher. Some dishwashers tuck it in the back corner, while other filters can be found around the base of the bottom spray arm.

 

The filter usually has a cage or grille covering it. On some models you can remove the dishwasher filter by hand, while others will need a screwdriver.

 

With the cage removed, you can pull out the filter. If yours is clogged, you will probably see food particles or other visible debris blocking the fine mesh.

 

Luckily, a clogged dishwasher filter is easy to clean. Run it under the kitchen faucet to rinse off any food particles and debris. You can also gently scrub the filter with warm water and a soft brush, like an old toothbrush, perhaps—but don’t use a wire brush or scouring pad. You can damage the filter if you’re not careful. To keep your entire dishwasher clean and performing its best, add a dishwasher cleaning tablet like this option from affresh®.

 

Replace your clean filter and remember to put the cover back on.

Stainless steel dishwasher in a modern kitchen

STEP 4. CHECK THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL AND AIR GAP CYLINDER

Many built-in dishwashers are designed to drain using your sink’s garbage disposal. Leftover food in the disposal can cause improper dishwasher draining. If your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal, turn it on to clear out any remaining food.

 

If the garbage disposal is not the cause, you may need to inspect the air gap cylinder. This keeps water flowing properly during a wash cycle and prevents water from backing up into the bottom of your dishwasher. Locate the cylinder by checking behind your sink near the dishwasher hose. If you notice any buildup in the air gap cylinder, clean it out and reconnect it at its proper location, ensuring the cylinder is tightly secured.

Close up image of dishwasher drain hose

STEP 5. CHECK YOUR DRAIN MOTOR, DRAIN VALVE AND DRAIN HOSE

If your dishwasher is still not draining right, there may be another reason your dishwasher drain is clogged. A broken drain motor or a clogged drain hose can also cause standing water in your dishwasher. A stuck drain valve bracket may indicate burnt out electrical components in your dishwasher. All of these issues are better left to the professionals. Call a service technician to check it out for you.

Stainless steel appliances in a modern kitchen

STEP 6. GET PROFESSIONAL SERVICE IF NEEDED

Some causes of a clogged dishwasher, like a clogged drain hose or a malfunctioning drain motor, require the help of a licensed professional. 

Following the recommendations in your Maytag® dishwasher owner’s manual should keep your appliance performing at its best, but if a malfunction occurs Maytag® service is here to help. Call customer service at 1-800-344-1274. Hours of operation: Monday & Tuesday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. (EST); Wednesday–Friday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. (EST).

Food pieces spinning in a microfilter

DISCOVER DISHWASHERS WITH UPGRADED FILTRATION

Select Maytag® dishwasher models feature Dual Power Filtration, an industry-first combination of 100% microfiltration and a 4-blade stainless steel chopper. It filters out, chops up, then drains food from the dishwasher in extra small pieces, helping prevent clogs so there's no need for routine maintenance.

 

Plus, any model with Dual Power Filtration also uses Leak Detect, a system that monitors water flow and drains unwanted water, helping identify and contain most types of leaks.

SHOP MAYTAG® DUAL POWER FILTRATION DISHWASHERS

FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DISHWASHER CARE AND MAINTENANCE

Was this article helpful? Pass it on