How to fix a backed up dishwasher

When a sink is backed up, most at-home do-it-yourselfers don’t hesitate to grab a wrench and dig in. However, when water is filling a backed up dishwasher, the challenge feels greater. However, as long as you understand how your dishwasher’s drain connections are set up, it can be just as easy a fix.

Just like with a sink that isn’t draining, there are steps to take that make it easy to fix yourself.

Check Your Disposal

If you have a dishwasher drain line hooked up to a garbage disposal, that drain line is the place to start. It may not make sense, but once you get under your sink, you’ll see why. Dishwashers often drain through garbage disposals, so first make sure your disposal isn’t causing the problem.

Run your disposal completely and make sure it is clear and draining correctly. If it is running clean, remove the drain line coming from your dishwasher and make sure it is free of clogs. If you don’t see an obvious clog, it may be time to call us.

Mind the Air Gap

If you don’t have a disposal connected to the backed up dishwasher, then you will want to check the air gap. The air gap is that strange structure you’ll see near your faucet. Not all sinks will have them, but if you have one, you need to check to make sure it also isn’t clogged. It’s important to keep water from reaching the drain pipe. If you’ve ever noticed water leaking from it, it’s a sign you may have a plugged air gap.

To clear it, take the cap off, and use some sort of tube (like an empty paper towel roll) to blow air down into the gap. Remove any debris you can clearly see as well.

Check Your Dishwasher Drain

While it may seem like the first thing you should check, the dishwasher drain could be the problem. Removing your dishwasher racks and sticking your head inside your dishwasher to probe its drain takes a bit more effort. If after checking the air gap and checking the disposal the dishwasher still won’t drain, it’s time to get up close and personal with the inside of your dishwasher.

Once the racks are out, get a good look at your dishwasher’s drain with a flashlight. If you see debris clogging the drain, clean it out. For tough clogs, you may need to bend the hook of a metal coat hanger into a small “U” shape that can fit farther down the drain than your finger might. Probe the drain, fishing out any other debris that may be clogging.

Homemade Drain Cleaner

If clearing debris from the dishwasher, the disposal and air gap don’t do the trick, there’s a homemade solution composed of boiling water, vinegar and baking soda for a backed up dishwasher.

Start by bringing a kettle of water to a boil. Then, pour a half cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the solution to do its work, then follow with the boiling water to clear the line.

Call the Professionals for a Backed Up Dishwasher

If any of these three strategies fails to clear your backed up dishwasher, it’s time for a professional to take a look. Give our team of knowledgeable and trained professionals at Forrest Anderson a call, and let us get your dishwasher flowing freely again.

What to do when your sink is backed up!

Since the dawn of indoor plumbing, it’s well-accepted that water is to flow down the drain. When water does the opposite and flows back up through the drain, it’s a pretty good indicator that you have a problem. But where to start? If your sink is backed up, there are a number of contributing factors that could be causing the problem.

  • Something lodged in the p-trap
  • Hair caught in and around the drain stop
  • The buildup over time of soap, lotions or grease

Clear the Drain Stop When Your Sink is Backed Up

When a sink is backed up, there are a few things to check before calling a professional. Check the area around your drain stop. The least invasive method to clear the drain is to check and see if the drain stop has hair or another foreign object clogging it.

When hair or other materials start to build up in the drain stop area, it can also start accumulating other debris, making the clog worse. Clearing the drain stop, and keeping it clear, is imperative when the sink is backing up. Once cleared, run some water into the sink. If it is still backing up, then it is time to move under the sink.

Clearing the P-Trap

The next place to check when your sink is backed up is the p-trap. The p-trap is the name given to a plumbing device designed to prevent sewer gases from coming back up the drain. The bend in the pipe fills with water that forms a barrier keeping those noxious gases from re-entering your home.

The p-trap has a secondary purpose of trapping any items that may mistakenly fall down the drain. The device gets its name from its similar appearance to a sideways letter “P,” and you’ll find it directly below your sink’s drain.

When your sink is backed up, the p-trap is a good place to start. It’s easily accessible, and items or debris stuck in the p-trap are the most common cause of backed up water. No matter if the pipes under your sink are PVC or metal, the p-trap should be easy to remove by unscrewing the slip-nut joints on either end. Take care when removing the p-trap so as not to spill the water trapped in it.

Once you have it removed, check it for items lodged in it. Check it also for build-up that may be restricting the flow of water through the p-trap. Once you have it cleaned out, reconnect it and check to see if the water is flowing freely.

Buildup in the Pipes

If cleaning both the drain stop and the p-trap doesn’t resolve the problem when your sink is backed up, the problem may be deeper. It may be a buildup of soaps, lotions, grease or oil in your pipes. Any of these substances can start building up on the walls of your pipes, and once it starts it will continue to accumulate more debris until your pipes are clogged.

There are a number of products intended for clearing fully clogged pipes, but there are also some home remedies that can help. If drainage is slow, bring a kettle of water with a half-cup of baking soda in it to a boil. Once boiling, pour the mixture down the drain. It will dissolve fatty acids that are constricting water flow within 10 minutes.

Due to the highly dangerous chemicals used in clog cleaners such as Drano, we don’t recommend using them to clear clogs. They are much safer and environmentally friendly ways to fix a backed up sink.

Is Your Sink Still Backed Up?

If you have stubborn sink drainage problems, sometimes the best answer is to call in the professionals. In the Greater Phoenix area, your first call should be to Forrest Anderson. Our team of knowledgeable and experienced plumbers can diagnose your specific issue quickly and correctly. You can call us directly at 623.780.4060.