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.
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…
Try Running The Wash Cycle Again
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.
How To Fix A Dishwasher That Won’t Drain
I found out that the 2 most common reasons the water won’t drain from a dishwasher are:
- Food & debris are blocking the drainage basket (or drain screen) inside the tub, in the far back.
- 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 Drainage 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…
How to remove water from 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 a 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 drain basket in place.
Here’s how I did it:
- 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 basket was removed I discovered a separate “flapper” thing that was resting inside the 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!
- 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. (There were none.)
Since I hadn’t dislodged any large particles of food, I figured my efforts to clear whatever was blocking the drainage 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…
#2 – Remove Food & Debris From The 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 and use his manly man strength.
How to remove a clog from a dishwasher drain hose:
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?
After, I put the 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!
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. (Plus, the drain basket and drain hose were clean now!)
This is the best site I found for DIY dishwasher repairs. (You type in your dishwasher brand & model info.)
UPDATE 2 YEARS LATER:
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!
I like to help people find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about "outside the box" Household Tips and Life Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I'm super-organized. And I LOVE to clean! I even enjoy doing laundry (but not ironing). I’m also a lifelong dog owner — so I often share my favorite tips for living with dogs inside your home (like smart home design choices and dog-friendly cleaning & decorating ideas). Career-wise, I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). Prior to that, I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I'm truly passionate about instead. For example, 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. When I’m not cleaning, organizing, decorating, or fixing something… you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).