The dishwasher is one of those modern time saving devices that many of us rely on every day. If the dishwasher stops working for any reason, it’s inconvenient, and it can really affect the course of the day. There are many dishwasher problems that can only be fixed by a professional plumber with the right expertise, knowledge, and tools to get the job completed safely. A common dishwasher problem is clogs. These can occur in three main areas; they are the air gap, the drain hose, and the filter. The good news is that sometimes, these clogs can be fixed by a person that’s comfortable using standard tools. So, if you have a clog in one of these three areas, you can attempt a repair yourself before calling out a local professional plumber.
- Check the Air Gap
Some dishwashers use an air gap. This will be located on the top of the nearby sink under the faucet. The air gap is used to prevent wastewater from the sink from backing up into the dishwasher and allowing the unit to drain normally. Sometimes, the air gap can become clogged with debris from the sink and wastewater, and it needs to be cleared. This is an easy three step fix, you don’t need any tools apart from an air gap brush, or you can use a bottlebrush instead if you don’t have one.
Step 1: Locate the air gap cover, remove it, and take off the plastic cap. This will allow easy access to the top of the dishwasher drain hose where it connects to the sink.
Step 2: Get the air gap brush or bottlebrush and use to clean in and around the drain hose area. This should remove any smelly gunk or debris that may be stuck in the entrance to the drain hose.
Step 3: Keep bushing the brush into and through the drain line that runs to the sink until you can clearly see it when you look into the drain.
Step 4: Once the drain is clear, replace the air gap cover and the plastic cap, and you’re done.
- Check the Dishwasher Drain Hose
There is a drain hose that can connect directly to the sink or garbage disposal, or it could be connected directly to the air gap as seen above. When the drain hose is clogged, the wastewater in the dishwasher cannot drain away properly, and this can lead to a number of problems, including localized flooding. Follow these nine simple steps to attempt to clear the dishwasher drain hose yourself.
Step 1: Locate the owner’s manual for your dishwasher. This will be useful for checking connections, and if you cannot locate it, check the manufacturer’s website for a pdf version.
Step 2: Turn off the power to your dishwasher and garbage disposal unit at the breaker box before you start.
Step 3: Make sure the water supply to the dishwasher is turned off.
Step 4: Get some old towels and a shallow pan to place under your kitchen sink. Place the towels down first and put the pan on top to catch any debris and/or water that may be displaced during the cleaning process.
Step 5: Locate both ends of the dishwasher drain hose. Refer to the owner’s manual for help if this isn’t apparent, but the hose is pretty easy to find.
Step 6: Following the instructions in the owner’s manual, detach both ends of the dishwasher drain hose line.
Step 7: Clean the dishwasher hose fitting with a brush to remove any debris.
Step 8: Hold up both ends of the drain line to avoid water dripping out and take it to another sink or an outside faucet for thorough cleaning. Use a flexible hose brush to remove any debris and flush out the drain line with clean water from the faucet or use a garden hose.
Step 8: Shake the drain hose to remove any excess water or leave it for a while to dry outside and then reattach it on the dishwasher at both ends.
Step 9: Turn the power and the water back on and run a dishwasher drain cycle to check that the clog has been removed.
- Check the Filter System
Inside the dishwasher, under the spray arm at the bottom of the appliance, you can find the filtration system. This is used to filter out larger chunks of food debris that could clog the drain hose, but it’s not very effective at dealing with non-food debris. So, if bones or plastic or other materials get caught there, it can lead to clogging issues.
The exact configuration of each dishwasher filtration system can be very different depending on the make and model. So, it’s important to consult the owner’s manual for your specific dishwasher to understand how the filtration system works.
For this reason, it’s difficult to provide a set of detailed instructions on how to clear the filtration system for your specific dishwasher model. But, this is a common operation, it’s usually detailed in the owner’s manual and the only tool that you should need is a simple screwdriver to remove and replace the cover for cleaning.
Some General Advice
If you’re not confident with tools or working on your dishwasher, it’s a better idea to consult a professional plumber for expert advice. If you want to clear a clog yourself, make sure you have the owner’s manual on hand for reference. It’s a good idea to take a picture on your phone at each stage to help you remember where things should go. Place any covers, caps, or screws in a safe place, so they don’t get lost during the cleaning process. Always put down plenty of old towels to soak up any water that may leak when removing the drain hose.
If you cannot clear the clog yourself or if it returns regularly, contact your local professional plumber. There could be an underlying problem with your garbage disposal or sewer line that needs to be fixed first. Make sure that your chosen plumber
is bonded, licensed, and insured to work on your plumbing systems and water using appliances.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.