How to Fix Standing Water
in Dishwasher

By Kealia Reynolds | Advertiser Disclosure

If you notice standing water at the bottom of your dishwasher, a repair may be necessary. However, while there are multiple reasons why the water in your dishwasher won’t drain completely, most will not warrant a service call. Before calling a professional to fix the issue, follow these troubleshooting steps.

Troubleshooting steps: how to fix standing water in dishwasher

  1. Turn off the system’s power—Before working on the dishwasher, unplug the machine or switch off the circuit breaker in your electrical panel to prevent electric shock.
  2. Remove the water in your dishwasher—Line the floor under the dishwasher with towels and use a large cup or plastic container to scoop the water out into a large bowl or the sink. When the water becomes too shallow to scoop, use a towel to soak up the rest of the moisture.
  3. Check the drainage system—Is your dishwasher not draining? One of the most common reasons for water at the bottom of your dishwasher is because food particles or other debris have clogged the drainage system. Check the dishwasher drain and clean the drain basket around the lower sprayer arm, unclogging debris with a wire hanger. Make sure no large objects are covering or blocking the sump area in the rear of the tub.
  4. Clean the pump—The pump consists of two impellers: the upper one pumps water into the dishwasher and the lower one pumps it out to the drain. Sometimes, broken glass and other debris will prevent the impellers from turning, causing water to build up. Remove any debris you find that could be creating these blockages.
  5. Clean the sprayer arms—Gently pop out the sprayer arms located at the bottom of your dishwasher. Check the holes for food debris and clean them out with a wire hanger. Rinse the arms with warm water, ensuring all pieces of food have been removed, and set them aside.
  6. Clean the dishwasher filter—Check your owner’s manual to see where the dishwasher filter is located (it’s usually located on the bottom of the dishwasher floor near the back of the appliance) and use a screwdriver to remove it. Rinse off the screen with water and wipe the surrounding area clean with a damp sponge. Replace the screen and the sprayer arms.
  7. Assess the supply line—If you’ve cleaned out the screen and the drainage areas and there’s still standing water in your dishwasher, then you probably have a clog in your supply line. Locate the supply line under your sink. Place a bucket underneath the line to catch any falling water and disconnect the plumbing line that feeds into the main drain. Allowing the water to drain into the bucket, look for clogs, and run a snake through the pipe to dislodge it. After removing any clogs, simply reattach the plumbing line and run an empty cycle through the dishwasher.
  8. Clean the drain line—Locate the drain line near the back of the dishwasher right under the filter screen. Mix together 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of water to form a paste. Pour the paste into the drain line through the filter screen. Pour 1/2 cup vinegar down the drain line and let the solution set for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pour hot water down the drain line to flush out the baking soda solution.
  9. Straighten out the drain hose—Locate the dishwasher drain hose under the sink; it’s typically held up by clips or screws. Older drain hoses tend to form kinks, which can create blockages. If there are kinks in the drain hose, gently straighten them out.
  10. Run the garbage disposal—Since an air gap in a connecting hose may prevent water from draining, remove the drain hose where it connects to the garbage disposal and clear blockages with a flat-head screwdriver. After you’ve removed any clogs, make sure the kitchen sink drain isn’t clogged and run the disposal. Never put your hands down the garbage disposal as this could result in serious injury.
  11. Run a complete cycle—To ensure that your dishwasher is draining properly, turn on the power to the system and run a complete dishwashing cycle. Once the cycle is complete, open the door and check if any water remains in the bottom of the dishwasher. If you notice an abnormal amount of standing water in the dishwasher, you may need to call a professional.  If you have a home warranty, file a claim with your provider and schedule a time for a service technician to access your dishwasher.

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How to prevent standing water in your dishwasher

To prevent water from building up in the future, consider these recommendations.

  • Use the correct detergent—Whether your dishwasher requires pods, powder, or liquid detergent, make sure you’re using the correct detergent to avoid clogging the drain. Your manufacturer’s manual should detail which detergent is best. We recommend these detergent pods.
  • Make sure you’re loading the dishwasher correctly—Improper loading may make it harder for water to drain during a complete wash cycle. Read the manufacturer’s manual for directions and tips on how to best load the dishwasher. In general, cups and small bowls should be loaded in the top rack, utensils should be placed in the silverware holder, and plates and large bowls should be loaded in the bottom rack.
  • Listen to your machine—During a wash cycle, listen for humming or clicking sounds. If you hear these noises, the drain pump and motor may need to be replaced. Since these parts are essential in preventing standing water in your dishwasher, you should get them replaced as soon as possible.
  • Properly maintain your dishwasher—Follow these tips on how to avoid a broken dishwasher, as well as how to help your dishwasher drain correctly. If your dishwasher breaks down frequently, a home warranty can offset the costs.

When to call in a professional

If you don’t know how to unclog a dishwasher and your dishwasher still has standing water and doesn’t drain after these suggestions, it may be time to call in a professional to assess the issue. If your limited dishwasher warranty has expired and you instead have a home warranty, dishwasher repair or replacement may be completely covered. Simply call your warranty company to make a claim on your dishwasher and schedule an appointment to have an approved contractor address the problem.

Once a service technician enters your home, they’ll determine if a repair or replacement is necessary. If a repair is needed, they’ll most likely repair the dishwasher that day. If a replacement is needed, you’ll have to schedule a follow-up appointment for the professional to remove your old dishwasher and install your new appliance. Note that home warranty limitations and exclusions will differ based on your individual plan, so make sure you understand all terms and conditions before scheduling a repair or replacement.

If you don’t have a warranty, read reviews on local service contractors and schedule an appointment with a trusted professional to come and assess your dishwasher. After determining whether a repair or replacement is needed, you’ll be required to pay out-of-pockets costs for the service. If you need a new system, you’ll have to research dishwasher models and schedule another appointment to have your new appliance installed.

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Why have a home warranty for dishwasher repairs?

No one plans for their dishwasher or other appliances to break down, but it happens more than we’d like. Without the protection of a home warranty, the cost of these repairs can add up. For example, the average dishwasher replacement cost is $1,000. But when your dishwasher is covered by a warranty, you only pay a premium of $25–$67 a month—or a few hundred dollars for the full year. When a repair comes up, the only cost is the service fee, which is between $75 and $125.

Read our Choice Home Warranty review, our review of First American Home Warranty, and our Select Home Warranty review–they’re just a few home warranty providers that cover broken dishwashers.

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