Skip to main content

maintenance on the inside of a dishwasher
maintenance on the inside of a dishwasher

How to Unclog a Dishwasher

Clogged dishwasher clogging your day? We can help. Here are some easy, DIY steps to try.

Many of us have been there before. You open the dishwasher, ready to put the dishes away, only to look down and see a pool of soapy, grimy water standing at the bottom of the machine. You might be tempted to reach for the plunger, but you’ll need more than that to unclog a dishwasher. 

Luckily, there are some simple solutions to help get rid of your gunky problem. Here are some steps on how to unclog a dishwasher when your dishwasher won’t drain. 

Step 1: Empty the Machine

Before you try your hand at some DIY dishwasher plumbing , make sure you’ve removed all dishes and silverware from the machine. If they are still dirty, be sure to separate them from your other dishes so that you can return to cleaning them once your dishwasher has been fixed. You’ll also want to remove the bottom dishwasher rack for easy access to the machine.

Step 2: Disconnect Your Dishwasher 

Now that the dishwasher is free of dishes, turn off the electricity running to both your dishwasher and garbage disposal. Disconnecting a dishwasher is the most important step—you could get a severe electrical shock if the current is traveling to the machine. A trip to the hospital would probably cost more than hiring a professional, and DIY is all about saving money and staying safe!

Step 3: Remove the Stagnant Water With a Towel

Once the machine has been disconnected from its power source, begin removing any standing water that your dishwasher backed up. You can do this with a towel or wet vac. You can also use a cup or bowl to scoop out the water if you don’t have a wet vac and then dry the excess moisture with a towel.  Not only is this step necessary for cleaning, but it also reduces the chances of slipping and falling while working around the dishwasher.

Step 4: Check to See if the Dishwasher Drain Hose is Clogged

Now it’s time to check the dishwasher drain hose. The drain hose is the tube that links the dishwasher with your garbage disposal. The hose is located either under your sink or behind the dishwasher itself. For the latter, you’ll need to first remove your dishwasher by pulling it away from the wall to access the hose. 

Thinking about coverage?

Sounds like a plan. Find the warranty that fits you best.

Step 5: Remove and Unclog the Dishwasher Drain Line

Once you’ve located the hose, disconnect it from the machine. To disconnect the hose, you will likely need some pliers to loosen or remove the clamp. Placing a shallow pan or dish below the hose will help catch any water that may spill. 

After removing the hose, it’s time to get the gunk out. You can use commercial de-cloggers or, if you’re feeling extra handy, you can make your own out of a straightened wire coat hanger. If you don’t discover any debris disrupting the hose, then there might be a clog in the dishwasher drain itself.

Step 6: Check to See if Your Dishwasher Drain is Clogged 

Look for the basket-shaped component at the bottom of your dishwasher. Remove it with a screwdriver, and then, just like you did with the drain hose, use a de-clogging device to remove any debris that may be clogging the drain. After that, reconnect everything and give it a whirl. 

If you still have a clogged dishwasher at this point, then it’s time to call a professional. If you have a home warranty plan from American Home Shield that covers your dishwasher, the process is easy. Simply submit a service request, and we’ll send out a professional contractor who will diagnose the issue, determine if it’s covered under your warranty, and either fix or replace your dishwasher subject to the limitations and exclusions of your contract. That’s just one of the benefits of a home warranty. Check out our home warranty plans with comprehensive appliance warranty coverage for the systems and appliances you use every day, and decide which plan is right for you.

Routine maintenance can significantly extend the longevity of your appliances. Our dishwasher maintenance checklist can help improve the speed and efficiency of your dishwasher and help you identify when it's time to replace your dishwasher. When you’re finished learning how to unclog a dishwasher, read more about how to clean your dishwasher and how to fix common appliances.

Dishwasher Repair Near You

Get affordable, upfront pricing when you use American Home Shield® ProConnect™ for your appliance repair needsBook online now. *Available in most major markets. Services vary by market.

Do you need help with your Dishwasher? Frontdoor offers appliance repair near you.


AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

American home shield short logo mark

Don't worry. Be warranty.

Have a plan for your home when things don't go according to plan

Shop Home Warranties