Why is there standing water in your dishwasher? How to fix standing water issues

Written by Jason Hutchinson
8 Min read

There’s nothing worse than finding standing water in your dishwasher when it’s not in use.

If there is a pool of dirty standing water in your dishwasher after you’ve finished washing the dishes, then you might be thinking, “Great! How much is this going to cost me?”.

But, don’t worry, standing water in your dishwasher might not mean an expensive repair bill. In fact, there may be a simple explanation that gets your appliance back online and spritzing again in no time.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the reasons why there is water in your dishwasher and what you can do to prevent it going forwards.

Why is there water in your dishwasher?

Okay, so the bad news is, there’s water in your dishwasher. But the good news is, that it may not be a costly fix. However, there could be a number of reasons behind your washer not draining.

Having said that, more often than not, the reason for the pooling is food debris blocking the drainage filters. Because of the way your dishwasher operates, it’s only natural that food waste ends up blocking the filters.

Ordinarily, most food debris will be broken down by the jets during washing or is too small to get caught in the filters. But, if not disposed of before washing, larger food items can become lodged in the filter and start to block your machine.

If this is the case, you should notice that your appliance starts taking longer to drain than normal before becoming blocked completely. So what do you do to fix water not draining from your machine? Let’s explore some simple options to help you diagnose and dispatch the problem of standing water in your dishwasher.

How do I fix standing water issues?

Unfortunately, there’s more to solving the water drainage issue than just resetting your dishwasher. But, the solutions we’re about to suggest aren’t much more in-depth than that quick fix. Let’s get into them.

Drain the standing water

The first thing you need to do when there is water in your dishwasher is to cut the power at the main breaker (if it’s hardwired in) and start removing the dirty water.

You can do this by, first removing the racking shelves before using a sponge to soak up the water and squeeze it into a bucket. If you have a water vacuum this is perfect for sucking up the old water.

Check the filter

Your dishwasher’s drain filter is instrumental in ensuring that the food debris doesn’t end up getting sucked into the pump or drain hose with the wastewater. But, as we said above, this is a messy job and, over time, the filter can become clogged with debris.

To clean your filter just twist and lift it off. Then give it a rinse off in the sink, you can also use a small brush or toothbrush to get rid of the more impacted bits. You can then reapply the filter and run the cycle to see if that stops the water pooling.

How To Clean Your Dishwasher Filter

Float switch issues

Before we get into the more in-depth solutions of why there is water in your dishwasher, it may also be worth just checking your machine’s float switch. The float in your machine sits at the bottom of the tub and raises up as the water is added. Once it reaches a certain level, the float switch shuts off the water to the machine to prevent flooding.

If there’s a problem with your dishwasher float switch, that could result in filling or draining problems for your machine.

Check the drain pump

Just like the filter, the drain pump impellers can also become clogged and stop your wastewater from draining as it should. But, again, this isn’t a huge problem.

The impellers on your drain pump spin quickly to drive the water out of your machine and out into the drainage hose. When these fans become jammed, there’s nothing pumping the water out, so it remains where it is, and you have water in your dishwasher when it should have been pumped out.

If your impellers are jammed, you can check by removing the drain filter and locating the filter sump. There should be a plastic cover here guarding the impellers. Remove the cover and check the fans for blockages. Give the fans a once-over by spinning them manually to see if anything prevents them from turning. If so, then you’ve found your problem.

Check the drain hose

If that still hasn’t shifted the dirty water, then you can try digging a little deeper into the drain hose. Depending on how your machine is plumbed, your drain hose will either go to an air gap that stops the water in your dishwasher from being siphoned back into your machine, or it will be looped under the counter.  

However, if your drain hose is the culprit, then it may have become kinked. Alternatively, it’s not uncommon for grease, old detergents, and other unpleasantness to collect in the hose.

To access and inspect the drain hose, simply remove the access panel at the bottom of your machine. The drain hose will be connected to the drain pump on one side and the garbage disposal on the other, these will sometimes be corrugated plastic tubes. Remove the tube at either end using pliers and look inside to see if you can spot or remove any blockages.

Check the garbage disposal

All that talk of drain pumps and hoses leads us nicely onto the garbage disposal.

As you’ll be able to tell from the above steps, your dishwasher and garbage disposal share the same pipework. As a result, it’s not uncommon for a blockage in the garbage disposal to affect the water in your dishwasher from draining.

Again, because of the role the disposal plays in the home, it can become clogged with rubbish and debris. If there is an issue with your garbage disposal, you might want to try turning it on and running hot water down the drain. This should help unblock the system.

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Inspect the air gap

We spoke about this little component back in the drain hose section. But it might be worth doing a more thorough inspection of the air gap if you still haven’t found why there’s water in your dishwasher.

Remove the chrome cover and plastic top from the air gap. Use a toothpick or tweezers to unclog the air gap and this should help your machine breathe a little better.

Easy 2 Min Fix: Dishwasher Not Draining - How to Clean Air Gap

Clean the sprayer arms

It may sound silly, but smaller bits of food and other debris could become lodged in the sprayer arms preventing water from circulating correctly. You should be able to simply remove the arms and run some clean water through them.

You may also want to just ensure the spray holes are cleared of any blockages by prodding them with a toothpick.

Run a cycle and see

If after all that, you run a cycle and there’s still water in your dishwasher that doesn’t drain, then it may finally be time to call in the professionals.

What if my new dishwasher isn’t draining?

If you’ve recently coughed up for a new dishwasher, then it can be super-annoying to see that it’s not draining efficiently and there’s standing water in your dishwasher. But, it’s okay, there are two options here.

  • Option 1: it will be under warranty, so you could give the manufacturer a call and have them come take a look at it.
  • Option 2: you can fix the problem yourself. This issue is likely caused by a plug in the garbage disposal inlet.

Generally, garbage disposals are sold with an inlet. Because most people won’t need to buy a dishwasher, this inlet stops water from leaking when the disposal is on.

To fix the plug you need to follow these 6 steps:

  1. Turn off both appliances
  2. Disconnect the drain hose from the garbage disposal – some water may leak when you do this, so it’s best to have a pan or bucket ready
  3. Put a screwdriver inside the dishwasher inlet on the garbage disposal to check for the plug
  4. Gently tap the back of the screwdriver with a hammer to dislodge the blockage
  5. Retrieve the plug from the garbage disposal
  6. Reconnect and run a cycle

Now we’ve covered all the areas to check for blockages on your new and old machines. So, how can we ensure you never face similar issues again?

How can you prevent standing water in your dishwasher from accumulating?

Preventing standing water in your dishwasher is as simple as taking good care of your machine. There are a handful of simple things you can do to help your appliance run smoothly.

Make sure you’re using the correct detergent

Choosing the best detergent for your dishwasher is an important step in ensuring your machine is well-maintained. But with so many brands and a choice of pods, powder, or liquid, it can be difficult to know what to do for best.

But, if you check your machine’s user manual, you should have all the information you need in there to make an informed decision about the best detergent for your individual machine.

Always load the dishwasher correctly

You may not know this, but there is a correct way to load your machine. If you’ve just been jamming plates, bowls, and other utensils in there it can cause it to not run as smoothly as it should.

Again, you can find guidance on how to stack your particular model in your user guide to prevent standing water in your dishwasher. However, generally speaking, the universally accepted “correct” way to do it is – cups and bowls on the top rack, utensils in the silverware drawer, and plates or large bowls should be reserved for the bottom rack.

How to Load the Dishwasher Properly

Dispose of large food items

Another way to help your machine run well is by removing any large food items before adding them to be washed. As we’ve mentioned above, large pieces of food debris are something of a nuisance for your machine they can cause all sorts of blockages in the filtration system or the drainage and result in standing water in your dishwasher.

Keep listening to your machine

You may not be a keen DIY-er, but it’s important to listen to your machine when it’s going through the motions. Does anything sound off or louder than it should be? Other sounds to listen out for are loud humming or clicking noises. These can be a sign that you need to replace your machine’s drain pump and motor.  

Replacing the Drain Pump on a Dishwasher

Look after your machine

Last but not least, regular maintenance on your machine is key to ensuring it stays working as it should for longer. Again, the manual is a great place to start when it comes to learning more about your model’s maintenance schedule.

If you prefer, you can speak to your machine’s manufacturer or local electrical store about having a professional come and complete regular checks on your machine. Although, it’s likely that there will be a cost involved with this.

How do you know when it’s time to call a professional?

Of course, all the above is great to try and prevent an expensive call-out. But, unfortunately, if you’ve tried everything and that dirty water is still collecting in the bottom of your machine, then only an appliance repair tradesperson will understand what the problem is.

When you have standing water in your dishwasher, it doesn’t have to be a big problem. As we’ve said, there are a number of reasons why this could be happening.

Most commonly, though, your answer will lie in a clogging issue. It can be annoying, but it’s important to remember that there’s usually a simple (and inexpensive) fix available.

Appliances made simple. 

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