I Fixed Our Dishwasher Water Not Draining! Here’s How I Did It…

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Wondering how to fix a dishwasher not draining water? And how to drain a dishwasher of all the water that’s resting in the bottom of the tub quickly & easily ? I’ve done it — it’s easy! Here’s what you need to know…

Jim and I are definitely do-it-yourselfers. In our 15+ 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.

Jim usually fixes things around the house, but this time, our GE dishwasher not draining was up to me to repair because Jim was out of town!

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. And it was 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 how to fix a dishwasher that won’t drain the water…


First, Try Running The Wash Cycle Again

I immediately ran the dishwasher again — thinking maybe it was just a fluke.

Maybe the dishwasher just hadn’t properly cycled through all of its stages the last time.

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

This is a closeup of the dishwasher drain basket / drain screen. You can't see all the built-up gunk and grime underneath until you take it off.


How To Fix A Dishwasher That Won’t Drain

I did some research and found that the 2 most common reasons for a dishwasher not draining are:

  1. Food and 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.


#1 – Remove Food & Debris From The Dishwasher Drain Basket

I feared that I wouldn’t have the strength to loosen the tight bolts which keep the drain basket securely in place, wash after wash. But I did!

Here’s how I did it…

The first step to fix your dishwasher not draining is to clean the drain basket. As you can see, the food & debris really builds up!

How to drain a dishwasher tub:

  • First, I used a small plastic bowl to bail out the now-smelly water. I scooped it out and poured it into a larger bowl resting on the open dishwasher lid. When the big bowl got full, I emptied that into the sink and went back to scooping.
  • Eventually, even a tiny scoop bowl was too big to capture the last layer of water lining the tub of the dishwasher. So, for what seemed like forever, I used a turkey baster to suction out the remaining water from the dishwasher.

It’s actually fairly tight quarters inside a dishwasher. There’s definitely not much elbow room in there!


How to remove the dishwasher drain basket:

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 dishwasher drain basket in place.

Here’s how I did it…

Our Craftsman toolboxes. One stacked on top of the other -- with the tiny set of wrenches I used to fix the dishwasher myself.

  • I went to our handy-dandy Craftsman toolbox and dug out our set of tiny wrenches. I found the perfect size wrench (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 drain basket was removed, I discovered a separate “flapper” thing that was resting inside the dishwasher drain area — so I removed that too.
  • Next, both the flapper and the drain basket needed a serious cleaning — because there was a very thick film of food and grime covering most of the edges. Slimy black gunk!
  • 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 and debris suctioning up with the water, too.)
  • When I couldn’t get any more water out of the dishwasher 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. (There were none.)

Since I hadn’t dislodged any large particles of food, I figured that my efforts to clear whatever was blocking the dishwasher drain basket had been in vain.

Only running the dishwasher would tell me for sure — but I wanted to try one more thing before turning on the dishwasher again.

I decided to tackle #2 on the list above.


#2 – Remove Food & Debris From The Dishwasher Drain Hose

I thought maybe 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.

At 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 in town and use his manly man strength.

Here’s how I did it…

A look under our sink where the drain hose from the dishwasher is... with hose clamps..

How to remove a clog from a dishwasher drain hose:

First, to see if the drain hose had any blockages, I simply jiggled the plastic drain hose a bit.

I immediately noticed some of the water drained through!

Hmmm… maybe there was just some air in the lines?

Or… maybe the plastic tubing had been in the same position under our sink for so long that food and debris were just starting to build up inside there?


It Worked!

After, I put the dishwasher drain basket (and the flapper) back in place, I crossed my fingers.

I ran the dishwasher and hoped for the best.

Believe it or not, it ran… full cycle!

And it drained… completely empty!

A look inside our dishwasher now... See how I fixed our GE dishwasher not draining water... by myself.

I had successfully fixed my dishwasher that wouldn’t drain. There was no more water resting in the tub of the dishwasher. And the dishwasher worked perfectly again.

Bonus: the drain basket and drain hose were also clean now!



After 2 years, I had to remove the drain 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 this time, the dishwasher wasn’t backing up with water.

But let me tell you… the dishwasher not draining isn’t the only “sign” that something is going wrong with your dishwasher!

A dishwasher 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. (All that food from our plates, pots, and pans has to go somewhere — logically, it passes through the dishwasher drain basket.)

See how I ended up fixing our dishwasher this time — with 2 new steps to prevent this from happening again!

This DIY dishwasher repair wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! Here's how to fix a dishwasher that won't drain... yourself!


The Bottom Line

Sometimes all it takes is a little trial and error… combined with a little research from the right sources.

Still need advice on how to fix a dishwasher that won’t drain — because the above steps didn’t work for you? This is the best site I found for DIY dishwasher repairs. (You type in your dishwasher brand & model info.)

Like this post? Save it to read again later… or share with others on Pinterest!

Dishwasher won't drain water? Here's how to fix a dishwasher yourself... like I did!

80 thoughts on “I Fixed Our Dishwasher Water Not Draining! Here’s How I Did It…”

  1. Lynette, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I bought my first home 2 years ago, and didn’t use the dishwasher much, since it’s only me! Of course, one evening after having friends over for dinner, I started the dishwasher, only to almost slip in a puddle of water as I walked into the kitchen. I thought about going to the store and just purchasing a new one, but wanted to first see if there was anything I could do, I am always willing to try! I did exactly as you said, it was very easy, and guess what I found??? At least six pieces of glass in the bottom drain, this is after I took the basket and the drain cover off, (mine had the plastic flip connected to it). I had to do this carefully, it was like finding large chunks of diamonds, slow and easy! After I was done, I put everything back together, closed it, ran it, and no flood, no mess, and it drained beautifully!!! I would say this took me about an hour total, that is from beginning to end, including cleaning the pieces, and starting the machine in the end…it ran great! I saved myself an expensive plumber service call, a new dishwasher, and also possibly having to take off time from work for the service call. I agree, there are times when you need to call someone to do a repair, but if you are capable and willing to take the time to learn a little something that is not to difficult (like this was), and save yourself some money…then it is all so WORTH IT!!!! I like to say, “If I can do it, YOU can do it!!”

  2. Hi,
    I followed what you said, and added my own inspiration and it worked! What I added to the mix was to also blast water through the drain hole with a hose. First I uncloged the end of the hose that connects to the sink pipe, cleared the crap out. Then with the filter and arm still out i used the jet setting on my garden hose to power out the gunk in the washers drain system. I also used vinegar and vola! Drains super! I’m celebrating with a beer!

  3. Also… Remember to knock out the plug on the garbage disposer before you attache the dishwasher drain tube to it. This comes plugged for those that do not have a dishwasher. It’s a common mistake from what I hear. 🙂

  4. Yay! It worked!!! Thanks so much for posting this! Turned out the people that lived here before us must have washed something with rocks in it because both filters were filled with little pebbles!

  5. Thank you for your tips on fixing the dishwasher I just followed your advice and fixed my parents dishwasher, theirs however took a 5/16 rachet to undo the screws, but I got it and saved my dad some money. Thanks again.

  6. Green beans! I do not know how they end up there but that was clogging the drain! We are very particular about rinsing the dishes before placing them into the dishwasher, but they were there waiting for me.

    We have lived in this house for about three years, and I am tempted to say the dishwasher is an original from the ’90s when the house was built, after I put the drainage cover away I was surprised that it was very clean, almost spotless but the surprise was waiting for me down there…

    Thank you so much for the detailed explanation and for mentioning the mirror, after draining the water and looking into the drain I thought I was done since I pulled out some plastic pieces that should not be there, then, I felt this thing coming from the wall of the drain and so I got the mirror and found that the real drain connection was there where you cannot see it unless you have the mirror.

    It took me about one hour to get it all done, our basket is secured by two regular screws, so I did not have to get too technical on the tools, I just reach for the first star screwdriver from the drawer on the kitchen counter and that work perfect.

    Thank you again, it made me feel so confident when I finished, run it, and saw that it worked!

  7. My GE dishwasher wouldn’t drain, but after reading your advice and detailed instructions I was able to FIX IT and didn’t need to call the repairman. It took some real determination as my DW is totally different from the one shown and I just kept at it till I got all the parts and filters out and cleaned, but I have it working like a charm. Thanks so much for the good advice and hints about vinegar and baking soda, hot water, etc. You saved me a lot of $$$ as a
    repair man in northern VA is super expensive!!

  8. This looks like the same exact dishwasher i have that is no longer draining. How did you get the strainer cover off without taking off the spray arm? I cannot get my ratchet in to remove the bolt on the spray arm and can’t seem to get the cover off with it on.

    • HeatherF – As you can kind of tell in the photo above, the strainer is shaped such that you don’t have to remove the spray arm at all. Once you remove the screws holding the basket in place, it just slips straight up and out — right around the spray arm itself.

  9. Thank you!! I jiggled the tubing and it drained. I would have never thought the solution would be that easy!! tMy husband is a deployed submariner so I’m basically a single parent and rely heavily on my dishwasher. Thank you again!!! I am bookmarking your website : )

  10. Oh my gosh, I can’t thank you enough for posting this. My dishwasher was not draining and I did what you suggested by jiggling the hose, then hit the cancel/drain button on my dishwasher and it worked!!  My husband was really impressed that I was able to fix it, since he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

  11. Oh my gosh, I can’t thank you enough for posting this. My dishwasher was not draining and I did what you suggested by jiggling the hose, then hit the cancel/drain button on my dishwasher and it worked!!  My husband was really impressed that I was able to fix it, since he couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

  12. my dishwasher had water lef behind and I was going to tackle it tommorrow which is today lol anyway your directions saved me a lot of time!  I couldn’t believe all the lime hands full pieces the size of my hand.  I put vinegar in and letting it run second time before putting all the parts back in,  but so far running normal.   I would rather have my dish washer than washing machine!  THANKS

  13. OMG>>> We have been trying for 4 days syphining and cleaning>>>>and all it toook was a jiggle of the hose>>>That advice and you are amazing>>>>and a huge savings>>>>Thanks for your advice!!!!

  14. I cleaned out the hose under sink – full of black crud, but I had to give the bearing area on the bottom a good shot of WD40, as the ‘plastic wheel wasn’t turning’  Then, for good measure I dumped a good cup of white vinigar in with the water and voala – it drains, things go whirrrrr – no repair man needed here – thanks for the tips!!

  15. Thanks for positng this. My wife and I were convinced our dishwasher was dead. A couple of hours of time and some elbow grease, and it is running again!

    Your tips saved us HUNDREDS of $$ as we were getting ready to look for a new dishwasher! Thanks again!

  16. Thanks for letting me read your adventure about your dishwasher drain being plugged when your husband Jim was out of town!
    I have a little problem of my own… I’m here at my condo in the Cayman Islands and things have been going wrong from the time I got here, as I’ve had renters in here and they didn’t report any problems to my property mgrs…
    My cleaning lady was using the dishwasher, a Frigidaire, and we smelled something burning! We opened the dishwasher to find a plastic bottle cap stuck to the element, we removed it and as we were looking in the basket area we noticed a little silver button like cap with the word “T-Fal” on it and also a little plastic oblong shaped, grey in color, Frigidaire clip… along with a very filthy basket, I might add… Now that we have the basket and the bottom of the dishwasher all cleaned out we just need to know where those 2 items go? Does anyone have any ideas?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!
    Mary S.

    • mary – the T-Fal cap is most likely from old TFal cookware (pots & pans). As for the Frigidaire clip – it’s impossible to guess where that might have come from. Try running the dishwasher… most likely you don’t need that clip.

  17. I had a similar issue where the water would not drain. I went through all of the steps that you mentioned. It turned out to be another issue all together, let me explain… I recently replaced my garbage disposal. The dishwasher drain pipe connects to the disposal. It turns out that there is a plastic plug in the disposal that must be knock out so that the water can drain. Problem solved, no $ spent.

  18. Your simple solution made me follow the drainage link into what they called the AIR GAP. It is above the sink, next to your faucet. The drainage link comes to it and then goes to the garbage disposer from there. If your diswasher does not empty, just unscrew the AIR GAP and see if it is clogged. In my case there were two pieces of debris that provided an almost perfect block. I removed them and it now works as usual. Based on another advice I had unscrewed the basket but it turns out that was completely UNNECESSARY!

  19. Thanks, The Wiggle technology worked for my DW too. Water was not draining out completely,and giving out bad smell. Thanks for sharing the technology, Please make sure this technology is not transfered or outsourced. Thanks again!

  20. I had a similar problem and followed your instructions and used baking soda/vinegar/boiling water per an on-line video. The dishwasher is draining beautifully and I will use this solution and jiggle the tubing periodically to keep it running well. I live in NYC so it would have cost a fortune to have a repair person come and take a look. Thank you so much for your detailed instructions and I feel very proud that I was able to take care of the problem myself. Thanks again.

  21. Just like you, my dishwasher started backing up the day my husband left for out of town work. Since I am already miss fix it around the house I google how to fix it and came across this. instructions were simple and it worked like a charm. who knows how long all that grime and guck had been in that dishwasher. its working better than ever now! thanks so much!!!

  22. SO funny…I found this post one hour after my husband left for 11 days, I dropped him off and after being home for a bit realized there was a puddle of water on my kitchen floor! Opened the diswasher and sure enough, did not drain! It’s a GE dishwasher as well. Well, off to empty the basin and clean my basket! lol…

  23. I also have the GE Nautilus dishwasher that was clogged and smelled and water would not drain. First its a good idea to get a cheap ShopVAC and suck the water out completed and the reserve under the plastic drain guard. Have lots of paper towels handy. Make sure you clean out the ShopVAC first and remove its inside filter and filter disk, this is for wet vacuum mode – read ShopVAC manual. Remember to unplug the ShopVAC anytime you open it and of course turn off the switch and even circuit breaker to the dishwasher. Once you got all the scummy water out and cleaned the plastic drain guards and ensure the drain hose is clean and unclogged to the garbage disposal. If you loosen the clamp and disconnect the large rubber hose from the bottom of the dishwater that connects the drain to the cutter/motor assembly remember to put the little rubber gasket ring back on where the large rubber hose you disconnected or you will have a small leak and a big problem. Put all back together and push the dishwasher back in place and secure. Leave the bottom access panel open and get on the floor level with a flashlight to look for any signs of water drops while you turn the power on and run a rinse only cycle. Keep your hands and pets from going inside the access or you definitely risk serious harm. Hopefully you found the clog and cleaned out the system. Do not ignore any water drops. If you see water leaking a little like one drop per 7-10 seconds you have to fix the leak. The little rubber gasket ring will get you everytime if you disconnected that assembly. Good luck!

  24. I have a GE Triton dishwasher and the water doesn’t drain on the last rinse. All the other cycles will drain. If I just hit reset, it drains al the water. I need suggestions

  25. I just moved into a home and the dishwasher is a Whirlpool and it had standing water on the bottom, I ran it through a cycle and it still had water at the bottom.. It doesnt drain. Help

  26. We have the exact same dishwasher as you and are experiencing the exact same issues! My hubby and I also have never called a repairman either, lol. He’s surprisingly handy having fixed our washer, dryer, repairing plumbing in virtually every drain in our home, and replacing our hot water tank by himself. I’m also the researcher. I will have him try this ASAP! Thanks so much for the post! I think ours has been keeping at least a small amount of water in it since we got it, he disagrees, we shall see. Oh, what we use to get the water out is a siphon, like what you use to transfer kerosene into the heater. A new, unused one of course.

  27. Our dishwasher stopped draining today. Not even a year old! I was so irritated and frustrated with GE (the manufacturer) because a) it’s less than a year old. How is this not working! and B) ok, I know that the majority of people live on the east coast, but seriously! Us west coasters have dishwasher issues too and broken appliances don’t care what timezone they are in! Well, I came across your page and I knew it wasn’t the trap because I had already cleaned it out several times and reran the dishwasher (of course the last time, i had a lightbulb! My carpet shampooer has a hose attachment and can suck that water out so much faster than my turkey baster! SCORE! BTW, my dishwasher had 12 qts of water in the bottom easily. Each time!) Soon I knew it wasn’t the trap or the screen or filter. I couldn’t find a trap and I sure wasn’t going to try and pull the thing out from the mounting if I didn’t have to. So I saw further down that you wiggled the output hose a bit and that helped! I was fully prepared to unclamp the hose from the sink and blow in it (I know, I know “dirty” LOL) because I saw a bit of dark stuff floating in the water in the hose. Jiggled it a bit and restarted the rinse cycle and sure as s***, the most beautiful thing happened! I saw a gush of water going into my drain! I almost cried! I don’t know what it could have been. I rinse the dishes before I put them in so there is hardly any food on them, but from now on, I’m keeping that carpet shampooer downstairs, the flashlight under the sink and I will remember to jiggle that draining hose (stop! I know! “That’s what she said” haha!) if it decides not to drain again. You have saved us probably a couple hundred bucks calling the plumber! Only problem is, now I have to actually do housework lol! Thanks for your tips! They were a lifesaver!

    • Hi Erin. My goodness… that is some story! I’m so glad my tips helped you hone in on the problem with your dishwasher. You had some great tips as well – thanks for sharing your experience!

      • my dishwasher didn’t drain last night. I know how to remove the hoses under the sink but HECK — my landlord replaced disposal four months ago and the clamps are on too tight. So i used bathroom plunger, bailed water, jiggled output hose, and VOILA — it drained. yay. Thanks

  28. Thanks Lynnette! I just moved into a new home and had the same dishwasher. This seemed to clean up our drainage issue but we ran into another problem.
    It seems the water from the inlet on the left side of the washer constantly runs when the water line is turned on under the sink. Any chance you’ve run into this issue? I’m assuming we got some switch stuck on somewhere. Research has led me no where but to your blog. Thanks for any help you could provide!

  29. Omg, thank you so much!!
    We haven’t been able to use our dishwasher in quite a while and I came across the website last night and thought I’d give it a shot. Who knew that shaking the tube would make it work. I shook it a lot and then put it trough rinse twice and it worked and then a load of dishes and perfect! I am so very, very happy! I cannot thank you enough.

  30. having pretty much the same problem… I have no clog in the basket and the hose that leads to the drain is bone dry there was not a drop of water. We don’t have a garbage disposal. I have run vinegar through it and at this point I have no idea what the problem is. Please help!

  31. Hello. I have the same dishwasher as what is pictured. And mine is not draining. So my question is where are the screws that you removed to clean the basket and the flappy thing. Because I looked but didn’t see any but could have missed them. Please help. THANKS.

  32. Be very careful if you need to take the middle piece out that sprays the water from the bottom. One of the plastic pieces that held ours down broke off. We can’t afford someone to fix it, so we used part of a coat hanger to keep it from shooting out. Our dishwasher is 16 years old, so that will hopefully get it to 20 years and then we’ll just replace the dishwasher.
    We also occasionally have issues with the water backing up into the garbage disposal. It usually works itself out, but it scares me when it happens because I see dollar signs coming up instead of water.

  33. Recently I took my dishwasher completely apart because of standing water. I cleaned everything spotlessly and put it back together. Took hours. Last night at 4am I decided to find a solution for the NEW standing water that I obviously had not really fixed. Your solution to jiggle the hose, seriously, I said. I did it a few times and then it worked… perfectly, good wash, no standing water. OMG, you are a genius. Thank you!!! I did a special dance for you at 4:05am. The repair took a few seconds. My choreography took the most time. 🙂 <3

      • I gotta say when i saw the jiggle the line thing, I was skeptic, my machine was not draining, pull it apart, it was clean, pumps were working fine, put it back together, didn’t drain, we have only had this thing a year mind you, i googled it and came across this post, i thought what have it got to loose, wiggle the line, and low and behold the thing started draining, i couldn’t believe it, now everytime my wife comes to me with an issue i say, just wiggle the hose honey!!! Love it.

  34. I drained ours quite quickly by using a 2 ft section of old garden hose and a douche bulb to create the suction to get the drafting going. As long as the end of the hose in the bucket was lower than the end of the hose in my dishwasher, the drafting continued. Not everyone will have a douche bulb lying around, but if you’re game, you can suck the water to get it going.


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