Dishwashers are probably the #1 most overlooked kitchen drain fixture. Between home sinks, garbage disposals, bathroom plumbing systems and irrigation, who has time to think about the quality of dishwasher drains?
Such is the average homeowner’s train of thought… until the unexpected happens, and you’re left with problematic dishwasher clogs and no knowledge of how to resolve the issue. While you may be pressed to contact a plumbing expert right away and diagnose a clog right away, there are a few at-home tricks you can use to gauge, or even resolve, the problem on your own.
Dealing with a clogged dishwasher drain pipe doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may imagine; a lot of it comes down to pinpointing the clog and knowing how to safely disconnect dishwasher components for cleaning.
The Most Likely Reason Your Dishwasher Drains are Clogged
Like any other kind of drain fixture issue, before you can begin DIY clog removal for your affected dishwasher drains, you’ll need to understand why they’re clogged in the first place. This can guide you when clearing out the affected pipe areas, and help you make smarter decisions with what you put in your dishwasher moving on.
For clogged dishwasher drains, it should come as no real surprise that food, oil gunk and fatty food fragments are the leading culprits in a majority of cases. If you wouldn’t run cooking oils and grease through your sink drains, why would dishwasher units be any different? Always properly dispose of oils, grease and food fragments properly.
How Dishwasher Drain Cleaning is Different Than Other Drain Cleaning
For conventional sink drains and many other common plumbing fixtures, all you’ll need to do to resolve a clog is flush affected pipes with hot water and cleaning solutions, or run a drain auger through the pipe to dislodge material. Dishwasher drain pipes aren’t that simple; to reach clogged materials in dishwasher pipes, there’s some disassembly required.
Don’t sweat it too much, however; with the right tools and know-how, you can fully disconnect your dishwasher pipes on your own, and remove clogged debris without ever having to contact a professional plumbing service.
Reaching and Cleaning Clogged Dishwasher Drains
Dishwasher drain pipes differ from other drains in their accessibility. Typically, there is no easy-to-reach drain opening through which to apply water flushes or manual cleaning tools; rather, to reach these clogs, you’ll need to physically detach drain hoses from the dishwasher unit in question.
For the safest self-repairs, make sure your dishwasher is unplugged and electricity shut off before you start removing dish racks or accessing the drain. Once your dishwasher is disconnected, remove dish racks and locate your unit’s drain grate; this is typically located at the bottom, or “floor,” of the inside of your dishwasher.
With the drain entrance located, you can typically remove the grate and access the inside of the drain with a standard screwdriver. From here, you can typically clean the affected drain section with a drain snake, or auger, or flush it with hot water to remove clogged debris (we recommend following a hot water flush with baking soda and vinegar mixtures, as these elements react in a safe way to break apart stubborn clogs).
However, sometimes dishwasher drain clogs require a bit more special maintenance; particularly, when the clogging occurs in the difficult-to-reach drain hose behind your dishwasher unit.
Removing Clogs Inside Drain Hoses
Reaching clogged drain hoses requires a bit more work than standard dishwasher drains… however, it’s still entirely possible to do on your own with the right preparations.
Before you try accessing your unit’s drain hose, always remember to make sure power to the unit is shut off. With the power off, you should be able to locate the drain hose in question by either consulting an owner’s manual or following drain pipes from your sink (the two are often connected).
Drain hoses connect to dishwasher units typically through a plate located on the back of dishwasher units, or under dishwasher doors. You can often remove this plate with a regular screwdriver; just remember to have a bucket handy, as there will likely be built-up water spillage. Once you have access to your drain hose, remove any clogged debris manually and flush the hose with water to ensure that all leftover material fragments are cleared out.
Now, you can reattach the dishwasher hose, and perform test cycles to make sure the problem is fully resolved. If you still experience dishwasher performance issues after these steps, you should contact an experienced drain cleaning service in your area to give the problem an expert evaluation.