Would you repair a leaky dishwasher in These Times?
April 30, 2020 1:37 AM   Subscribe

My apartment’s dishwasher has sprung a leak underneath the tub. I hate dealing with the handyman at the best of times. Please help me decide whether to resign myself to hand washing dishes for the rest of the pandemic.

Some details:
-Definitely leaking from under the tub, not from the door.
-I sopped up what I could and flipped the breaker.
-Landlord has suspended all but essential repairs. I’m guessing this will fall under essential, although technically I could do all my dishes by hand.
-I am in Canada, in an area with relatively good testing per capita. Known active cases in my immediate area are in the single digits.

-Our handyman is messy and chaotic. I typically watch him like a hawk to make sure he doesn’t install things backwards.
-My severe-during-normal-times anxiety causes my brain to stall out when I contemplate disinfecting all the areas he would need to touch.
-I have limited cleaning substances on hand (soap, bleach, Lysol wipes) and am overwhelmed by anxiety that misuse of the latter two will cause harm to my cat.

Please, lend me your less panicked brains to think through my best course of action! Thanks in advance.
posted by ceramicspaniel to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Best answer: All I can offer is that washing dishes by hand can be a source of comfort and catharsis - you are mindfully cleansing each object and it can be very soothing, and a moment of quiet and - or if you prefer, with the radio or a podcast on - a time for contemplation. It can also be a team sport if there are others in your house to help - the process of washing and placing a dish and having someone dry it and put it away can be a great time to chat generally.

Obviously this assumes access to hot water, some space to set out the dishes you're working on and a bit of time to do it, but if you have those in place it's entirely possible to get by without a dishwasher. Yes it's a chore, but it's not inherently unpleasant. You will need to add some washing-up soap or liquid to your grocery order but do it once and you're golden for a few weeks.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:22 AM on April 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

Are you sure that the leak is stopped, isn't a plumbing issue rather than a leak from part of the dishwasher? If you're sure that there's not ongoing water damage and can just hand-wash for the duration, I'd do that.

If there's a persistent leak, I'd be sure to let the landlord know or you could be on the hook for damages later.

But if not, and if I were in your shoes, I wouldn't view handwashing dishes as too onerous to avoid exposure.

If you do have to have the handyman in, can you request that they wear a mask while working?
posted by jzb at 2:24 AM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: +1 for leaving it until things are a bit more normal, as long as water isn't continuously leaking

When our dishwasher has been broken - the thing i've noticed most is the lack of what is effectively a cupboard to keep dirty dishes in. The dirty stuff just piles up in such a mess when you don't load it incrementally into the dishwasher.

To avoid that - you should prob acquire the temporary habit of washing up, drying & putting away after each meal. I agree with freya_lamb that you can make it into a deliberate ritual.

ETA: top tip! if you don't already have one, the lower tray & cutlery box from the dishwasher makes a useful drying rack to put beside your sink while you're hand-washing
posted by rd45 at 2:32 AM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure if this will work for you, but I find it very relaxing to listen to an audiobook or podcast while I wash dishes by hand. Usually I hate that chore!
posted by Zumbador at 2:51 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: An old neighbour of mine dried her hand-washed dishes in her broken dishwasher. She kept it that way for years. This might work for you if the drying part is where the tedium lies.
posted by i_mean_come_on_now at 2:55 AM on April 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yeah, a week ago I woke up to my kitchen sink starting to spill water out over the top... horrible apartment complex thing, but one of those essential things where 4 apartments above me will keep using their sinks while water pours onto my floor. Essential. Wasn't bad, they were masked, they're not touching anything you usually touch (mostly). Had to clean the nasty sink anyways because WTF are neighbors tossing down the sink????

Depends on how many dishes you use I guess. But if they're masked and distanced and you can just toss some soapy water and clean the outside of your washer (and maybe even mop up again like you did before), run it empty on a hot cycle for the insides. I'd be more grar that they probably have to wear their shoes inside for safety reasons. If something makes you start feeling particularly unsafe because they're not taking the appropriate precautions, kick them out and wash dishes by hand.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:29 AM on April 30, 2020

I love my dishwasher to bits, and would definitely get it fixed if it broke as neither of us are high risk and washing dishes by hand would add a whole chunk of stress I don't need.

What I would do is:
a) wear a mask to let him in
b) have repair person work with the door closed and you in a separate room, as far as possible.
c) once he's left, leave the room alone with the windows open for an hour or so to let any droplets in the air settle
d) clean all room surfaces with soapy hot water. (I also have cats and share your concerns). Soap is not in short supply where I am, its the one cleaning supply that never ran out.

Sounds like your handyman is a liability though, and that might tip the scales to "not worth it unless you personally want to pay a professional." Last thing you want is him causing a bigger leak and bigger problems.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:32 AM on April 30, 2020

If you’re absolutely certain it’s just a dishwasher leak (and not connected to some other plumbing that could leak), I would at a minimum alert your landlord that there’s been a leak, you cleaned it up, it seems to have only occurred while the dishwasher was running, and you are comfortable with not using the dishwasher for the time being and getting it repaired later. He may still want the handyman to inspect the leak even if he doesn’t repair it, and you don’t want to be on the hook for repairs if you don’t tell him and it turns out there’s a larger plumbing issue that your dishwasher is only part of.

Also personally I despise doing dishes by hand so would probably get this fixed.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:37 AM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

The flusher assembly on my second bathroom toilet broke like the day after shelter in place started. I hate having to share a toilet (thank you intestinal issues) but the second toilet remains broken over a month later, because I'm too anxious to deal with maintenance right now. Our maintenance people are also chaotic, generally requiring multiple trips in and out of our apartment to get things they "forgot" and/or coming in to see the problem (that I already described in detail when I put in the request) and then leaving to order some perfectly common part any sensible maintenance department would have on hand, and not coming back for weeks. Also the thought that these knuckleheads might decide to do something major like replacing the toilet and dragging the wet, germy thing through my overstuffed walk-in closet to get it out fills me with horror.

I did figure out that the toilet can be made to flush manually using a long sturdy wire with a hooked end, so I can still use it in emergencies. But this means my toilet tank lid now sits on the floor next to the toilet, which I hate but I'm willing to put up with it for the duration in order to not have maintenance come in here.

As far as a broken dishwasher, while I'd certainly find it inconvenient, I personally don't mind washing dishes by hand all that much, and as mentioned above, I'd use the dishwasher racks to stack the dishes to let them air dry without taking up my counter space. This all assumes that the sink is working fine and not leaking, and there are not horrendous odors coming from the dishwasher.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:55 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is not now or never unless it is a plumbing issue not a dishwasher issue. If you can reasonably determine there is no risk of an ongoing leak if you take no action now, wait, wash dishes by hand and maybe at some time in the future you get comfortable or desperate and then call for the handyman. Maybe that decision comes in a week, a month or more. Your decision.
posted by AugustWest at 5:13 AM on April 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm in the wash-by-hand, use the dishwasher to drip-dry the dishes camp. 100%
posted by vitabellosi at 5:44 AM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It functions as a dish drainer that holds a ton, and you can close it.
posted by theora55 at 9:05 AM on April 30, 2020

Best answer: I know the landlord is obligated to fix the unit, but given the circumstances and if it were me I'd at least attempt to diagnose what's wrong with the dishwasher and see if a simple fix is possible.

Dishwashers are not incredibly complicated machines. There's a tub, a valve to let in water, a pump to move the water around and a pump to drain it out.

Usually you can easily remove the kick plate at the bottom and look underneath. That's where all the mechanisms sit. Perhaps it's just a loose hose? Or a clogged filter/drain hose that's putting too much pressure on the drain pump and causing a leak?

You might find it's easier than you thought. YouTube is also full of repair videos for your specific model. I'd spend an hour and see what you can find.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2020

Best answer: Our dishwasher, which we love, broke before the shelter in place order hit our area. At that point, we were already concerned about unneeded contact and didn’t want someone who had lots of contact with a variety of other people in the house and have been hand washing ever since. We don’t have a leak, and while I miss the dishwasher, it’s fine. My advice is to wait until it’s safer to consider repair and in the meantime, get a good pair of dishwashing gloves to use. I’m a batch washer, I stack rinsed dishes in the sink until I have a big batch and the I put on my gloves and listen to the radio and blast through them.
posted by quince at 9:36 PM on April 30, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks all! I’ve been happily handwashing dishes for the past month. Unfortunately, the dishwasher tub has now become home to gunk, so I am off to post a question about whether I can reasonably handle an install process on my own.
posted by ceramicspaniel at 10:54 AM on May 29, 2020

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