Drains, Dishwashers, and Garbage Disposals: What You Need to Know

Kitchen sinks clog all the time, whether it’s a local drain issue or all the way back to the sewers. Your dishwasher and garbage disposal play an important role in this process, so here’s what you need to know about the whole system to keep your drains in good condition.

Dishwashers do a tough job for the household that no-one wants to do. Dishwashers do the essential job of soaking and scrubbing the dishes and removing the last leavings of food. A big part of that is your dishwasher’s ability to deal with a few spare bits of food. Can your dishwasher handle a few crusts of bread and rinds, or do you need a thorough scrape and pre-rinse process before loading the dishwasher? Does your dishwasher drain efficiently sweep away food debris or does it need to be cleared regularly?

The location and function of your garbage disposal plays a major part. Understanding and making the most of your dishwasher and maintaining good dishwasher drain performance is all about the garbage disposal.

Today, we’re diving into the relationship between your dishwasher and your garbage disposal. Here are the essential things that you need to know and how they’ll help with your dishwasher maintenance.

Dishwashers often share a drain and garbage disposal with the kitchen sink

Do you know how a dishwasher’s drain is connected? Most dishwashers don’t actually have their own floor or valve drain, they share a drain with the kitchen sink. Dishwasher installation sets are designed to go under or behind the cabinets, then connect with a T-junction to the pipes under your kitchen sink. As you may know, the garbage disposal is also down there. However, installation varies whether the dishwasher T-junction is placed before or after the garbage disposal in the drain priority order. Usually, it is after.

This means that the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink and the dishwasher share the same drain. Knowing this is important when managing all future dishwasher drain maintenance. Your dishwasher drain doesn’t go into the floor (most likely). Instead, it goes into the kitchen sink drain and shares with the garbage disposal.

Running the garbage disposal can clear your dishwasher drain

Dishwasher drain won’t clear? This is a common problem, especially with a load what was poorly pre-rinsed. Too much food debris clogs the drain line or just creates a gummy problem in the shared drain. One excellent and common way to clear your dishwasher drain is just to run the garbage disposal. Start cold water running down the sink, then flip on the garbage disposal for a few seconds. If the sound changes to an emptier rumble switch off the disposal. Otherwise, wait about five to ten seconds, then turn the garbage disposal off. Then turn the water off.

This does two things, depending on how your dishwasher drain is installed. If the drain leads to the garbage disposal, running the disposal will also chop up any dishwasher debris, helping to clear the drain line. If the dishwasher drain leads after the garbage disposal, running the disposal will still vibrate the entire drain line, which can help to shake loose any light clogs in the dishwasher drain system.

Some dishwashers have built-in garbage disposals

Your dishwasher may have its own garbage disposal, as well. Some upper-end dishwashers are designed to help-out by grinding up the food bits that fall off of plates and pans. This reduces the need to pre-rinse and scrub dishes before they go into the dishwasher, and it reduces the chance of drain-line clogs caused by dishwasher debris.

A dishwasher with its own garbage disposal reduces overall maintenance, but also itself needs to be maintained. Be sure to open the assembly and check the blades once a year to make sure your dishwasher’s systems are working correctly. If your dishwasher has a garbage disposal, this can mean that there are two garbage disposals in the kitchen, or it can sometimes effectively replace the garbage disposal in your sink for pre-washing purposes.

Dishwashers without garbage disposals need extra drain care

If your dishwasher is a model that does not have its own garbage disposal, you’ll need to pay special attention to drain care. It’s important to pre-rinse and sometimes pre-scrub your dishes before they go into the washer. This reduces the chance of debris – especially large debris – from clogging the dishwasher drain lines. There may be a more robust drain basket that will need to be cleaned by hand, from time to time. You may occasionally need to open the drain assembly and remove a clog when there is no garbage disposal to chew it up.

Homes without garbage disposals need daily drain care routines.

The biggest dishwasher challenge comes to homes without any garbage disposal. A garbage disposal in the sink can be lined up to ensure that the dishwasher drain lines can always be shaken or ground clear. A garbage disposal in the dishwasher itself allows you to skip some of the pre-rinsing and rely on the dishwasher to grind up any food waste that is lost in the recesses of the wash.

However, without a garbage disposal, you’ll want to be extra careful about how foods go down the drain. You may need to scrape large food leavings into the trash before pre-rinsing in the sink, and be particularly careful about what is left on plates before they go into the dishwasher. This will help you to avoid constant sink maintenance and drain deconstruction to clear out clogs.

As an added bonus, paying attention to your garbage disposal and running it daily can significantly cut down on sewer clogs as you reduce the debris and drain blocking masses that could catch in the sewer drain lines.

How does your dishwasher interact with the garbage disposal?

Take this knowledge and put it to use with your own dishwasher. Do you have a garbage disposal in the dishwasher unit? Is your dishwasher connected via a drain line and T-junction to the drain under the kitchen sink? Does your kitchen sink have a garbage disposal? Knowing these answers can help you take good care of your dishwasher for years to come, and all future dishwashers after that. The drain line is one of the most often repaired (or rather, unclogged) aspects of the dishwasher and understanding your drain-and-garbage disposal relationship can really help.

For more insights or repair services for your home drains, sewer lines, and plumbing concerns; just contact us today!