You just opened up your dishwasher to unload a set of sparkling clean dishes but there it is. A huge puddle of water sitting at the bottom of your dishwasher just slowly gaining an unpleasant smell. So, why does your dishwasher keep leaving you an unwelcomed gift?

The most common cause of a dishwasher not draining completely is that one or more of your dishwasher parts are clogged. You can unclog the pieces by yourself and you will want to check the drain hose, garbage disposal, drain pump, and air gap.

Ready to get your dishwasher working again? Then let’s dive right in.

Why Dishwashers Don’t Drain

When your dishwasher is running it shoots out a bunch of water that cleans of any debris and food from your dirty dishes.

Most of the time, the food or debris is small enough to wash down the drain. But if you’ve left a ton of extra food on your dishes there’s a chance it will gather and end up clogging your dishwasher parts.

Big pieces of debris could cause significant damage to your dishwasher. If that’s the case, you’ll need to hire a professional to take a look.

More likely though, you’ll be able to take a look yourself and figure out which piece needs to be unclogged. 

pool of water in the bottom of a dishwasher
If your dishwasher is working properly, there should be no traces of water in the bottom. Thankfully, this can be straightforward to solve.

So before you pick up the phone and start calling every plumber nearby, save yourself some money and take a look at these DIY tips to unclogging your dishwasher.

How Do You Get Rid Of Standing Water In The Dishwasher?

Most standing water problems are because of a clogged piece of equipment. You can start with the most common issue and then work through all the possible problems.

The most common pieces to get clogged are your garbage disposal, filter, drain hose, drain pump, and air gap.

Clean Out The Garbage Disposal

garbage disposal clogged up

It is quite common for a dishwasher to not drain because of food accumulated in the garbage disposal.

You might be thinking, “what the heck does a garbage disposal have to do with my dishwasher?”

Most dishwashers don’t have a dedicated drainage line they have all to themselves. Instead, it shares the drain with the garbage disposal in your sink. It actually shoots all the greywater through the pipe of your garbage disposal to the outer pipes.

That’s why you might hear some water gurgling sounds coming through your dishwasher. 

If you’ve got some big debris or food pieces that were thrown down the disposal but you haven’t turned it on in a while they could be clogging up your pipe.

Turn on your disposal while running some hot water down the drain to see if that helps unclog the pipes.

Then, run another dishwasher cycle so that you can see if the water has drained. This is the most common part of the dishwasher that gets clogged and, luckily, it’s one of the easiest to fix.

Check Your Filter or Drain Basket

These two dishwasher pieces work in tandem to help you keep the dirty water from coming back onto your dishes.

The filter and drain basket both help catch food debris as it’s cleaned from your dishes. When a new cycle of water comes into your dishwasher, it won’t kick debris back onto your clean dishes.

As you can imagine, the more you use the dishwasher the more these two pieces get clogged up.

When that happens, the water doesn’t have a place where it can actually drain, so it just sits at the bottom of your dishwasher.

To fix the issue, check the area around the filter and drain basket to see if anything needs to be removed before taking out your filter and drain basket.

Once removed, thoroughly wash out both pieces before putting them back into the machine. Then, run another cycle to see if water still gathers at the bottom.

Check Your Drain Hose

As the water drains from the dishwasher into your pipes it goes through a small drain hose.

Just like with your filter and drain basket, the drain hose can get clogged up with any food or debris that gathers over time.

Sometimes, the hose isn’t clogged at all but is just bent at a sharp angle, cutting off any way for your water to drain properly.

This solution involves a little comfort in looking at the other areas of your dishwasher and being able to take off the hose.

The piece should be easy to find, it’s usually located at the back of your dishwasher.

Before removing the hose, check to see if there are any kinks or folds you can undo that might cause the issue.

If that’s not the problem, remove the hose from your dishwasher and run an undone hanger through to unclog the problem. Be careful not to damage the hose as you’re unclogging the issue.

Unclog Your Drain Pump

The drain pump is connected to your drain hose and helps pump the water from your dishwasher into your home’s pipes.

Some of the food debris coming from the dishwasher into your pipes could get stuck in the drain pump and cause it not to get the water out.

All you need to do is stick your fingers inside the pump and clean out any debris that may be inside. You’ll need to wear some thicker gloves when checking the pump because you don’t know if there are sharp objects.

Just like with the other methods, when you’re done cleaning out the pump run a cycle to see if the water ends up draining through your pipes.

Look at the Air Gap

Some dishwashers are going to have an air gap, but not all will. The air gap usually sticks out of your sink area and the shape looks like half of a popsicle.

The air gap helps keep the dirty water from coming in contact with your clean dishes. At times, debris from your sink might clog up the air gap and prevent any water drainage.

You can usually just pick out any debris with tweezers. There’s a chance you need to disassemble the air gap and then run a small snake through to unclog the area.

Run a cycle on your dishwasher without any dishes to see if the water is still gathering.

How To Maintain Your Dishwasher To Prevent Standing Water

Woman using a dishwasher
Dishwasher cleaning and maintenance aren’t always at the top of a homeowners’ to-do list because many assume it’s a self-cleaning appliance.

A dishwasher doesn’t need a lot of maintenance, but it does require a little upkeep to keep your machine running as smoothly as possible.

One way you can help your dishwasher out is by just washing away as many food particles as possible before throwing your dishes into it.

The less food debris that has to go through the dishwasher parts, the fewer issues and clogs you’ll have over time.

If you’ve had the same dishwasher for a year or two and haven’t cleaned out the individual pieces yet, it’s time for a deep clean.

Take apart the dishwasher pieces mentioned in this article and give them a little love and care. Run some hot water through your hoses, filters, and drain baskets. Take apart the air gap and clean it thoroughly, as well as your drain pump.

Fixing a Dishwasher That Won’t Drain Water

Having water gathered in your dishwasher can be a pretty frightening moment if you don’t know what’s wrong. Luckily, as long as you keep a cool head and check out the individual pieces we mentioned that could get clogged, you should have no problems fixing the issue. Thanks for reading and if you didn’t see what you’re looking for, check out the other articles below.