Dishwashers · Disposer · FAQ · HOW TO

Dishwasher troubleshooting: Dishwasher won’t drain

Dishwasher not draining right meow? Perhaps you have a cat in there.

A number of things could be causing standing water in your dishwasher.

First of all, make sure that the door is completely closed.

Press the “cancel” button (sometimes twice, depending on model) to manually drain water left behind because the dishwasher cycle was interrupted (i.e. kids/roommates). The dishwasher will turn off after a couple minutes.

Other tricks:

1. If you have a disposer, run it, because your drain system could be blocked.

2. If you have an air gap, it could be clogged. Consult your particular brand for instructions on how to clear that, but mostly it’s just taking off the chrome cap, unscrewing the plastic cap and cleaning out whatever’s ailing it. (Here’s a video by GE that’s kind of fun.)

3. Make sure you’ve got drain hose in right dishwasher area codes. The drain hose should be looped to touch the underside of the counter and connect to the sink drain or disposer. The hose should not exceed a foot in length. Also, check for any kinks.

4. If you’re still under water, call a plumber (or go cheap like me). Your sink drain could be clogged, which prevents your dishwasher from pumping out water.

Appliance Design · Cleaning · Disposer · FAQ

Will it grind? My disposer dilemma

Growing up as appliance retail royalty, I never wanted for anything appliance-related.

(There was that one week when I was 11 when we didn’t have a fridge, so all I ate was Munchems and got violently ill, but I digress…)

I mean, we wore hand-me-downs and “new” meant from the thrift store, but God help us if we didn’t have a 1 horsepower Insinkerator disposer humming in the drain.

Why throw corn cobs and chicken bones in the trash, when they can be scraped right off into the disposer?

Fast forward my let-them-eat-cake perception of food waste disposal to Saturday:

After making lunch, I shove a broccoli stalk, fennel fronds and stems, half a lemon and a salmon skin down the disposer at the same time, turn on the water and flip the switch.

After about 30 seconds of fighting through — and clearing — the fibrous, fatty material, my disposer began its equivalent of whimpering and water began pooling up in the little sink.


Apparently, I forgot where I was — my kitchen. Perhaps I should’ve taken my own advice on how to sharpen disposer blades. Suddenly, worries about plumbers and service calls and bills started coalescing into a decision to just hope that it cleared up on its own.

Too afraid to run the dishwasher, we ended up washing the dishes from the day’s barbecue in the laundry tub, which subsequently plugged up.


Luckily, I know people who know things about appliances who also find the stupid people that break them (me) to be endearing. So I called him on Sunday.

Store manager friend: Does it still grind?

Me: Yes.

SMF: It’s just clogged. Buy some Liquid Plumr.

I threw half a bottle down the disposer drain and the other half down the laundry tub drain, waited 15 minutes and flushed hot water down the disposer while running it.

It made some gurgling/gobbling noises and then cleared itself up, wouldn’t you know it, for only $4. (Note: I’m now a HUGE fan of Liquid Plumr).

Lesson learned. Unless I install the Cadillac disposer, fibrous foods should be composted or cut it up into manageable bites and loaded into the disposer gradually.

Here’s a handy “will it grind?”-type chart I found from KitchenAid:

Everyday food scraps Yes
Vegetable peels
(Potato skins, melon and fruit rinds)
Avoid grinding large amounts at one time. Instead, gradually feed vegetable peels in while running the water and the disposer.
Fibrous materials
(Celery, corn husks, artichokes)
No; but some higher horsepower models can handle limited amounts of these food types.
Hard Materials – See NOTE below.
(Small bones, fruit pits, egg and lobster shells, crab and shrimp shells)
Avoid grinding large amounts at one time. Instead, gradually feed hard materials in while running the water and the disposer

NOTE: If you are on a septic system, grinding large amounts of these types of waste may require more frequent cleaning of the septic tank system.

I’m curious as to what other people successfully and unsuccessfully grind in their disposers. Or do you think disposers are a problem in general? (I’ve never lived without one…)