Why is my Dishwasher Leaking Water When Not in Use?

One of the many perils of home ownership is dealing with various issues that may arise with your appliances. One said appliance that may cause you a headache is your dishwasher. If your dishwasher begins to leak or malfunction, it not only poses a problem with the appliance itself, but it may also cause water damage to the surrounding area in your kitchen.

Appliance repair or replacement (plus any repair to the surrounding area like the floor) can be costly. Keep reading for more information on the various causes of a leaking dishwasher (both when in use and when not in use), how to diagnose these potential problems with your dishwasher, solutions to these issues and the advantages/disadvantages of the various solutions.

Dishwasher Leaking Water When Not in Use

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Causes of a Leaking Dishwasher (When Not in Use)

There are many potential causes/reasons as to why your dishwasher is leaking water when not in use, these include:

  • Issues with the water inlet valve.
  • Calcium build-up causing leaks.
  • A loose or defective connection between the water supply line and the dishwasher itself.

While these are just a few potential causes of a leaking dishwasher (while not in use), you should consult a repairman to diagnose any issues that may be occurring internally on your appliance.

You should never try to take your dishwasher apart yourself to diagnose the problem, you may waive any potential warranties you have on the appliance or damage it beyond repair.

There are other causes for a leaking dishwasher, namely:

  • The door of the dishwasher (known as the door gasket), isn’t fully creating a watertight seal
  • The spray arm at the bottom of the dishwasher is malfunctioning
  • The float switch is malfunctioning during wash/rinse cycles
  • The dishwasher’s drain hose isn’t properly removing water
  • Problems with the dishwasher’s inlet valve

All of these other causes are reasons why your dishwasher may be leaking while in use. These issues are generally easier to diagnose, as you can get a better idea of where the leaking water is originating from (such as the sides of the door gasket or from the floor). Again, if you’re unsure about exactly where the water is coming from or what the problem is, it’s best not to take apart the pieces of your dishwasher to find the issue, you could damage it further.

Diagnosing a Leaking Dishwasher

Before doing anything to your dishwasher, you must ensure that you unplug the appliance and shut off the power that controls the dishwasher (at the circuit breaker). You should also ensure that the water valve is closed (this is underneath the kitchen sink). If you still have it, find your copy of the Owner’s Manual for your dishwasher; you can also search online for the manual/guide in a pdf format, just make sure that it’s for your brand and model of the dishwasher. If you’re unsure, this information can typically be found on the door of the dishwasher (either on the front with the control buttons or on the inner door label).

As soon as you notice signs that your dishwasher is leaking, whether in use or not, you should try your best to diagnose the problem right away to avoid further damage and costly repairs. That being said, some of the potential issues that could be causing your dishwasher to, particularly when not in use, are a bit more difficult to diagnose, especially if you are unsure about what to do or how to do it.

To observe whether or not the leaking is caused by issues with the water inlet valve, calcium build-up causing leaks, or a loose or defective connection between the water supply line and the dishwasher itself, you should do the following:

  • Note where you observe water leaking from (is the water pooling at the base of the dishwasher, is water dripping from the side of the door gasket?).
  • If you don’t observe any water (but maybe you can hear water leaking, etc.), you can try running the dishwasher through a full cycle (even if it’s empty of dishes) to observe the area surrounding the dishwasher.
  • You can check the water inlet valve by examining it (it’s located behind the bottom plate of the dishwasher on the majority of makes and models). If there is a leak, there will be a drip coming from the top of the water inlet valve. There may be corrosion or hard water buildup (calcium) along the valve; ensure the water and power are off.
  • Check the dishwasher door gasket as the source of anyleaks (the dishwasher will need to be running to diagnose a leak through the door gasket); you can also observe the door gasket for any rips/tears while not in use.
  • Check the water level of your dishwasher (you do this by turning the dishwasher on and letting it fill). Once the water has shut off, you can open the door gasket; the water level should ideally be below the lower edge of the dishwasher door. If the water level is higher, you should check your dishwasher for any clogs.
  • You should check the dishwasher’s pump; located underneath the dishwasher. Observe the pump and surrounding components for damage. Any leaks that occur as a result of an issue with the pump typically leak from below the appliance.

If you are unable to diagnose the issue with your dishwasher yourself, you should contact a technician or repairman to help. You don’t want to leave any issues with your dishwasher for long, especially if there is a lot of water leakage. Water damage is not only costly to repair, but it can cause long-term health effects related to mold and mildew.

Solutions for a Leaking Dishwasher

Depending on the cause of your leaking dishwasher, there are a variety of solutions to fix your appliance. These include:

Replacing the water inlet valve

Pros: This is a relatively inexpensive fix for your dishwasher.

Cons: Depending on your level of experience with similar projects, you may need to hire someone to replace the water inlet valve for you.

Replacing the door gasket

Pros: This is an easy fix that you can do yourself.

Cons: This option may not be suitable if there is an additional leak (or the leaking water that you thought came from the door, coming from another source); water may still leak from other places like the surrounding floor if it was never coming from the door gasket in the first place.

Cleaning (or installing a new) spray arm

If a calcium buildup or other obstructions (such as fallen cutlery) on your dishwasher’s spray arm is causing leaks, you can easily examine the area for one of these culprits. If there is a residue buildup on the dishwasher spray arm, clear it away. If you need to replace the spray arm, this is an easy and simple task.

Note: You will have to evaluate whether or not the spray arm is damaged, obstructed or has residue or calcium buildup; if it is damaged you will have to replace the spray arm.

Replacing the Hoses and Clamps

Checking to ensure any hoses and clamps (located under the dishwasher near the pump) are completely intact and secure; holes/damage in these important fixtures of your appliance can cause leaks.

Pros: You should be able to easily detect if any of the hoses or clamps are damaged or are not secure.

Cons: Depending on whether or not a hose or clamp is damaged, repair may be difficult (you may need to contact a technician specialized in dealing with water hookups).

Replacing the Water Pump

Pros: Replacing the water pump on your dishwasher can add years of use to your current appliance.

Cons: This solution is more time-consuming and expensive; you must ensure that you purchase a water pump that is compatible with your make and model of dishwasher, and you may need to contact a technician to replace it for you.

  • There may be other repairs or replacements that need to be done on your dishwasher (or a combination of repairs/replacements). For a thorough evaluation and diagnosis of the problem, in addition to a repair, your best bet will be to contact a specialized technician.

Final Words

Unfortunately, dishwashers can leak water even when not in use. There are a few reasons as to why this may occur, namely an issue with the water inlet valve, calcium or residue buildup, or a defective connection between the water supply line and the dishwasher.

There are a handful of solutions to deal with your leaking dishwasher, such as replacing the water inlet valve or water pump, checking that all hoses and clamps are secure and completely intact, ensuring the spray arm is free from debris, obstructions and buildup, and replacing the door gasket. Be sure to turn off any power and water supply to your dishwasher before examining any components; if you are unsure or uncomfortable diagnosing the problem yourself, it’s best to contact a technician.

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