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5 Causes of Dishwasher Clogs + How to Unclog a Dishwasher


A dishwasher is a welcome investment. It makes cleaning easy and ensures that all your dishes, glasses, and silverware are squeaky clean while saving you time.

But when a dishwasher starts overflowing on the floor or drains slowly, it turns into a daily headache. Especially when you have to pull out all your dishes, fixtures, and silverware, place them in the sink one by one, and scrub each of them all by yourself.

But dishwashers don’t just randomly clog. Join us, the team at Gallegos Plumbing, your preferred plumbing contractor in Ventura County, CA, in a discussion about the different reasons dishwashers get clogged and steps to fix the problem. Let us dive right in.

Table of Contents

  • Causes of a Dishwasher Clog
    • » Dirty Filter Basket
    • » Garbage Disposal Issues
    • » Clogged Drain Hose
    • » Clogged Drain Line
    • » Damaged Sewer Line
  • How to Unclog a Dishwasher
    • 1. Diagnose the Issue
    • 2. Gather the Right Tools
    • 3. Power off the Dishwasher and Clear Stagnant Water
    • 4. Remove and Clean Drain Hose
    • 5. Check the Filter Basket
  • When to Consult with A Professional Plumbing Contractor

Causes of a Dishwasher Clog

» Dirty Filter Basket

On the floor of your dishwasher, you will find a basket-shaped filter designed to trap food and other items. When this filter becomes clogged, this prevents your dishwasher from draining smoothly. What’s more, your dishes may not come out sparkling as they should.

If you notice residue on your dishes after retrieving them from the dishwasher, it might be time to check the basket filter. You will need to remove the bottom dish rack to access and the filter. Typically, you can remove the filter by hand.

Wash the filter basket with hot soapy water to remove the food particles. After which, you soak it in vinegar to remove stubborn oils and grease.

» Garbage Disposal Issues

Noticed that your dishwasher draining slowly or backing up after having a recent garbage disposal installation? If so, it might be the installer forgot to remove the knockout plug. It is located in the port where the drain hose connects.

Removing the plug will likely resolve the dishwasher clogging problem. You only need to remove the hose and pull out the plastic plug.

If you have an older garbage disposal, check and see if it is damaged or clogged.

» Clogged Drain Hose

When your dishwasher drains, the water flows through a hose connected to the drain or garbage disposal under your kitchen sink. If the hose gets clogged, water will likely back up into your dishwasher. A thorough clean can resolve hose clog.

You do not have to call a plumbing contractor to fix your clogged hose. You can clear the blockage with a coat hanger or commercial drain cleaner. (more on that later)

» Clogged Drain Line

A blocked drain line is quite complicated than the culprits mentioned above. The pipe sits deep underneath the dishwasher, and accessing it can be difficult for homeowners.

If other drains in your home are draining slowly or produce gurgling sounds, this could indicate a clog in your home’s main drain. If that is the case, call a local drain cleaning specialist to clear out the blockage.

» Damaged Sewer Line

The sewer line is the pipe channels away all the wastewater from your home. A damaged or clogged sewer line causes more issues than a clogged dishwasher. It prevents all drains in your home from draining and could cause sewage to back up into your home.

Older sewer pipes are the common victims of clogs, but tree roots, ground shifting, and other factors can damage and clog newer sewer lines.

It is always a good idea to consult with a professional plumbing contractor for sewer line issues. They have the experience, tools, and methods to diagnose and fix your sewer pipe problem effectively.

Also Read: How to Repair Bellied Sewer Pipe

How to Unclog a Dishwasher

1. Diagnose the Issue

Now that you have learned about the possible drivers of dishwasher clogging, you certainly know the culprits to watch out for. Check for clogs in the dishwasher and kitchen sink drains before calling for plumbing services. Once you verify it is a clogging problem, it is time to prepare for a DIY repair.

2. Gather the Right Tools

Once you have pinpointed the clog, the next step is gathering the right tools to unclog the drains. Necessary tools might include:

  • Screwdriver
  • Bucket
  • Drain auger
  • Gloves
  • A pair of plier
  • Baking soda and vinegar

3. Power off the Dishwasher and Clear Stagnant Water

Water and electricity are die-hard enemies, and you risk getting shocked when the two contact. So, make sure to switch off the electricity to your dishwasher and garbage disposal.

Next, use a towel to remove any stagnant water around the dishwasher. It is a necessary step to clean the dishwasher and eliminate the risk of slipping and falling.

4. Remove and Clean Drain Hose

To disconnect the drain hose from your dishwasher, you will need to use some pliers to loosen the clamp. Place a dish below the hose to catch any spilling water.

Use a commercial drain auger to clear the hose. You can instead use a straightened coat hanger. De-clogging flush is another excellent alternative. We highly recommend baking soda and vinegar because, unlike commercial chemical cleaners, they will not harm your drains.

5. Check the Filter Basket

If you do not discover anything clogging the hose, the problem could be a clogged filter basket or drain line. Use a screwdriver to remove the filter basket and clean it as advised earlier.

You may use an auger/ straightened coat hanger to remove debris from the dishwasher’s drain line. Finally, re-install all the components and test the dishwasher for improved performance.

When to Consult with A Professional Plumbing Contractor

Below are the circumstances where you should call for professional help:

  • If you lack the tools or time to implement the above recommendations
  • If the issue persists after the above intervention steps
  • When you suspect something worse than a dishwasher clog

Struggling with a dishwasher clog or other drainage problems? Gallegos Plumbing can help. We are a top-rated Ventura County plumbing contractor specializing in a full range of plumbing services. From quality installation to expert repair and maintenance- we meet all your plumbing needs with cleanliness, efficiency, and professionalism.

Contact our certified and experienced plumbers today or call now at (805) 243-2622 for immediate help with your drainage issue.

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