I Fixed Our Dishwasher! Here’s How I Did It…

Jim and I are definitely do-it-yourselfers. In our 6+ years of marriage, we have never once called a repairman to our home whenever something broke or stopped working.

Around the house, if something goes wrong, Jim usually has enough handyman skills in him to get us out of practically any jam.

And with my research skills, I’m usually able to point him in the right direction anytime he’s unsure about something. I guess we’re a pretty good team.

But last week, Jim was out of town — for a total of 10 days.

Just my luck… on Day 1 the dishwasher decided to quit working!


The water would not drain from the bottom of the dishwasher. The entire tub was FILLED with water… all the way up to the point where the door opens. Ugh!

Believe it or not I managed to fix it myself.

Here’s what I did…

First, I ran the dishwasher again — thinking maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe the dishwasher just hadn’t properly cycled through all its stages the last time.

Naaa… even after another full cycle, the water remained piled up on the tub floor.


Dishwasher Water Won’t Drain?

I found out that the most common reasons the water won’t drain from a dishwasher are:

  1. Food & debris are blocking the drainage basket (or drain screen) inside the tub, in the far back
  2. Food is clogging the drain hose — the long tube that runs under the sink


So I started with #1 — despite the fact that I feared I wouldn’t have the strength to loosen the tight bolts which keep keep the basket securely in place throughout wash after wash.

First, I had to use a small plastic bowl to bail out the now-smelly water. I would scoop it out and pour it into a larger bowl resting on the open dishwasher lid. Then, when the big bowl got full, I’d empty that into the sink and get back to scooping. (It’s actually fairly tight quarters inside a dishwasher; there’s definitely not much elbow room in there.)

Eventually, even a tiny scoop bowl becomes too big to capture the last layer of water lining the tub. So, for what seemed like forever, I used a turkey baster to suction out the remaining water from the dishwasher.


How To Remove The Drainage Basket

Finally, with all of the water removed from the dishwasher — at least from the drainage basket and higher — I was ready to tackle the bolts that were holding the drain basket in place.

tools in a toolboxI went to our handy-dandy Craftsman toolbox (we actually have a “big” tool box which serves as a shelf for the “little” toolbox in our garage… see we’re handy!) and dug out our set of tiny wrenches. Found the perfect size (1/4-inch) and started wrenching.

There are 2 VERY long screws which keep the drain basket in place in our GE dishwasher… so it seemed like it took forever.

Once the 2 screws were loosened and the basket was removed, I discovered a separate “flapper” thing that was resting inside the drain area. So I removed that too. Both the flapper and the drain basket needed a serious cleaning — there was a very thick film of food & grime covering most of the edges.

Then, I had to precisely lodge my upper body way into the dishwasher in order to suction the remaining water that was at the very bottom inside the drain basket. I noticed small bits of food & grime coming up with the water too.

When I couldn’t get any more water out of the drain, I held a large makeup mirror in the back of the dishwasher — over the drain/basket area — to see if I could find any large pieces of food in there. None.


What If The Problem Is In The Tubes?

Since I hadn’t dislodged any large particles of food, I figured my efforts had been in vain. I thought the reason the water wouldn’t drain from the tub of the dishwasher was due to a clog in the lines, as opposed to a clog in the drain basket.

drain-hose-clampsAt first, that bummed me out… because I was sure that I wasn’t going to have the muscle power to adequately loosen and then re-tighten the hose clamps that kept the drain tubes in place under the sink. But I didn’t want to wait 9 more days for Jim to get back and use his manly man strength.

So, what’s a girl to do?

First, jiggle the drain tubes a bit (…at which point I noticed some of the water drained through — like maybe there was just some air in the lines?)

Then, put the drain basket (and the flapper!) back in place and run the dishwasher and hope for the best.

Believe it or not, it ran… full cycle.
And it drained… completely empty.

End of the story:
There was no more water resting in the tub of the dishwasher!

This was the best source I found for dishwasher repairs and tips for fixing things yourself.



I had to remove the basket from the back (inside) the dishwasher and clean it again. This time, it was just something I noticed during a routine “spring cleaning” procedure, rather than an emergency — because the dishwasher wasn’t backing up with water.

But let me tell you, your dishwasher is backing up or not isn’t the only “sign” that something’s going wrong with your dishwasher. It can also run less efficiently simply from the amount of build-up that accumulates from all of the food particles and grime that collect at the dishwasher basket area itself.

Here’s how I ended up fixing our dishwasher this time… with 2 new steps to prevent this from happening again!

Lynnette Walczak

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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