How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Dishwasher

Dishwashers are meant to clean our dishes and make our lives easier, but sometimes they can develop an unpleasant musty smell. If you’ve noticed an unpleasant odor emanating from your dishwasher, you’re not alone. Many people face this issue, and fortunately, there are effective ways to get rid of the musty smell and restore freshness to your dishwasher.

A musty smell in a dishwasher can be quite bothersome. It not only affects the cleanliness of your dishes but also leaves an unpleasant odor in your kitchen. In this article, we will explore the common causes of musty smells in dishwashers and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to eliminate the odor. We’ll also discuss preventive measures and maintenance tips to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Understanding the Musty Smell in Dishwashers

Before we dive into the solutions, it’s important to understand why your dishwasher might have a musty smell. Over time, food debris, grease, and soap scum can accumulate in hidden nooks and crannies of your dishwasher, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. This can result in the development of a musty or moldy odor.

Common Causes of Musty Smell

To effectively combat the musty smell in your dishwasher, it’s crucial to identify the underlying causes. Here are some common culprits:

  • Improper Cleaning Practices
  • Food Debris and Residue Buildup
  • Clogged Filters and Drain
  • Standing Water

Improper Cleaning Practices

Improper cleaning practices, such as leaving food scraps on dishes before loading them into the dishwasher or using low-quality detergent, can contribute to the development of a musty smell. Additionally, not cleaning the dishwasher’s interior regularly can allow bacteria to thrive and cause odors.

Food Debris and Residue Buildup

Food debris and residue that remain in the dishwasher after a wash cycle can accumulate over time, leading to unpleasant odors. This buildup can occur in the filters, spray arms, and other hidden parts of the dishwasher.

Clogged Filters and Drain

Filters in the dishwasher play a vital role in trapping food particles and preventing them from recontaminating your dishes. However, if these filters become clogged or dirty, they can hinder proper water drainage and contribute to the musty smell.

Standing Water

Sometimes, water may remain stagnant in certain areas of the dishwasher, particularly in the filter or the bottom of the tub. This standing water can become a breeding ground for bacteria and cause the musty odor.

Step-by-Step Guide to Eliminate Musty Smell

Now that we’ve identified the common causes, let’s explore how to eliminate the musty smell in your dishwasher. Follow these steps to restore freshness to your appliance:

  • Clean the Interior
  • Scrub Removable Parts
  • Check and Clean Filters
  • Clear Clogged Drain
  • Run Vinegar Cycle
  • Use Baking Soda
  • Dry the Interior
3 Best GE Dishwashers 1 How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Dishwasher

1. Clean the Interior

Start by removing any dishes or utensils from the dishwasher. Inspect the interior for any visible debris or residue. Use a damp cloth or sponge and a mild dishwashing detergent to wipe down the walls, racks, and door of the dishwasher. Pay special attention to corners and crevices where buildup may occur.

2. Scrub Removable Parts

Remove the dishwasher racks, utensil holders, and any other removable parts. Scrub them thoroughly using warm water and dish soap. This will help remove any accumulated food particles or residue that could be contributing to the musty smell.

3. Check and Clean Filters

Locate the dishwasher’s filters, usually at the bottom of the tub or near the back. Remove the filters and rinse them under warm water to dislodge any trapped debris. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to scrub away stubborn residue. Ensure that the filters are completely clean before placing them back in the dishwasher.

4. Clear Clogged Drain

If you suspect a clogged drain, it’s important to address it to eliminate the musty smell. Carefully remove the drain cover and check for any visible blockages. Use a long, flexible brush or a pipe cleaner to clear any debris obstructing the drain. Once cleared, replace the drain cover.

5. Run Vinegar Cycle

Vinegar is an excellent natural cleaner that can help eliminate odors in your dishwasher. Place a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container, such as a bowl or measuring cup. Position it upright on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle, selecting the heavy or pots and pans setting, to allow the vinegar to circulate and deodorize the dishwasher.

6. Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is another powerful natural deodorizer that can help eliminate musty smells. Sprinkle one cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher tub. Run a short hot water cycle to distribute the baking soda and neutralize odors. This will leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

7. Dry the Interior

After completing the previous steps, it’s important to ensure that the dishwasher’s interior is completely dry. Leave the door open for a few hours to allow air circulation and let any remaining moisture evaporate. This will help prevent the growth of bacteria and discourage the return of the musty smell.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Musty Smell

Prevention is key to maintaining a fresh-smelling dishwasher. Incorporate these preventive measures into your routine to avoid future musty smells:

Regular Cleaning Routine

Make it a habit to clean your dishwasher regularly. Wipe down the interior, remove debris from filters, and scrub removable parts on a monthly basis. This will prevent the buildup of food particles and keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Proper Loading of Dishes

Ensure that dishes are scraped clean before loading them into the dishwasher. Avoid overcrowding the racks, as this can prevent proper water circulation and lead to a musty smell.

Drying Dishes Thoroughly

Before unloading your dishwasher, allow the dishes to dry completely. Moisture left on dishes can create a humid environment that encourages bacterial growth and odor formation.

Leave the Door Open

When your dishwasher is not in use, leave the door slightly ajar to allow air to circulate and prevent the development of a musty smell. This will also help dry out any residual moisture.

Use Dishwasher Cleaner

Periodically use a dishwasher cleaner specifically designed to eliminate odor-causing residue. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to effectively clean and deodorize your dishwasher.

Maintenance Tips for a Fresh-Smelling Dishwasher

In addition to regular cleaning and preventive measures, follow these maintenance tips to ensure a fresh-smelling dishwasher:

Clean the Exterior

Wipe down the exterior of your dishwasher with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Pay attention to control panels, buttons, and handles. This will help maintain cleanliness and prevent odors from developing on the outside of the appliance.

Check Water Supply and Drainage

Regularly inspect the water supply and drainage connections of your dishwasher. Ensure that there are no leaks or blockages that could lead to standing water or mold growth.

Inspect Seals and Gaskets

Inspect the seals and gaskets around the dishwasher door for any signs of wear or damage. Replace any worn-out or cracked seals to prevent moisture from escaping and causing odors.

Regularly Replace Dishwasher Components

Over time, certain dishwasher components may deteriorate or become less effective. Replace worn-out or damaged parts, such as spray arms, racks, or filters, to maintain optimal performance and prevent odor buildup.

How to get rid of musty dishwasher smell?

The best way to get rid of musty dishwasher smell is to clean it thoroughly. Start by emptying out the dishwasher and removing any debris from the bottom. Next, run a hot cycle with a few cups of white vinegar in the bottom. This will help remove bacteria and food particles that can cause odors. After running the cycle, wipe down the interior of the dishwasher with a cloth dampened with white vinegar or lemon juice.

Finally, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your dishwasher and run another hot cycle without any dishes inside. The baking soda will help absorb any remaining odors. Once complete, leave the door open for a few hours to allow air to circulate throughout the machine and help dissipate any lingering smells. With these steps, you should be able to get rid of musty dishwasher smell quickly and easily.

How often should I clean my dishwasher to prevent musty smells?

It is recommended to clean your dishwasher at least once a month to prevent musty smells. However, if you notice persistent odors, you may need to clean it more frequently.

Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

While bleach can be effective in killing bacteria, it is not recommended for regular dishwasher cleaning. Bleach can damage the dishwasher’s components and may leave a residual odor. Stick to natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda.

Why does my dishwasher still smell musty after cleaning it?

If the musty smell persists after cleaning, there may be underlying issues such as a clogged drain or a faulty seal. Consider consulting a professional for further assistance.

Are there any commercial dishwasher cleaners available?

Yes, there are various commercial dishwasher cleaners available in the market. Look for cleaners specifically designed to eliminate odors and follow the instructions provided.

Is it normal for dishwashers to have a slight odor?

While dishwashers may have a slight odor, it should not be strong or unpleasant. If you notice a musty or moldy smell, it indicates that there is an issue that needs to be addressed.


A musty smell in your dishwasher can be unpleasant and affect the cleanliness of your dishes. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can effectively eliminate the musty smell and enjoy a fresh-smelling dishwasher. Remember to incorporate preventive measures and regular maintenance to keep your appliance odor-free in the long run.

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