How to Make a Dishwasher Drain

When a dishwasher doesn't drain, you cannot use it until the drain is unstopped.

Dishwasher drains become clogged with food particles and grease. While these appliances make housekeeping a bit easier, they have their limitations. Dishwashers are not food compactors or garbage disposals; in fact, the name "dishwasher" is misleading. These appliances would be more amply described as "dish sanitizers. " To get a dishwasher to drain, you'll need to try a few different methods.

Check the breaker on the main electrical panel first to see if it has tripped. If so, you may have an electrical load problem between the appliance and the breaker. Also, check to see if the dishwasher's door closes completely.

Remove all dinnerware, flatware and any other cooking or eating utensils from the dishwasher. Pull the top rack and bottom tray basket out of the dishwasher. Set everything aside.

Scoop out all standing water and food particles with a spoon and spatula to expose the drain. Pull out any food particles or other obstructions that might be around the drain. If the water in the drain begins to recede, this may fix the problem.

Unfasten the lower spray arm to gain full access to the drain line. Pull out anything that may be clogging the drain by hand. If nothing is apparent to the eye, attempt to plunge the drain line with a plunger. Any water in the drain line should drain away.

Use a drain auger if the plunger fails. Insert the end of a drain auger into the drain line and feed it into the line. Push away any obstructions and then reel the auger line back in. This may take several attempts before you are successful.

Things You Will Need

  • Spoon
  • Spatula
  • Plunger
  • Drain auger


  • Should none of these methods yield results, the problem may be farther into the line or with the dishwasher's cycling mechanisms. Contact a licensed technician to troubleshoot and repair the appliance.

About the Author

Owen Richason grew up working in his family's small contracting business. He later became an outplacement consultant, then a retail business consultant. Richason is a former personal finance and business writer for "Tampa Bay Business and Financier." He now writes for various publications, websites and blogs.