The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Fixing the dishwasher

the dishwasher's Mona Lisa smileFor the first five years Danny and I argued constantly.

About the washing up.

I wanted to wash up in the evening after supper. He preferred to leave the dirty stack until the morning.
“I’ll get up early and do it before I go to work.”
I never believed him and he would insist,
“I love washing up. As long as it’s in the morning. I’ll do it. I promise.”
Ahh, the softness of those Irish promises are so sweet that I often forgave him when I came down to plates thick with dried on food in the morning.

But sometimes I got very angry. Especially if Danny was not around to hear my battlecries.

Eventually we twigged that we could buy a dishwasher and most of the daily angst would disappear with the swipe of a credit card.

The streamlined beast was delivered four days before Christmas. A week after Christmas it was plumbed in. This added a certain piquant sadness to Christmas. Like the year when the central heating pump collapsed at midday on Christmas Eve just as our plumber had departed for a week in the sun. We dragged some tree trunks in from the woodpile and revved up the large inglenook fireplace. It was tee-shirts downstairs and fur hats when we retired to bed.

Our dishwasher is our best friend. As you can see from her portrait she has a Mona Lisa smile. She is the sort of svelte and efficient workhorse that happily scrubs and dries pots and pans at the touch of a button. Like any talented helper she has her own particular quirks. She would enjoy dismantling bone handled knives and likes to chew wooden kitchen implements. That’s OK. These don’t take up as much space on the worktop as the entire wash up in the olden days.

This summer she started leaking from the front. This was quite messy. We ran her with a special bottle of cleaner. The leak diminished but she continued to weep softly. I ventured onto the internet and discovered a great DIY plumbing forum on Eventually I found the answer to our problem. The seals at the bottom of the door can get bunged up with gunk. I opened the dishwasher door wide and removed the gunk from the internal seals at the base of the door. The daily tears stopped.

At the weekend we heard water trickling behind the dishwasher when she rinsed and flushed. When we shone a torch behind the machines the son et lumiere exposed the blocked waste pipe. and new indoor water feature. This is also the waste pipe for the washing machine. Disaster. We ran an essential wash and, worrying about dry rot, I nipped out to Tesco and bought a pipe cleaning solution. We pulled out the machine and I poured it carefully into the waste pipe as Danny loaded up the dishwasher and sorted out the washing.

It didn’t work.

I asked the plumber at work for some tips today.
“Tap the pipe. If it sounds hollow, continue to tap along the pipe until it sounds dull. That is your blockage.”
He gave me a long hard look. “Can you dismantle pipes, Fiona?”
I dithered. Uncertain.
“Modern pipes are just push and press. They are plastic. Easy.”
Ours are plastic. Definitely not modern. But I didn’t mention the age of our pipes to David. I knew that he would put me off talking them apart without a monkey wrench. I was pretty sure that I could unscrew a U bend. Screwing it up correctly was a different matter. I didn’t ask for his mobile number, instead I concentrated on where the blockage was likely to be.
“You know the bit that bends, after the straight bit at the top? Well, the blockage is probably there. Limescale and grunge. If not it’s probably on straight run into the drain, outside the house.”
We have had a block ther in the past so I took his advice seriously.

I came home from work early. I had found a bendy cord from a net curtain that I though might do the trick. Wrong. It loved exploring the straight bits but didn’t have the guts to cope with making a U turn. Enraged I managed to unscrew the U bend with a massive pair of mole grips. It was totally clogged. I cleaned it out and screwed up the connections. I loaded the dishwasher and ran the machine as I wrote this post. And there are no leaks!

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  1. janice

    which way do you turn the u bend, ie to unscrew it? to the left, or to the right?

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat,

    I enjoy fixing things and didn’t want to pay for a plumber if I could fix it myself. It was very easy, although I am going to buy a monkey wrench as it would have been more straightforward with the right tool!

    Hi Jan,

    You are so lucky to like washing up by hand.

    Ours is a space problem too. Tiny kitchen designed for a bachelor who doesn’t cook.

    Hi Celia,

    It’s a great name Lady Plus. Ours is slim and called Exxcel.

    Hi Amanda,

    We used to call out our plumber a lot and I studied what he did. Now if we have a similar problem, I try and fix it. It is fun fixing stuff and saving a bit of cash.

    Hi Ash,

    I’ll drop by when I’m next in Holland!

    Hi Kate,

    Both overflowing at once. Poor you, what a mess. That’s a good tip about sanding the pipes. Thank you.

    Hi Joanna,

    We don’t argue over the dishwasher as D generally loads and unloads it!

    Hi Jane,

    I’m chuckling here. You are lucky to have Zaz. I wouldn’t know a pump mechanism if it introduced itself to me. Although I have taken the inside of the dishwasher apart in the past, twice.

    Affecting you? Nooo…

  3. Wow! How spooky is this! Zaz discovered our dishwasher (which looks to be the same model as yours – Twilight Zone music plays in background) was not draining properly on Monday night. Zaz can plumb. He is fearless in his taking apart of machines. He took the cover off the pump mechanism. It was fine. “It must be in the hose,” he said. We leant the dishwasher forward onto the floor. I will spare you the details of the tedious baling out of said machine, the stacks of filthy dishes on the cooker and the pools of greyish water on the kitchen floor. There was a kink in the hose. “Aha!” said Zaz. He straightened it. Still didn’t drain properly. This was at 9.30. My bath was waiting upstairs. At 11pm, with the dishwasher in its constituent parts on the floor and Zaz at a total loss to see why it wasn’t pumping properly when we had inspected every part of the blasted thing, a thought struck me. “Do you think you need to put the cover back on the pump mechanism?” I ventured. “I was just thinking that,” he said. He put the cover back on. The dishwasher worked perfectly. My bath was now cold. Of course, he didn’t reassemble the rest of it until he got back from work last night but hey! we didn’t have any visitors yesterday to see the state of our kitchen… Do you think you and Danny could be affecting us???

  4. I am in awe … at you mending the dishwasher AND at you not arguing over the dishwasher once you’d got over the novelty of having it! WELL DONE

  5. Well done- I still remember the day I had a similar problem, the washing machine and the dishwasher were emptying at the time and the blockage had reached critical point…you can imagine the rest.A plumber friend gave me a tip- if you have to cut plastic pipes to fit always sand the cut end smooth before final fitting as otherwise bits stick on the rough edge and a blockage builds up quite readily.

  6. Welld one on fixing that! Want to come and do mine? 🙂

  7. I am suitably impressed! Well done!
    Our kitchen would be a much less happy place without the dishwasher.

  8. Well done Fiona! It must have been satisfying to fix the problem yourself.
    We inherited a dishwasher with the house – it’s a Siemans ‘Lady Plus’. What sort of name is that for a kitchen appliance?!!!!

  9. Woo! Congratulations! And hang on to your plumber who gives free advice. We have a similar tame one who we cultivate very carefully.

    I actually like washing up by hand and have no intention of ever getting a dishwasher.

  10. Well done you!!!! I wouldn’t have the first clue where to look for a blockage or how to unscrew the pipe if I had the strength to do it in the first place. We still do the dishes the old fashioned way here. Have had a mess with the washing machine when I try to wash a hand knitted afghan. Have to wash it with no soap. Or I end up with soap and water all over the place.

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