kitchenaid dishwasher not draining
Handy Tools

Quick and Easy Fix for a KitchenAid Dishwasher Not Draining

Fred Bahnson 


Is your KitchenAid dishwasher refusing to drain properly? Don’t worry, you can resolve this issue on your own. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to get your dishwasher back up and running in no time.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Bucket
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Wire coat hanger

The Common Problem of a Dishwasher Not Draining

A dishwasher that fails to drain is a common problem, but the good news is that it’s one of the easiest appliance repairs you can tackle. As someone who enjoys fixing dishwashers, I find this issue particularly satisfying to solve because it usually takes less than five minutes.

In most cases, the culprit behind a dishwasher not draining is food debris that has become lodged somewhere in the drain tube. This leads us to the age-old question of whether or not you should rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Here’s my advice: scrape off the larger food particles, but leave on the sauce! A little bit of residue on the dishes can actually help activate the cleaning power of your detergent. And if your dishes are still wet after a cycle, I have a simple trick to help you dry them quickly!

Now, let’s address the problem at hand. Here are some common symptoms of a clogged dishwasher:

  • Water remaining above the filter at the end of the cycle
  • Blinking LED lights
  • Low humming sound coming from the base of the dishwasher
  • Error code displayed
  • Dishwasher cycle not starting (dishwashers typically drain for a few minutes before filling with water)
  • Cycle not completing

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Activate the Drain/Cancel Feature

To begin, try resetting your dishwasher. This action also activates the drain mechanism. Here are a few methods to do this:

  • Press and hold the cancel button for three seconds.
  • Alternatively, press and hold the start button for three seconds.
  • If your dishwasher has small text indicating a combination of buttons, press and hold those buttons simultaneously (refer to the photo for guidance).

This should start the drain motor and might be all you need to get your dishwasher draining again.

Activate Cancel Feature

Step 2: Check and Clean the Drain Tube Air-Gap

If the previous step didn’t resolve the issue, there may be an obstruction in the drain tube. For dishwashers with an air-gap in the drain tube, this is often where the clog occurs. You can follow these steps to check and clean it:

  1. Pull the silver air-gap cover straight up.
  2. Unscrew the round air-gap cap or gently pry off the cap using a flat-head screwdriver to release the plastic tabs.
  3. Check the small round center tube for any food debris and remove it by pinching it with your fingers.
  4. Press the drain or reset button and close the dishwasher door. You should see a three-inch column of water shoot out of the small central tube.
  5. Put the cap back on.
  6. If pressing the drain or reset button results in a column of water shooting out, the problem is fixed. If not, proceed to Step 3.

Check and Clear Drain Gap

Step 3: Clear the Tube Before the Air-Gap

For dishwashers without an air-gap near the kitchen sink, the drain hose is directly connected to either the garbage disposal or the kitchen sink drain. If this applies to your dishwasher, follow these steps:

  1. Take a straightened wire coat hanger and insert it 10 inches into the small air-gap tube.
  2. Set your dishwasher to the drain/cancel/reset mode and close the door to initiate draining. While the dishwasher is draining, move the coat hanger up and down inside the tube to break up any obstructions.
  3. Watch for a column of water shooting up at least three inches above the small air-gap tube.
  4. If your dishwasher’s drain hose goes directly to the garbage disposal or kitchen sink drain, continue to Step 4.

Clear Tube

Step 4: Clear the Drain Tube Under the Sink

If your dishwasher’s drain hose connects to the garbage disposal or kitchen sink drain, follow these steps:

  1. Loosen the hose clamp where the drain tube connects to the garbage disposal or sink drain by turning it counterclockwise using a flathead screwdriver.
  2. Place the drain hose in a bucket and press the drain/cancel/start button on your dishwasher for three seconds to initiate draining. Close the dishwasher door to start the draining process.
  3. While the drain tube is in the bucket, shake it to dislodge any obstructions.
  4. Let the water continue to flow until the dishwasher is fully drained. If the bucket fills up, open the dishwasher door to stop the draining.
  5. Reattach the drain hose to the garbage disposal or kitchen sink drain, and tighten the hose clamp.

By following these steps, you can quickly and easily resolve the issue of your KitchenAid dishwasher not draining.

Remember, it’s always important to practice safety when working with any electrical or plumbing components. If you’re unsure or uncomfortable with any of the steps, it’s best to consult a professional.