What causes standing water in dishwasher when not in use? Is this a common problem, and should you be worried?
Keep reading, and we will get you through all the possible reasons and solutions. We will also advise you on how to prevent this from happening again.
Is Standing Water in The Dishwasher Normal?
When your dishwashing machine finishes its cycle, you sometimes open it and immediately remove the dishes. In other situations, clean dishes can stay in a dishwasher for a while.
No matter what the case is, whenever you notice some standing water on the bottom of the dishwashing tub, you will be curious if it is normal.
And the answer is simple. It is perfectly okay if you notice about one to two cups of standing water every once in a while. In that case, you shouldn’t worry.
On the contrary, if this is a constant situation and you always find a small (or big) pool of water below the clean dishes, it is better to check the problem thoroughly. Still, it doesn’t mean you will need to call professional help. Most of the time, standing water in the dishwasher is connected to a small issue you can fix yourself.
What Causes Standing Water in Dishwasher When Not in Use?
There can be a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you have just bought and installed your dishwasher and it has standing water after the first cycle, check whether the cover plate is still on the siphon. If you see it, you should remove it, and the dishwasher will start working properly.
If you have used the dishwasher for some time and this starts happening, we will help you find the right cause. We will also advise you to fix the problem, mostly by yourself. Below is a list of the most typical issues, ranked by frequency.
- Clogs and Blockages
A clogged drain is one of the most common reasons for standing water at the bottom of the dishwasher. It is normal to have pieces of food on the dirty dishes, which are expected to end in a dishwashing machine. After all, that is why dishwashers have a filter.
However, food scraps can accumulate after some time and eventually block the water flow.
The blockage can happen within the three parts:
Clog in the Filter.
As we said, every dishwasher has a filter. Its main job is to prevent food scraps and detergent scum from clogging the pump and drain hose. However, if you don’t clean it regularly, it is only a matter of time before it will become dirty and cause blockage.
Depending on the model of your machine, you either have a self-cleaning or manual kind of filter. Check the owner’s manual to determine your type before cleaning it. If you have a self-cleaning filter, it will be enough to thoroughly clean it by adding a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda every month.
On the other hand, if you have a manual kind, it should be cleaned once a month or more often, depending on how often you use the dishwasher. In the owner’s manual, you can find the position of the filter and the instructions on how to remove it. Then, when you take the filter out, it is enough to scrub it with a sponge, using lukewarm water and a mild detergent.
- Blockage in the Drain Hose
Even though drain hoses are normally designed to prevent wastewater from draining back into a dishwasher, it can still happen.
If you are not sure whether the drain hose is blocked, you can check for these signs:
- The machine is making gurgling sounds while working.
- Drainage is slow, and you always have a little standing water in the bottom of the dishwasher.
- The dishes are not getting cleaned after the cycle.
So, when you determine that the drain hose has a blockage, the next step would be cleaning it. But, again, it is very simple, and you could most likely do it yourself without calling a handyperson.
The first step would be putting a mixture of baking soda and vinegar into the dishwasher basket. Then, after half an hour, pour the boiling water into the basket to rinse it off.
However, if the blockage is more serious and this doesn’t work, you may need to remove the drain hose to clean it manually. The hose is normally made of rubber or thin plastic. Most dishwashers have it under the sink and attached with clips. Also, if you need to know whether you have an s trap or a p trap, you can read this article.
You will probably need to use a screwdriver to remove the hose. Be careful; if there is water in the hose, you should prepare a bowl to catch it. Once you remove it, clean the eventual clogs. You can do this with straightened wire hanger or try running the high-pressure water through the hose. Lastly, check if the hose has some kinks or cracks. If you notice irregularities, try straightening them up. If you cant does it, you will probably need to replace the hose.
- Clog in the Water Pump
The dishwasher water pump is one of the most important pieces for your machine. It is a small circulation motor that pumps water through the dishwasher. It sprays water through the spray armhole, which is how bowls and dishes are cleaned. Unfortunately, like the filter or the other parts of the dishwasher, the water pump can also become clogged with food scraps. The good thing is that you could also clean it yourself.
It is usually installed at the bottom of the dishwasher tank. The first step would be removing and cleaning the filter (using the method described above, under Clog in the filter). Then, you should remove the pump cover, which is normally located under the filter. Now you have access to the pump. Rinse it with warm water and clean it with a sponge. If you see any larger pieces of food, eliminate them.
Always check if you returned all the parts on the dishwasher properly before turning on the cycle.
- Poor Maintenance
We established all types of clogs and blockages, but those are not the only reasons that cause standing water in the bottom of the dishwasher.
Another common issue could be the lack of regular maintenance. And we completely understand that. With the dishwasher, you are supposed not to think about doing dishes. Who wants to think about cleaning the dishwasher itself?
Luckily, this is not something hard and won’t take much of your time. Maintaining the dishwasher includes steps such as:
- Put a mixture of baking soda and vinegar in the dishwasher basket.
- Removing and cleaning the filter every once in a while.
- Cleaning the spray arm every 4 to 5 months.
- Error Codes
Going through your owner’s manual before using the dishwasher is a must. It will minimize the possibility of an outbreak of a problem, and your dishwasher will probably last longer. But, more important, you will get familiar with the proper operating techniques. This way, once a crisis erupts, it will be easier to recognize and solve the issue faster.
Moreover, different brands have different error codes (if they have one). The safest way would be to check the owner’s manual to see what they mean and how to solve them easily.
For example, when you have a problem with standing water in the bottom of the dishwasher basket, here are the error codes for some of the brands:
- Bosch:E24, E25
- Inventum: F2
- Siemens:E24, E25
- SMEG:Er 06
- Whirlpool: 2 of the four or the middle two indicators light up.
- Broken Parts
If you tried everything mentioned above, and there is still standing water in the bottom of the dishwasher, some parts may be broken. Let’s face it, no matter how careful you are; all the machines will eventually stop working. When this happens, it is best to call a licensed professional immediately, especially if your device is still under warranty.
Prevention: How to Avoid Standing Water in The Dishwasher?
We learned that the issue of standing water is often easily fixed. However, it is always wiser to be careful and take care of your dishwasher properly. This way, you will minimize the chances of a problem outbreak. That is why we will list the usual methods of maintaining a dishwasher.
- Rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
Not only will they come out nice and clean, but this step will also prevent clogged drains. Furthermore, you won’t have to clean the filter so often. This advice is especially applicable when you have a lot of grease and oil on the dishes. It would help if you got rid of it properly: it is best to throw it in the trash because fat can also clog your sink.
- Properly load the dishes.
We have all been there. You are in a hurry, and the last thing on your mind is arranging the dishes and the silverware flawless. Although putting them in every corner from time to time won’t do any harm – it is better to think about properly loading the dishwasher. This way, you will improve the cleaning ability, and it will be easier to take them out when the cycle is finished.
Also, do not overload the dishwasher. Your dishes most likely won’t be cleaned properly.
- Choose the right cycle.
This step will lengthen the life of the dishes and the dishwasher. Also, always check if the containers you possess are allowed to be washed in a dishwasher.
If you are not sure about programs – check the owners manual. Generally speaking, most dishwashers nowadays have three standard cycles: light, normal and heavy.
Normal or Auto dishwasher cycle.
You will probably use it most often. It is the best fit for washing and drying everyday dishes, cleaning the average mess for about 2, 2:30 hours.
Light dishwasher cycle.
Sometimes it is called a Quick, Express, or a 30-minute wash. It is a great option when you are in a rush and have lightly soiled cups, bowls, and utensils.
Heavy dishwasher cycle.
A heavy cycle is mostly used for very dirty pots and pans.
Depending on the model, you might have a couple more cleaning processes, such as rinse only, delicate, etc.
- Find the right dishwasher detergent.
You can choose between dishwashing powder or gel. Also, you can find detergent in the form of tablets or packs. Whatever type you choose, it will get the job done. Thus, form is only a matter of your preferences.
However, choosing the brand that fits your needs and takes good care of your dishes and the dishwasher is more important. You can consider parameters such as price, eco-friendliness, your lifestyle, etc.
Another important factor when choosing the right detergent is the water hardness in your household. If unsure, check with the local water company whether you have hard or soft water. For instance, using hard water for a long period could harm the dishes. As a result, the glassware you wash can become opaque, and dishes can get a thin white film. On the other side, soft water is better for your dishwasher. However, if you use more detergent than is recommended, your glassware can also become opaque.
That is why choosing the dishwashing detergent compatible with the water hardness is essential.
One of the most popular dishwasher detergents is probably Cascade. Another great but slightly budget-friendly option is Kirkland. And if you are for an eco-friendly option, Dropps pods are among the popular ones.
Another thing you should know: never use regular soap instead of dishwasher detergent. The main difference between dish soap and dishwashing detergent is that dish soap creates foam. Your dishwasher does not need suds – it can only cause damage and overflow.
- Run the dishwasher regularly
It is perfectly normal if you don’t need to wash the dishes daily. However, try and run your dishwasher at least once per week. Doing this will keep the motor seals from drying out and your dishwasher in good shape. Of course, you can always use the quick cycle.
I Have a Smelly Standing Water in The Dishwasher. What Can I Do?
Similarly, as with standing water without any odor, the problem could be trapped food scraps, soap scum, or grease. It can be accumulated in the drain hose or clog the filter.
Another reason for the smell could be the mold. It shouldn’t surprise you since the inside of a dishwasher is a perfect environment for mold: a damp, dark, and warm place with a lot of leftover food.
In any case, it will be best to give your dishwashing machine a good scrub, and here is how:
- Take out the dishes and unplug the dishwasher.
- Slide out all the racks. Wash them in the sink with soap and a sponge.
- Remove the filter (if possible) and wash it under warm running water.
- Clean the inside of a dishwasher with a damp cloth and a toothbrush. Please pay attention to rubber parts since they can be a prime spot for mold.
- Scrub the rubber seal around the dishwasher door. Use a soft cloth with a mixture of water and vinegar. If there are tough stains, you can also use a toothbrush.
- Run the dishwasher without dishes, turning on the hottest program available.
To discourage mold growth, it may help to keep your dishwasher door open a crack; when my dishwasher had a continually funky aroma, keeping it open rather than snapping it closed eliminated the smell.
How To Drain Standing Water in A Dishwasher?
We went through all the possible reasons for standing water, but before you fix it, you will need to drain the existing puddle of water.
Before you do that, unplug the cord from the wall outlet. Then, shut off the valve controlling the water line to the dishwasher. It is usually under the sink. If you don’t have it, you will probably need to turn off the main water valve in your house.
Next, make the access to the standing water as easy as possible. Finally, remove all the dishes and silverware from the machine and the dishwasher rack.
You could now clean the water. It is best to use a towel or an absorbent cloth. If the puddle is small, the towel will be enough. But if you have a lot of water, you may want to bring a plastic container for draining the towel.
Can You Use Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Instead of a Regular One?
If you want to save money and take care of the environment, making your dishwasher detergent is one of the logical steps.
However, most recipes call for using vinegar and regular dish soap. We already mentioned that you should never use dish soap instead of the regular dishwasher detergent. Not only will it create excessive suds for the dishwasher, but it could also cause damage to the machine. Moreover, it won’t wash dishes effectively.
On the other hand, vinegar can help you destroy a lot of food scraps in the filter if you use it occasionally. However, using it regularly will eventually destroy the seals and gaskets on the dishwasher.
It will be much safer and easier to stick with commercial cleaners. However, if you decide you will go with the DIY option, follow these steps:
- Do good research on the ingredients you are going to use;
- Avoid using vinegar and regular dish soap;
- Take notes for every recipe to find the best solution for your dishwasher.