How to winterize a dishwasher in 4 steps

In this blog post, I will discuss some useful tips and tricks to winterizing your dishwasher in four simple steps. During a snowbird season when you leave your Northern home unoccupied for a trip towards the southern Sunbelt, there is a great chance that the water in the plumbing of your home and appliances like a dishwasher and washing machine will freeze up and burst the pipelines. The repairs can be costly so the preventions and precautionary measures are really important to winterize a dishwasher.

How to winterize a dishwasher in 4 steps:

First of all, you must empty your dishwasher, then use a piece of cloth to dry it from inside. Remove the detergent from the container and any food debris that is found inside it. Drain all the water from your dishwasher's tubes and pipes, then pour half a gallon of pink non-toxic antifreeze into its basin. 

You can drain your dishwasher in 4 simple steps

Step 1

Remove all the dishes from your dishwasher and store them in a clean and dry place. You must then turn off the power line and the water line to your dishwasher to prevent any electrocution. You can turn off the power by unplugging it from the wall outlet or shutting off the circuit to which the dishwasher is connected.

Look for braided stainless steel or a flexible copper pipeline, that is the water supply to your dishwasher, you can turn it off from under your kitchen sink. Under your kitchen sink, you will see many valves, the lower valve controls the water supply to your dishwasher, you must turn it off. You can use bowls, jugs, or cups to remove all the water from the tubes of your dishwasher and throw it into the kitchen sink drain.

Use a piece of thick cloth or an old towel to completely remove the remaining water and to mop it up.

Step 2

At the bottom of the interior of your dishwasher under its spray arms, you will see a cylindrical filter. Rotate it anticlockwise and lift it to remove it. From the bottom of your dishwasher also remove the cylindrical filter.

Read your user manual to understand more about the removal of filters as these may vary from model to model. But almost all kind of filters can be removed by moving it anticlockwise. Some models have a separate metal plate called a coarse filter held in place by the cylindrical filter, both of these can be removed together.

There is a hole near the cylindrical filter which leads to the drain hose called a sump. You must remove all the bones, chunks of food, debris and the layers of grease from your sump otherwise it will clog and lead to a smell. After you have caked up all the leftover food and the layers of grime, use hot water and dishwashing soap to thoroughly scrub the filters and clean them.

Four screws hold the filter in its place. You will have to remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher to access these screws. Use a wet vacuum to clean the filters and rid them of the debris.

Once you have fully cleaned your filters you can reinstall them by using a screwdriver. To prevent screws from falling down into the base of the dishwasher, let them into their places first and then tighten them. 

At the bottom of your dishwasher, reinstall the coarse filter and then the cylindrical filter by turning it clockwise. Now spin the spray arms to make sure that both filters are secure in their place.

Never pour the commercial drain washers into your dishwasher because these have harmful chemicals that will coat your dishes with white powder and harm your health. You can dissolve one tablespoon of baking powder into 2 tablespoons of vinegar and then pour the solution into your dishwasher to remove the additional scum. Let the solution sit in the tubes of the dishwasher for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour some hot water down into it.

Step 3

From its cabinet area, pull out your dishwasher. Check the drain hose behind your dishwasher, look for any bends, twists or kinks constraining it. If you find any kinks in the hose line correct them.

If you suspect any clogs take off the hose line from the dishwasher. Before taking it off place a rag or a pan underneath the hose line to prevent any water spills. A clog will prevent easy drainage of the hose line.

Once you have located your hose you must use pliers to pinch the wire clamp and slide it up to your hose. You must also check your garbage disposal. In most houses, the dishwasher, and garbage disposal share the same plumbing.

You can also use an air compressor, a shop vacuum or a high-pressure washer to clear any food fragments from the drain line of your dishwasher. Reinstall the hose line after you have clarified it and then push the dishwasher back into the cabinet area.

There is an alternate way to access your basin catch, drain, and filters from inside the dishwasher. Remove the bottom rack to easily access these parts. After you have easily removed your basin catch and the filters you must use a straightened wire hanger to remove any clogs from the drain.

Step 4

Clear the water from the drain valve. Make sure the parts of the dishwasher are cool and there is no steam inside it, for your safety. To locate the drain valve look underneath your dishwasher.

You will find it behind its front kick panel by the motor. The valve has a coil or a solenoid and a gate arm. The gate arm will allow the water to drain freely from your dishwasher, you must be able to move it freely now.

There are two springs attached to the gate arm, you must check them both, if you find them broken then you must replace them at once. The solenoid has two wires, check them and disconnect them. Use a multitester to test the solenoid, 40 ohm is the normal reading if the reading exceeds or drops below the normal range, then you must replace it at once.

Inside your dishwasher, you will see a rotating blade which is its motor. Spin the motor to check it. If the tubes and the pipes are frozen then the motor will refuse to turn.

Spinning the motor by hand is the best method to thaw the ice and to help it get out of the dishwasher. This is something that you must try when you come back to your house after spending the snowbird season. Try your dishwasher to check if it is draining water.

To prevent wasting a lot of water you must run a short cycle first. If you don't see any water draining means that your dishwasher has frozen up.

Frequently asked question (FAQs):

1. Can I use my dishwasher if it is not draining water?

No, the dishwasher will start but it will not complete its process. There are many cycles during which the dishwasher drains after each cycle. If it is blocked or clogged it will do the initial process and stop soon after that.

2. How does a clog or blockage look like inside my drain hose?

At the start of your drain hose, you will see something that looks like a piece of cork. It will prevent the removal of the water which will make it difficult for you to winterize your dishwasher for the snowbird season. So you will have to unclog it first and then drain it.

3. Which tools will I need to winterize my dishwasher?

You can use a screwdriver and a wrench and don't forget your safety kits, like gloves, a pair of safety goggles and boots. You can easily get these tools from your local hardware store.  Remember to read the user manual before the operation.

4. Why does a dishwasher go off in the middle of the cycle and how do I make it work again?

If the electricity suddenly goes off in the middle of the cycle then all the lights will turn off and it will not progress. An electric surge can probably damage the motor of your dishwasher. To fix this issue you will have to replace your thermal fuse which is about $20 on average.

5. Why does the worktop above my dishwasher gets flooded when it is working?

Your worktop gets flooded when the water gets discharged from the air gap above your dishwasher. It means that either the drain hose, the filters, or the drain valve are blocked or clogged. Sometimes changing the motherboard of your dishwasher can also help fix this issue, easily.

6. What do I do if I sense a burning smell out of my dishwasher?

To be on the safe side you must consult a professional technician from the manufacturer to check your dishwasher.

7. How much water is normal at the bottom of my dishwasher?

One inch or slightly more water is normal at the bottom of a dishwasher while it is rinsing your dishes. It should not rise above 1 inch or it means that there is a blockage.

8. How to clean a smelly dishwasher?

No part of any dishwasher is as responsible for the annoying smell as its detachable filter. Because of the humid, moist and hot temperature inside your dishwasher the leftover of food turns into fungus, algae, mold or mildew with the passage of time. You must use boiling water, a bottle brush and soap to thoroughly clean it.

Sometimes, grime will accumulate on the interior walls and door. Remove all the racks. Use a kitchen safe household soap, cleaners and hot water to scrub it off fully.

Take off the gasket and seal of the door to remove the grime from it. Scrub the racks also. Take 240 ml of distilled white vinegar and add a few drops of essential oil to it.

Place the cup of vinegar in your dishwasher's top rack. Run the dishwasher for a short cycle which will spill the vinegar all over it. When the vinegar dries the acids in it will remove the smell.

Baking soda is an organically approved odor neutralizer. Sprinkle a pinch of it at the bottom of your dishwasher. Run the shortest cycle with the hottest water.

Now your dishwasher is bacteria free and fresh.

9. How to use dishwasher salt?

Salt is used to soften the hard water so that your dishes may sparkle more. It is different from common household table salt. It is sold under the product name "dishwasher salt".

Remember that sea salt, kosher salt or table salt is never the substitute of dishwasher salt because they have additives and they are too fine which will increase the hardness of the water and clog your drain.

If your dishwasher has a built-in hard water softener then you will see a container for the salt in the bottom side of your dishwasher. To refill the salt you will have to remove the rack by pulling it off its clips. The water softener reservoir needs to be filled with water for the first time use, for this, you will have to unscrew the caps on top of it.

Use a screwdriver to unscrew the caps and then set them aside, put the bolts and nuts in your pocket to prevent them from falling away. Pour enough water into the reservoir to fill it to its brim. You don't need to refill it after the first time use.

Pour enough salt into the reservoir until it is full. For an easier sprinkling of salt, you can use a funnel, the solution of water and salt will create a brine, the amount of which will vary according to the size of your unit. If you pour salt around the container you can use the shortest cycle to wash it off and if you are cost-conscious use a wet piece of cloth to wipe it off.

Put the cap back on and make sure that it is very tight because the cap will open in the first cycle if it is loose and when the detergent gets into the container it will break. There are no repairs for such damage and you will have to buy in a new dishwasher. Finally, replace the racks.

Dishwashers sold in the USA don't need a water softener, so you must not add any salt in the detergent or cleaner container otherwise it will end up broken. There is an indicator light on the top panel of your dishwasher if it is green, it means that the salt is full and if it is red, it means that the salt level is too low and it needs an urgent refilling. If your dishwasher has no indicator lights, then you must refill the salt at least once in a month.

If the indicator lights of your dishwasher take more than a month to show the red light, it means that the container has broken. It must be replaced at once. Seek the assistance of a professional technician if you are concerned.

To restore the beautiful sparkle of your wine glasses, make sure that the built-in salt container is always filled to the top. If you find any streaks that look unpleasant on your shiny plates, cups, and spoons, it means that the water is too hard and it needs more salt to make it soft.

10. How to fix a leakage in my dishwasher?

The gasket, float, hose, water inlet valves, pump and spray arm are responsible for the leakage. First of all, troubleshoot the cause of leakage and then you will have to clean, replace or repair the malfunctioning part which is causing the leakage. There is an access panel or a kickplate which covers the hose, motor, pump and the water inlet of your dishwasher at its bottom.

You must use a screwdriver to turn the screws anticlockwise to take off the panel. There is a great chance that the leakage is happening behind the cover. Use a flashlight to check for any cracks in the seal, motor, gasket, housing, and pump.

If the water is leaking below its door then the problem is with the float or the spray arm. And if the water is leaking from the sides of the door, it means that the gasket is broken or cracked. If the water is leaking below the unit itself then the problem is with the hose, water inlet, or the pump.


In order to conclude this blog post, I would say that Mary Waller, Director of the Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative recommends you to winterize your dishwasher in the first week of November. She says first, you may ask yourself if you are the type to "let nature do her thing" or are of the persuasion that you have to "tidy up." Remember that prevention is always better than cure.