A person is forcing a dishwasher into drain cycle.

How to Force a Dishwasher into Drain Cycle

It can be frustrating when your dishwasher won’t drain properly and leaves standing water at the bottom after the wash cycle. Luckily, most dishwashers have a built-in drain cycle that can be manually activated to force excess water out of the machine.

Knowing how to put your dishwasher into drain mode can help resolve drainage issues and prevent leaks or overflow. This guide will walk you through the simple process.

When to Use the Drain Cycle

Some common reasons to run a drain cycle include:

  • Water left in the tub after a wash cycle
  • Cleaning out debris that’s clogging the drain
  • Preventing leaks from a malfunctioning drain
  • Improving performance of future wash cycles

Activating the Drain Cycle

The specific steps to start the drain cycle depend on your dishwasher model. Here are the general instructions:

For Most Models:

  1. Ensure the dishwasher door is unlatched and open.
  2. Locate the drain cycle option. This is usually a button or switch separate from the standard wash cycle controls. It may be labeled “Drain” or have a drain icon.
  3. Press the drain button/switch and hold it for 5-10 seconds. You may hear the dishwasher motor or drain pump activate.
  4. Keep the door open and allow the machine to drain completely, usually 2-3 minutes.
  5. Run a normal wash cycle with no dishes to flush out any remaining water.

For Kenmore/Whirlpool Models:

  1. Open the dishwasher door and remove any racks.
  2. Locate the tech sheet underneath the door rim. Tip: It’s usually on the right-hand side wall.
  3. Hold down the “High Temp” and “Heated Dry” buttons together for 3 seconds. This activates the drain.
  4. Verify water is pumped out. Let the cycle run 2-3 minutes.
  5. Cancel the drain cycle by pressing any button once.

When to Call a Repair Professional

If water remains stuck in the tub after trying to activate the drain cycle, there is likely a clogged or malfunctioning drain hose, pump issue, or debris buildup. Avoid running additional cycles until the problem is fixed, as this can lead to leaks or overflow.

Some signs it’s time to contact an appliance repair technician include:

  • Standing water won’t drain even after multiple drain cycles
  • Error code displayed related to drainage
  • Unusual noises from the drain area like humming or buzzing
  • Visible leaks coming from the dishwasher base

Professional service can diagnose and repair the specific cause of drainage problems.


Forcing a dishwasher into its built-in drain mode is a handy troubleshooting step when dealing with drainage issues, cleaning debris, or preventing leaks. Just locate the drain button or tech sheet commands for your model and run the quick cycle. For severe blockages or pump failure, rely on a trained appliance repair expert.

Further Reading

How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

Garbage Disposal Clogged? Here’s What to Do

Dishwasher Leaking? Fix It in 4 Steps