When you learn how to care for your home, one thing that doesn't come up often is winterizing your dishwasher. Any appliance with a drain should be winterized when exposed to prolonged cold and not in use.
You're more likely to be aware of this if you come from an area that gets particularly cold in the winter or if you've had to leave your appliances off for extended periods when it starts getting cold.
A dishwasher left inactive in temperatures lower than zero degrees can be severely damaged by freezing. Though insulation can help to an extent, the longer your dishwasher remains in the cold without being turned on, the more essential winterizing it will be.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of winterizing your dishwasher and the easy steps of how to do it.
So you might be asking, what will happen if I don't winterize my dishwasher?
Typically, it's the same thing that happens to pipes in the winter when they aren't being used: they can weaken, leak, or even burst. Water molecules expand when they freeze, and this expansion is what can cause weaker pipe parts to burst.
Proper winterization of your vacation home can help to ensure everything is in working order in the spring
Burst pipes can happen inside an appliance, not just a dishwasher. Appliances like new air conditioners and refrigerators can also fall prey to the cold. This is more likely to happen if the appliance is left deactivated for a long time, such as in an unoccupied house, if placed in storage, or if power is lost for an extended time.
The way to prevent burst pipes is to leave a faucet running at a drip can help keep the pipes from freezing over. Similarly, making sure your appliances run regularly can help keep bursting due to temperature fluctuations.
Note that this is unnecessary if you regularly use your dishwasher, as continued use will keep it from freezing over. However, it is still a good idea to take it apart and clean it regularly to avoid the everyday debris that collects in it rotting and causing unpleasant smells or sickness. It is also suitable for the filters to keep them clean.
So you have thought about the details and decided that it's a good idea to winterize your dishwasher. Or maybe you want to clean your filters out and do maintenance. Your next question is how to go about doing it.
Before you get started, you want to make sure you have everything you need to get the job done. This might include a screwdriver and will consist of non-toxic antifreeze. Note that non-toxic antifreeze is non-toxic to humans, but you will still want any pets that share your residence well clear of the area while working with it.
Non toxic antifreeze is frequently used for rv winterization, and winterizing vacation homes and boats. This specialty type of antifreeze keeps your plumbing safe from freezing temperatures during the long winter months. Note that if you're winterizing your dishwasher, you may wish to also winterize other appliances that use water. If your vacation home or RV has a washing machine, refrigerator, or hot water heater, you'll want to take the necessary steps to ensure that they'll survive the winter and be ready for use in the spring.
Some non toxic antifreeze products can protect your plumbing down to -50 degrees Farenheit. There's nothing worse than returning to your vacation home after a frozen pipe bursts can causes thousands of dollars in costly repairs due to water damage.
Non toxic antifreeze overview
The first thing you want to do is remove all of the extras from the dishwasher's interior: the silverware basket, all of the wire racks (if they can be removed), and any extra food still attached to the walls. Give your dishwasher a thorough cleaning with a sponge and rag, and get it as pristine as you can manage.
You'll want to be sure that the container where the detergent goes is cleaned out thoroughly and pay careful mind to the bottom of the dishwasher.
Step two is to make sure the dishwasher is disconnected from the water supply. It might sound obvious, but it's important to make sure your dishwasher is turned off before starting this step; otherwise, you could end up with a mess at best and, at worst serious injury.
The next step is actually to turn the water off. Some houses have access to your dishwasher's water supply beneath the sink. Before you bother going into the basement, check underneath the sink for a copper pipe or a braided stainless steel one connected to one or more valves. If there is more than one, you are probably looking for the lower.
If it isn't under the sink, most houses have an access point to the water in the basement. It will be a red knob on the main water drain.
It is recommended that you run the garbage disposal for a couple of seconds after turning off the water to clear out debris. Because your kitchen sink and dishwasher are likely so close to one another they usually use the same plumbing.
You can use bowls or cups to drain the remaining water from the pipes beneath the sink.
Beneath the spray arms of the dishwasher, there should be a filter. Rotate it counter clockwise (lefty loosey) to remove it from the bottom of the dishwasher. The filter should be cylindrical, about four inches long and three inches in diameter.
If you've been using your dishwasher, there will probably be debris in the filter. There may also be a coarse metal filter attached to the cylindrical one. You will have to run this underwater to cleanse it of debris.
Remove and Clean Your Dishwasher Drain Filter
Some filters are held down by four screws and will require a screwdriver to remove. At the very least, the bottom dish rack will need to be removed to give you access to them.
While the filters are removed, you'll want to clean out the hole they came from. There should be a hole called a sump that leads to the drain hose. Its purpose is to collect water for the pump. You will need to clean this thoroughly as well, as to leave it untended could result in the rot of that debris and produce an unpleasant smell in your dishwasher.
When you clean the drains of your dishwasher, it's important not to use commercial draining chemicals because the water in your dishwasher that comes through the pipes makes direct contact with your dishes. You might be aware that most draining chemicals are toxic to humans and it would be best to avoid cross-contamination if possible.
As an alternative, you might consider using baking soda and vinegar.
Once you have cleaned your filters, you can reinstall them in reverse order of how you took them out.
In most cases, this will require a second pair of hands as dishwashers can be quite heavy. Make sure the dishwasher is unplugged, and remove it from the cabinet.
Before touching anything, make sure that it is cool enough to handle. Once you are certain, check the drain hose behind the dishwasher and make sure there are no bends or kinks, as those can cause clogs.
If you have any reason to believe there are clogs in the drain hose, place a pan or a large bowl beneath the place where the hose connects to the dishwasher to catch any falling water and unplug it.
You can use a shop vac, air compressor, or high-pressure water to clear debris from the drain hose.
The next step involves plugging everything back in once it's been drained and you're sure it's all dry. After removing it all, it's simple enough to go back through the steps and hook it back up again. You'll want to get out your antifreeze when you're sure everything is in place, and the water is back on.
Avoid a worst case pipe burst scenario
Pour between ⅓ and ½ of a gallon of antifreeze into your dishwasher basin. Turn it on and select the quickest wash cycle. This will get the antifreeze into all the tubes and ports that water goes through.
Stop the dishwasher before it goes into rinse mode so that the antifreeze stays where it is. You will want to rerun the dishwasher to get it all out before you put any dishes in there to make sure you aren't contaminating your food; you may be using non-toxic antifreeze, but it's still best to get as little of it as possible in your system.