How to Clean a Dishwasher Drain

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Regularly cleaning dishwasher drains is a good habit to get into, because it ensures the dishes come out clean and your appliance is in peak performance.
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Regularly cleaning dishwasher drains is a good habit to get into, because it ensures the dishes come out clean and your appliance is in peak performance.

All dishwasher drains have filters in place to catch food debris and prevent clogs, but clogs can still occur if these aren't cleaned. The good news is that it's much easier to fix a clog by cleaning a filter than it is to repair a clog further down the drain pipe.

Finding and Removing Dishwasher Filters

First, you'll need to locate the filter and drain on your dishwasher. It will be on the floor of the dishwasher, so remove the bottom rack for easy access. There are often two components to a dishwasher filter: a screen that catches large debris, and a cylindrical filter with much finer mesh that catches grease before it enters the drain and solidifies into a clog. Twist the cylindrical filter until it lifts out, then you'll be able to also lift out the screen.

On other models, you may need to remove the blade before you can access the filter. The blades sit on top of a mount that you can easily twist off by hand — simply turn it counterclockwise until the blade lifts out. Then, remove any remaining parts until you can lift out the filter. Basket filters held in with screws are another common scenario you'll encounter.

Cleaning Dishwasher Filters

Scrape any large debris, from both filters, into the trash. Next, add a dollop of grease-busting liquid dish soap to the filters and use an old toothbrush to work it into the mesh. To remove stubborn material from the fine mesh filters, fill your sink with water that's as hot as you can tolerate and scrub these filters underwater. Or, scrub them under running water.

Continue to flush your sink drain with warm water for several minutes to prevent any grease from lingering in your sink drain.

Cleaning Dishwasher Drains

If you're not sure whether your Whirpool diswasher was not draining at the end of the cycle due to dirty filters or because of a clog in the drain, unplug the dishwasher and inspect the drain now that the filters have been removed. Use a flashlight to look for evidence of gunk or debris at the mouth of the drain, which may have been pushed through the filters if the filters have been dirty for some time. Carefully scoop out any debris with a cloth, or use an auger to pierce and lift out a solid clog.

If you can't find anything at the dishwasher drain itself, look underneath your kitchen sink to find the dishwasher drain hose where it connects to the main drain. If your kitchen sink is experiencing drainage problems, too, the issue might be in the main drain pipe. But if your sink drains fine, and it's just the dishwasher that's the problem, you can remove the dishwasher drain pipe to check the connection or the pipe itself for clogs.

Dishwasher drain pipes are often clear, so you can simply look for a clog instead. If you find one, remove the pipe at both ends and attempt to push the clog out with a straightened wire coat hanger or a blast of water from an outdoor hose. This is a good way to remove black gunk in a dishwasher drain hose, as well.

Testing the Dishwasher for Proper Drainage

Once you've reassembled the dishwasher, run a test cycle without any dishes in the dishwasher to make sure it drains properly. If you're still encountering issues, call a professional plumber. Otherwise, take good care of your dishwasher by scraping and rinsing all dishes before placing them in the dishwasher in order to avoid future drainage problems.

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Cathy Habas enjoys distilling even the most complicated home improvement tasks into bite-sized pieces. She believes in empowering homeowners one article at a time.

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