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My Dishwasher Is Leaking Water: What’s Wrong?

a kitchen with a dishwasher

Dishwashers are a necessity in the kitchen. Just load your dirty pans, plates and utensils, and they will all come out squeaky clean. Dishwashers save you a lot of time and effort, but sometimes, they can cause trouble, too. There is nothing more frustrating than a leaking dishwasher. If you are dealing with this problem, here are the most common causes and how to troubleshoot a leaking dishwasher.

Why Is Your Dishwasher Leaking Water?

If your dishwasher leaks, don’t ignore it. It can lead to more severe issues. With some DIY know-how, you can repair the leak and have your dishwasher running normally again. Here are some possible reasons your dishwasher is leaking and how to resolve the problem.

The Dishwasher Door Is Leaking

If there is water pooling directly under the dishwasher door, your appliance might have a faulty rubber gasket. The gasket surrounds the perimeter of the door and creates a tight seal. If it is loose, damaged or dirty, water might leak out during wash cycles.

To check if the gasket is the problem, run your fingers along it and feel for holes, cracks and debris. If there’s gunk buildup, gently wipe the gasket with a damp cloth to restore its tight seal. It is time for a replacement if it’s loose or broken. Before installing the new gasket, soak it in warm soapy water to make it more pliable and easier to handle.

There might also be an issue with the door latch. It could be loose or bent, explaining why your dishwasher is leaking. You can try tightening the latch with a screwdriver to restore its seal. If that doesn’t work, it might be time to install a new latch system.

The Spray Arm Is Malfunctioning

During wash and rinse cycles, the spray arm spins and jets water onto the dirty dishes. But various issues can prevent it from doing its job. If one of the holes on the spray arms is clogged, it will put more pressure on the other holes and cause a leak. To fix clogs, detach the spray arm and use a pin or paper clip to dislodge the blockage. Holes or cracks in the spray arm can cause the same leaking effect. In this case, you have no choice but to replace the spray arm with a new one.

You might also be overcrowding the dishwasher or incorrectly loading pots, dishes and utensils. That leaves little room for the spray arm to rotate. It can also cause it to dislodge, become damaged or develop a leak. Open your dishwasher to check for obstructions and remove them. If the spray arm still can’t rotate freely, it might be time to install a replacement.

Incorrect Amount and Type of Detergent

Does your dishwasher leak water from time to time? If it’s not a constant leak, your choice of detergent might be to blame. Regular dish soap is not the best idea because it lathers too much and can cause a leak. Even cleaning the dishes with dish soap before you load them in the dishwasher can cause excessive foam. That can put pressure on the door and cause water to leak out. Stick to dishwasher detergent to prevent this issue.

It’s important to be mindful of how much dishwasher detergent you use. Check the package instructions to ensure you’re adding the correct amount. Putting in too much can cause excess suds and leakage.

The Drain Hose Is Malfunctioning

The drain hose carries the dirty water from the dishwasher to the sink. But with time, the connection can loosen or the drain hose can become damaged. That can cause the dishwasher to leak from the bottom. To confirm, peek under the kitchen sink and examine the connecting clamps. If there’s water dripping, you might have to tighten them. But if you see cracks or holes along the hose, it’s time to get a replacement.

The Water Inlet Valve Is Malfunctioning

If you’ve confirmed there’s nothing wrong with the drain hose, the water inlet valve might be the culprit behind the leak. It opens and closes to let water flow from the source into the dishwasher. But if it is malfunctioning, it can leak and make puddles underneath the dishwasher. Unfortunately, a leaking water inlet valve can’t be repaired. You have to contact an appliance repair specialist to replace it.

The Float Switch Is Malfunctioning

The float switch helps maintain the correct level of water in the dishwasher during wash and rinse cycles. As your dishwasher runs, the float will rise with the water and trigger the float switch when it hits a certain height. But, if the float switch isn’t working, the water level will keep rising and potentially cause a leak. Swapping out a float switch is complicated, so get a professional to do it.

Some dishwasher leaks are easy to address. But others require special tools and experience. Let an appliance repair specialist take over if you can’t fix the issue. They will assess the situation and perform the necessary repairs or replacements.

a black dishwasher

Dishwasher Not Draining? Follow These Steps

If your dishwasher isn’t draining as fast or water collects at the bottom of the tub, you might have a clogged dishwasher. If you notice these signs, don’t ignore them because doing so can lead to costly consequences. Here’s what to do if your dishwasher isn’t draining:

  • Remove the dishwasher’s contents and cut off its power supply. That way, you can get a closer look.
  • Remove any leftover water in the dishwasher so you can access the drain. You can use a cup, sponge, towel or a wet/dry shop vacuum. It helps to lay towels on the base of the dishwasher to keep the floor dry.
  • Check if the dishwasher filter is dirty and remove any leftover food particles and debris. That’s the most common reason behind a clogged dishwasher.
  • If cleaning the dishwasher filter doesn’t solve the draining issue, the drain pump might be the culprit. Sometimes, glass breaks inside the dishwasher and the shards can end up in the drain pump outlet.
  • Detach the drain pump and vacuum up the debris.
  • If the problem persists, check your garbage disposal and use tongs to clear any visible debris. It may seem like the garbage disposal has nothing to do with the dishwasher. But these two appliances are more connected than you think. Built-in dishwashers usually drain through the garbage disposal. But if it is clogged, the water has nowhere to go.
  • If there is no problem with the garbage disposal, clean the dishwasher’s air gap. It lets air into the dishwasher so water can drain freely without creating a vacuum. But when the air gap is blocked, it can cause drainage issues with your dishwasher.
  • The last possible culprit is the drain hose. If it is clogged with food and debris, water inside the dishwasher can’t empty into the sink. You can clean the drain hose with a commercial solution or make your own.

If these steps don’t help with the dishwasher’s drainage issue, it is time to contact a professional. There might be a more severe underlying issue that requires the skills and expertise of a specialist for dishwasher repair.

a kitchen with a dishwasher

​​How to Clean Your Dishwasher

A dishwasher’s job is to clean, so you might not think it gets dirty, but it does. Food particles, grease, water minerals and undissolved detergent build up on its walls and filter over time. The holes on the spray arms can even become clogged eventually. Clean your dishwasher regularly if you want it to run smoothly for as long as possible. Here are some care tips that will keep your dishwasher in great shape.

Remove Food Particles Daily

After every wash cycle, remove any leftover bits of food that may have gotten stuck in the filter, heating element or screen. This habit will help eliminate any odors and improve drainage.

Clean the Dishwasher Door Weekly

Wipe away food bits, splatters and grease buildup on your dishwasher’s door weekly. Don’t forget the door edges, handle and gasket. You can use a damp microfiber cloth or toothbrush. Avoid bleach-based cleaners because they can corrode metal parts.

Clean the Filter Weekly

Detach the filter and run it under warm water. Get a toothbrush and scrub the filter’s frame and mesh to remove food particles, debris and grease buildup. Give it another rinse and lock it back in place.

Do a Monthly Deep-Clean

Make it a monthly habit to deep-clean your dishwasher and restore it to its original pristine state. A dishwasher cleaner makes this easy because it can dissolve greasy residue and leftover food bits. However, check the instructions first and see if it calls for an empty dishwasher or if you can put it in with the dishes.

Contact a Professional for Your Dishwasher Problems

Is your dishwasher leaking water? Or maybe your appliance is having drainage problems? It can be frustrating to deal with these issues on your own. Contact an appliance repair specialist who can identify the cause of the problem and address it immediately. They will come to your home and have your dishwasher running like new again.

ABC Can Handle Your Appliance Issues

When something goes wrong with your dishwasher, your normal routine is almost immediately impacted. Dishes can pile up quickly even as your problem gets resolved. If you’re having any issues with your plumbing or appliances that use water, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our appliance repair professionals will be able to quickly diagnose whatever has gone wrong, whether it’s a dishwasher not draining or your dishwasher backing up into the sink, so you can rest assured that your pipes and appliances will be functioning correctly again.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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