How to Unclog a Dishwasher: 5 Simple Methods

VIA Appliance
January 10, 2023
Dishwasher Repair

If your dishwasher is backed up and you’re looking for a simple way to unclog it, you can try a few methods. In this blog post, we’ll show you 5 different ways to unclog your dishwasher, so you can get it running smoothly again. 

Whether you’re facing a minor clog or a more serious problem, one of these methods should help get your dishwasher back in working order. Read on to learn more!

Why does my dishwasher get clogged?

Dishwasher drains can become clogged due to the buildup of food particles, grease, and other debris. Dishes that are highly soiled or have a lot of oil or grease on them are especially prone to cause clogs. A dishwasher drain can quickly become clogged if the appliance is not adequately maintained or if the wrong type of detergent is used. 

To prevent clogs, it is important to ensure that all food particles and debris are rinsed off dishes and glassware before loading them into the dishwasher. Additionally, using a dishwasher detergent specifically designed for dishwashers can help minimize clogging problems. 

1. Unclog the dishwasher filter

The dishwasher filter is a critical component of the dishwasher, as it prevents food residue from clogging the machine and damaging its internal components. It’s important to clean your dishwasher filter regularly to ensure optimal performance and extend the lifespan of the machine.

Fortunately, unclogging the filter is straightforward: remove the filter basket at the bottom, take it apart and clean each piece with a dish brush and warm water and soap. After you reassemble it, place it back at the bottom of your dishwasher.

Doing this simple task every few weeks can help save money on maintenance costs down the road while keeping your dishwasher running as efficiently as possible.

2. Mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar, then pour it down the dishwasher drain

The second method for clearing a clogged dishwasher drain is to mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar, then pour the mixture down the drain.

 Baking soda is an effective and safe way to clean drains, as its natural alkaline properties lift grease and scum buildup caused by food particles while being gentle on pipes. Additionally, baking soda’s mild abrasive texture can help break apart soap scum buildup that clogs the drain. 

After pouring the mixture down the drain, let it sit for 30 minutes before running a hot water cycle. With this method, you can get your dishwasher draining properly again in no time!

3. Run the garbage disposal

The third method to clear dishwasher clogs is to run the garbage disposal.

During installation, it’s common practice to connect the dishwasher drain hose to the garbage disposal, allowing food waste and debris from the dishwasher to be broken down through it.

Unfortunately, this accumulation of waste can eventually lead to clogs and blockages, preventing the dishwasher from draining properly. Fortunately, running the garbage disposal may be enough to break up any clogs and clear drains without having to resort to chemical clutter dissolvers or manual removal methods.

Simply run cold water down the disposal to keep it from overheating and run the disposal. A good rule of thumb is to run the disposal for 10 more seconds than you think you need to. This ensures that any debris is fully broken down.

4. Clear the air gap

An air gap in a dishwasher drainage system is an important component designed to prevent water from overflowing the sink. It provides a physical breakpoint between the drain hose and the actual fixture or disposal unit attached to it. As water passes through the air gap, any backflow or sewage will be diverted away from the sink to avoid potential contamination of clean water.

The air gap is a two-inch high fixture next to the sink. To clean it, start by sliding off the cap and removing any visible debris or blockages that may have accumulated within it. Once cleaned out, run a light cycle with your dishwasher to ensure that there are no further issues with your drainage system.

5. Clean the plumbing lines

The fifth and final step in cleaning a dishwasher is to clean the plumbing lines.

Please note that this step is more labor-intensive than the others, and if you are not comfortable handling tools and disassembling components, then you should call a plumber:

  1. Your first step should always be turning off the dishwasher water supply valve. You may also need to turn off the water under the sink. Be sure to turn off both hot and cold-water valves.
  2. Have a bucket ready and place a few towels under the sink.
  3. Carefully disconnect the hoses running from the dishwasher, drain them into a bucket, and mark which hose connects to which end before fully disconnecting so there’s no confusion when reconnecting them.
  4. Next, use hot water and detergent or bleach to clean out any clogged materials from inside the water supply lines.
  5. Flush the supply lines again to clear any soap; the last thing you want is a flood of suds when you next use the dishwasher.
  6. Once the lines have been thoroughly washed down, check all connections for signs of rust or other damage.
  7. Finally, connect everything again and turn on the water supply valve to ensure everything is running properly without any leaks or blockages.
  8. Run a short dishwashing cycle to ensure everything has been connected correctly.


By following these five methods, you can easily unclog your dishwasher and have it running like new again in no time. Of course, if you find that the problem persists or is especially difficult to fix, it is always best to consult a professional to get the issue fully resolved.

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