How to Get a Smell Out of Dishwasher

Having a foul odor emanating from your dishwasher can be quite unpleasant. It not only affects the cleanliness of your dishes but can also make your kitchen less inviting. The good news is that there are several effective methods to eliminate that unpleasant smell and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind dishwasher odors and provide you with practical solutions to get rid of them.

Understanding the Causes of Dishwasher Odors

Before we delve into the solutions, it’s essential to understand why your dishwasher might develop a bad smell. Identifying the root causes can help you prevent the issue from recurring in the future. Here are some common reasons:

1. Food Residue Buildup

One of the primary culprits behind dishwasher odors is the accumulation of food particles and residue. Over time, these remnants can decompose and produce an unpleasant smell.

2. Mold and Mildew Growth

Dishwashers provide an ideal environment for mold and mildew to thrive. The warm and moist conditions inside the appliance create a breeding ground for these unwanted guests.

3. Clogged Filters

If your dishwasher’s filters are clogged with debris, it can lead to poor drainage and water stagnation, which can contribute to foul odors.

4. Hard Water Deposits

Mineral buildup from hard water can leave deposits on the dishwasher’s interior, pipes, and spray arms. These deposits can trap odors and affect the dishwasher’s performance.

Steps to Eliminate Dishwasher Odors

Now that we understand the causes, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of getting rid of that unpleasant smell from your dishwasher.

Regular Cleaning

The most effective way to prevent and address dishwasher odors is through regular cleaning.

Clean the Filter

Start by removing and cleaning the dishwasher’s filter. Rinse it under running water to remove any trapped debris.

Wipe Down the Interior

Use a cloth or sponge to wipe down the interior of the dishwasher. Pay special attention to the door gasket, as mold often develops there.

Check the Spray Arms

Inspect the spray arms for clogs or residue. Remove any blockages to ensure proper water circulation.

Deep Cleaning

For more stubborn odors, a deep cleaning is necessary.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Place a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack and run a hot water cycle. Follow this up by sprinkling baking soda on the bottom and running another hot cycle.

Commercial Dishwasher Cleaners

Alternatively, you can use commercial dishwasher cleaning products designed to remove odors and buildup.

Maintenance Tips

To prevent future odors, consider these maintenance tips.

Scrape Food Before Loading

Scrape off food residue from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher to reduce the chances of buildup.

Use Rinse Aid

Using a rinse aid can help prevent hard water deposits and improve overall dishwasher performance.

Keep the Door Ajar

After each cycle, leave the dishwasher door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape and prevent mold growth.


A smelly dishwasher is a common household issue, but with the right approach, you can easily eliminate the odor and maintain a fresh-smelling kitchen. Regular cleaning, deep cleaning when necessary, and proper maintenance can keep your dishwasher smelling clean and your dishes sparkling.


Q1: Can I use lemon juice instead of vinegar for cleaning my dishwasher?

Yes, lemon juice can be a natural alternative to vinegar for removing odors and stains from your dishwasher.

Q2: How often should I clean my dishwasher?

It’s recommended to clean your dishwasher at least once a month to prevent odors and maintain optimal performance.

Q3: Is it safe to use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

Bleach can be harsh on your dishwasher’s components and is not recommended for routine cleaning. Stick to milder alternatives like vinegar and baking soda.

Q4: What should I do if the dishwasher odor persists after cleaning?

If the odor persists, you may need to inspect the drain hose for clogs or consider calling a professional appliance repair service.

Q5: Are there any preventive measures to keep my dishwasher odor-free?

To prevent odors, ensure proper maintenance by regularly cleaning the filter, using rinse aid, and scraping off food residue before loading dishes.

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