Can you use Drano in your dishwasher?

Can you use Drano in your dishwasher?



Let’s get right to the point: Drano should never be used in a dishwasher because the harsh chemicals in Drano will damage the plastic parts of the appliance and could leave toxic residue on your dishes. 

If you are looking for an effective way to unclog your dishwasher drain or spray arms, this article will help. Here we explain further why Drano (sometimes misspelled as Draino) is not the recommended solution for unclogging a dishwasher. We offer useful alternatives to clear out a clogged dishwasher the right way.


Why you should not use Drano in your dishwasher

It’s important not to put Drano in your washer because the cleaner is made of caustic, corrosive chemicals that melt plastic parts. Lye (sodium hydroxide) is the main active ingredient in Drano products, which works by generating heat to break down clogs. This is often considered an effective solution for metal plumbing, such as a kitchen sink drain or garbage disposal, but it’s too strong for plastic or rubber. Drano even melts PVC pipes. 

If you put Drano in your dishwasher, the caustic chemicals will damage the appliance’s rubber seals, as well as the spray nozzles, the drain pump and any other plastic and rubber components it touches. This can lead to leaks and the overall destruction of the appliance.


What should you use to unclog your dishwasher?

Did you run a wash cycle to find dirty dishes and a pool of standing water at the bottom of the dishwasher? If your dishwasher seems to have a blockage (standing water, dirty water, slow-draining water, etc.), there are DIY methods you can try before calling a plumber. Review the manufacturer’s instructions for official recommendations and check the five standard dishwasher components listed below for help with common reasons for dishwasher clogs:

  • Run the garbage disposal. If you have a garbage disposal and you see water backing up in your kitchen sink while the dishwasher runs, turning the disposal on might do the trick. When food debris is left to sit in the garbage disposal, it can cause the dishwasher drain hose to back up.
  • Clean the bottom dishwasher filter. There is a filter at the bottom of the dishwasher that often becomes clogged with food particles, another common culprit of dishwasher clogs. It’s recommended to clean this filter out on a regular basis.
  • Clear food debris out of the air gap. If your dishwasher setup has an air gap at the sink, this can become clogged with food particles and cause a backup at the dishwasher. When other attempts to find the problem don’t pan out, this is another good place to look, but it does take some work to get to.
  • Inspect the dishwasher drain hose for a blockage. The drain hose runs from the dishwasher’s drain pump to the sink drain, air gap or garbage disposal. You may need to partly disassemble the dishwasher and move it to get to the drain hose. When you find the hose, check it for clogs or kinks. You can use a straightened-out metal coat hanger or a retail dishwasher cleaning tool to feel for clogs and try to force them out.
  • Examine the drain pump for failure. You may find that what seems like a clog turns out to be a broken pump. You might have a worn-out impeller or bad bearings, which you will notice by their squealing sound. If these components are unable to pump water through your drain hose, the dishwasher won’t drain properly.

What alternative to Drano can you use?

If your dishwasher has stopped draining and you suspect a buildup of food debris, grease or other deposits in the internal components, don’t use a chemical cleaner. The tried-and-true method for cleaning out the dishwasher is to use a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda as a homemade drain cleaner. This is an alternative to Drano, which should never be used to clean a dishwasher.

To clean your dishwasher using white vinegar and baking soda, start by cleaning the dishwasher drain at the bottom of the appliance, which runs to the drain hose. You will likely need to remove the bottom rack and the filter to get to the drain. Be sure to remove as much standing water as possible before attempting to unclog the dishwasher. Once you have access to the drain, pour in the cleaning mixture as described below.

How to use a vinegar and baking soda dishwasher detergent

  1. Pour equal parts, typically 1 cup each, of white vinegar and baking soda into the dishwasher drain at the bottom of the dishwasher. 
  2. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 30 minutes, allowing the reaction between the two substances to cause carbon dioxide gas to foam up, which will hopefully help dislodge and release any clogs in the drain hose. It also acts as a deodorizer.
  3. Once the mixture has had time to set, pour a few cups of hot water down the dishwasher drain and then run your dishwasher on its rinse cycle. (Boiling water is not recommended if you have PVC pipes because the high heat could melt the piping).
  4. When the rinse cycle ends, check the bottom of the dishwasher for standing water. If the clog has been fixed, you should see a well-drained bottom. But if the bottom is still pooling and not draining properly, try the same vinegar and baking soda process again. A second round could make a big difference.

If the vinegar and baking soda dishwasher detergent still doesn’t work after a second round, you may want to open up the drain hose to inspect it up close or call a plumber for professional help.


How to maintain your dishwasher to help prevent clogs

A little TLC and routine maintenance of your dishwasher can help prevent clogs and ensure efficient clean operation. Follow these tips to keep your washer in great shape:

  • Scrape off your dirty dishes. It’s important to keep large food particles out of your dishwasher. You don’t have to rinse dishes completely before placing them in the washer, but they shouldn’t be filled with food scraps either, especially bones, skin or fatty bits.
  • Clean the dishwasher filter weekly. When food debris does inevitably get stuck in the bottom of your washer, it’s best to catch it before it gets into your drain hose so you can prevent more challenging clogs. Simply remove the filter and rinse it in the kitchen sink.
  • Use a dishwasher cleaner monthly. Whether you purchase a packaged dishwasher detergent or use a cup of white vinegar, running a cleaner through your washer will help remove bacteria and grime so your dishes get clean. Do this by placing the cleaner in your otherwise empty washer and then run the washer on a full wash cycle with hot water. When the cycle finishes, open the dishwasher to let it air-dry for a few hours.


Expensive dishwasher repairs are covered under a Cinch warranty

Don’t wait for your dishwasher to break down before making sure you have coverage for the repairs. All dishwashers are subject to normal wear and tear over the years, and parts like the drain pump and impeller often need repair or replacement by professionals. 

You can save money on these repairs by signing up for the Cinch Home Services appliances warranty. This cost-effective protection plan covers the major appliances found in most modern homes, including the dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, refrigerator, cooktop, range, oven, microwave and more.

Cinch’s Appliances plan includes protection for unknown pre-existing conditions, rust, corrosion and failed mechanical parts, such as motors, switches, knobs and handles. The plan also provides discounts when an appliance needs to be replaced. For more information, request an instant quote today. We also offer warranties for whole-home coverage, plus add-on services. Cinch Home Services can keep you covered without fail. Contact us now!


Drano should never be used in a dishwasher because it will ruin the plastic and rubber parts. Use these cleaning methods instead.

Your home protection is ready and waiting!