How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

A smelly dishwasher can turn a convenient kitchen appliance into an unpleasant experience. If your dishwasher emits unpleasant odors or leaves your dishes less than fresh, it’s time for a deep clean. In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to effectively clean and deodorize your dishwasher, ensuring it runs efficiently and leaves your dishes smelling clean and fresh.

Why Does Your Dishwasher Smell?

Before diving into the cleaning process, let’s understand why your dishwasher might develop a foul odor. Several factors contribute to dishwasher odor, including:

1. Food Residue Buildup

Over time, food particles can accumulate in the nooks and crannies of your dishwasher, leading to unpleasant smells.

2. Mold and Mildew Growth

Moisture and warmth create the ideal environment for mold and mildew to flourish within the dishwasher’s hidden parts.

3. Clogged Filters

Dirty filters can hinder water flow and create a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.

Materials You’ll Need

Before we get started with the cleaning process, gather the following materials:

1. White Vinegar

2. Baking Soda

3. Toothbrush

4. Soft Cloth

5. Dishwasher-Safe Bowl

6. Screwdriver (if needed)

Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide

Now, let’s embark on the journey to rid your dishwasher of unpleasant odors. Follow these steps:

1. Empty the Dishwasher

Remove all dishes, racks, and utensil holders from the dishwasher.

2. Inspect the Drain

Check the dishwasher’s drain for any debris or food particles. Remove and dispose of any obstructions.

3. Clean the Filters

Locate and remove the dishwasher’s filters. Rinse them under warm water to remove built-up debris.

4. Vinegar Rinse

Place a dishwasher-safe bowl filled with white vinegar on the top rack. Run the dishwasher on the hottest cycle. Vinegar helps dissolve mineral deposits and eliminates odors.

5. Baking Soda Freshener

Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run a short cycle. Baking soda neutralizes odors and adds a fresh scent.

6. Scrub the Seals

Use a toothbrush to gently scrub the rubber seals and edges of the dishwasher door. This helps remove any hidden grime.

7. Wipe Down Interior

Moisten a soft cloth with vinegar and wipe down the interior surfaces of the dishwasher, including the walls and door.

8. Reassemble

After everything is thoroughly cleaned and dried, reassemble the dishwasher, including the filters.


A smelly dishwasher can be a headache, but with these simple cleaning steps, you can restore its freshness and efficiency. Regular maintenance will keep your dishwasher running smoothly, ensuring your dishes come out clean and odor-free every time.

Now, let’s address some common questions about dishwasher cleaning:


1. How often should I clean my dishwasher?

It’s a good practice to clean your dishwasher once a month to prevent odor buildup and maintain optimal performance.

2. Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

It’s not recommended to use bleach in your dishwasher, as it can damage the rubber seals and components. Stick to vinegar and baking soda for a safer clean.

3. What if my dishwasher still smells after cleaning?

If the odor persists, check for clogs in the drain or filter and ensure proper ventilation around the dishwasher.

4. Should I leave the dishwasher door open when not in use?

Yes, leaving the door ajar allows air to circulate, preventing moisture buildup and reducing the chances of odor development.

5. Can I clean the dishwasher with lemon juice?

Yes, you can substitute lemon juice for vinegar in the cleaning process. Lemon juice adds a pleasant citrus scent to your dishwasher.

Remember, a clean dishwasher not only ensures your dishes are spotless but also contributes to a healthier kitchen environment.

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