There’s nothing wrong with finding a little water at the bottom of your dishwater after a cycle. But when there’s too much water that it covers the heating element and probably touches one of the spray arms, you need to act. However, before you can take any measures to fix the problem, you need to drain the unit manually to access the interior components.
Draining a dishwasher with standing water manually involves the following steps: cut off the unit’s water and power supply lines, line the floor around its front with towels, remove the dishes, empty the stagnant water manually, and use towels to soak up the leftover water.
In the rest of this article, we’ll cover the above steps in greater detail, identify the common causes of standing water in a dishwasher, and take a look at some of the potential fixes to the problem. Let’s get started.
How To Manually Drain a Dishwasher With Standing Water in Six Easy Steps
To drain the standing water in your dishwasher, follow these steps:
- Cut off the dishwasher’s power supply. It’s dangerous to work on any appliance when it’s still plugged in. Some units plug into wall outlets (typically located under the kitchen sink), while others only connect to a dedicated circuit breaker. Depending on your model’s connection type, either shut off the circuit breaker or unplug the unit from the wall outlet.
- Cut off the water. Locate the water line connecting to your dishwasher and turn it off. In case you don’t know where to find it, check under your sink or countertop for a flexible line made of either braided stainless steel or copper.
- Place towels around your dishwasher’s front to protect the floor from potential spills when you open the door. Also, place some around the baseboards, so water doesn’t run under the cabinets.
- Open your unit and remove the dishes. Also, remove the bottom dish rack to give yourself enough room for the next step.
- Empty the stagnant water. You can either use a small container to transfer the water into a bucket or use a wet/dry vacuum for easier and faster draining. If you’re draining a single unit, a small container and a bucket may be enough. But if you’re often up against dishwasher drainage problems, it may be worth investing in a pocket-friendly, portable wet/dry vac like the CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17250.
- Lastly, use towels to soak the remaining water on your dishwasher’s floor. You can also use sponges for this.
While manually draining the standing water in your dishwasher may be great for a temporary fix, a more effective way to address the problem is to tackle the root cause. You’ll want to use your dishwasher again, and you don’t want to be going through the hassle of manually scooping out the water every time you run a cycle.
To help you find a long term solution, let’s take a look at some of the potential DIY fixes to your dishwasher’s drainage issues in the next section.
Troubleshooting a Dishwasher That Won’t Let Water Drain Away
To get rid of standing water in a dishwasher, you need to know the root cause of the problem. There are several potential causes, each requiring specific steps to fix.
Let’s review each below:
A Clog in the Drain
Chunks of food can sometimes cause clogs in the drain, preventing the dishwasher from draining effectively. To find out if this is the culprit, check under the rack. If there are chunks of food, chances are the standing water in your dishwasher is due to a clogged drain.
A Dirty Dishwasher Filter
A Lot of people don’t even know that their dishwasher has a filter. If you’re one of them, chances are a dirty filter is the cause of the standing water in your dishwasher because you likely haven’t cleaned it in a while.
The filter sits at the bottom rack of your dishwasher, and its primary function is to stop washed off bits of food from recirculating onto already cleaned dishes and blocking the drain. When too much food residue builds up on this all-important part, it gets clogged, blocking the usual water pathway to the drain and leaving you with stagnant water in your dishwasher.
Note that this only applies to recent dishwasher models. If yours is ten years old or older, it likely has a self-cleaning filter, which doesn’t require regular cleaning. Newer models come with manual-clean filters, which may clog if left uncleaned long enough.
A Stuck Drain Valve
Typically, dishwashers will have either a reversing motor or a single direction motor. If yours has the former motor type, you can rule out a stuck drain valve as a potential cause of the standing water in your dishwasher because only models with a single direction motor come with a drain valve.
You don’t need unique expertise to know the type of motor your dishwasher runs on. All you need to do is count the wires on your unit’s motor. If you notice two or three wires, your dishwasher uses a single direction motor. If there are four wires, you’re looking at a reversing motor.
To determine whether the stagnant water in your dishwasher is due to a stuck drain valve, locate the valve bracket, which typically sits at the bottom of your unit. You’ll find the drain valve on the valve bracket. Once you locate the drain valve, check if it can move around freely. If it can’t, it likely is what’s compromising your dishwasher’s drainage system.
A Faulty Drain Pump
Your dishwasher’s pump has two impellers: the upper impeller and the lower impeller. The former’s primary function is to pump water into the dishwasher, while the latter pumps it out to the drain.
It’s not uncommon for debris to stick inside the impellers and prevent them from turning. If this happens, especially to the lower impeller, you’ll likely end up with a dishwasher that doesn’t let water drain away.
A Clogged Air Gap
Typically fitted on an existing opening on the sink or kitchen countertop, an air gap connects to two pipes that run underneath the sink/countertop: the dishwasher drain pipe and a hose connected to the garbage disposal/the sink drain pipe.
During a cycle, the dishwasher drain pipe carries dirty water from the unit to the air gap. Here, wastewater pours out into the air gap and exists through the second hose, which then guides it to the sink drain pipe or garbage disposal. The technical term for such a setup is a cross-connection and helps with two key things: ensuring that wastewater doesn’t back up into the dishwasher and relieving pressure to prevent a vacuum from forming inside your unit.
If the air gap gets blocked by debris, the pressure will build up within your unit, or dirty water will back up into the dishwasher. Either way, you’ll end up with standing water in your dishwasher.
A Clog or a Kink in the Drain Hose
The drain line is usually located near the back of your unit. Being the pipe that guides wastewater out of your dishwasher, it makes perfect sense that having it clogged or tightly twisted up can compromise your unit’s drainage, resulting in standing water at the bottom.
How Fix the Problem of Standing Water in Your Dishwasher Permanently
Depending on the cause, the following DIY hacks can be potential long-term fixes to a dishwasher that often doesn’t let water drain away:
Clear the Air Gap
As mentioned earlier, a clogged air gap can compromise your dishwasher’s drainage. To find out if it’s the culprit, twist the air gap anticlockwise to remove and inspect it for gunk.
If you notice anything that may cause a blockage, use a stiff brush and water to clean the air gap. Once clean, replace the fitting and run a cycle to see if drainage issues persist.
Check the Drain Hose
When inspecting the drain hose, you’ll be looking for two issues; kinks and clogs. Here’s how to go about that:
- Disconnect the dishwasher from the power and water supply lines and pull it out of its cabinet far enough that you can easily reach and see behind it. Be gentle when pulling out the unit. Otherwise, you may gouge your floor.
- Locate the drain hose and inspect it for kinks. Typically, the drain hose connects your dishwasher’s drain pump to the air gap or sink drain (depending on your installation type), so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Follow this hose to the drainage area, inspecting any sharp bends or kinks that may interfere with water flow. If you notice any sharp twists or bends, correct them.
- Detach the drain hose from the dishwasher and examine it for clogs. Be careful not to spill water that may be remaining in the pipe all over your kitchen. In case of any clogs, run a long flexible brush through the hose to clear them. It might also be a good idea to run pressurized water through the drain line to eliminate debris.
- Once done, reconnect the drain hose and run a short cycle to see if your unit’s drainage issues have been fixed. You can run a full cycle if you prefer, but that’d wastewater.
Clean the Filter
When standing water in a dishwasher is caused by a dirty filter, cleaning it can be a quick solution, and you can do that in the following steps:
- Remove the filter. On the bottom of your unit’s interior, locate the spray arms and check underneath them for a circular filter (in reality, it’s cylindrical, but it’ll look circular because you’re looking at one of its ends). Twist the filter anticlockwise to remove it.
- If your model has a coarse filter, remove it. You can find the coarse filter on your unit’s cylindrical filter. It’s a metal plate on the filter that’ll slide off with a slight tug. Note that some models don’t have the cylindrical filter and the coarse filter as separate parts. If you have such a model, remove both filters as a unit.
- Probe the sump for bones, food chucks, and any other kind of dirt that may be clogging it. In simpler terms, the sump refers to the hole left behind after you remove the cylindrical filter. With gloves on, feel inside this opening for debris and remove them, if any.
- Wash the filters thoroughly in a sink. Use hot water and dish detergent. Once clean, rinse the filters well and reinstall them. Start by fitting the coarse filter onto its impression on your unit’s bottom and then twist the cylindrical filter clockwise to slide it into place.
- Run your unit on a short cycle to find out if the drainage is working again. If not, try the next hack.
Check the Drain Valve
If the troubleshooting process reveals that your unit’s drain valve is stuck, locate the drain valve. (We’ve already covered how to do this in a previous section under the subheading “a stuck drain valve.”)
The drain valve is made up of a solenoid and a gate arm. The gate arm’s function is to let water drain out of your dishwasher, and it should be able to move freely. If it’s not, check both of its two springs and replace them if missing or damaged.
Next, move on to the solenoid and detach the two wires connected to it. Test it with a multimeter set to an X1 ohms setting. A functional solenoid should read 40 ohms. If you get a significantly different reading on yours, it needs replacement.
Manually Spin the Motor
Sometimes, leaving your dishwasher idle for an extended period can prevent water from draining. That’s because food residue may dry on the rotating parts of the motor when it stays inactive for long, preventing it from turning as it should when you run a cycle.
When your motor is unable to turn, your unit won’t let water drain. Luckily, fixing dishwasher drainage issues caused by a stuck motor can be as simple as spinning the motor a few times. Try it and run a cycle to see if it worked.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to use what we’ve covered in this post to drain the standing water in your dishwasher and fix the problem long term. If dishwasher drainage issues persist after trying all of the long term fixes we’ve reviewed, it might be time to seek expert help.