How to Prevent Dishwasher from Smelling

Dishwashers are a modern convenience that save us time and effort, but they can develop an unpleasant odor over time. A smelly dishwasher not only affects the cleanliness of your dishes but can also be quite off-putting. In this article, we’ll explore effective ways to prevent your dishwasher from smelling and ensure it remains a reliable kitchen companion.

Understanding the Causes of Dishwasher Odor

Before we dive into solutions, it’s essential to understand why dishwashers develop odors in the first place. There are several common culprits:

1. Food Residue Buildup

One of the primary reasons for a smelly dishwasher is food residue that accumulates on dishes and within the machine.

2. Standing Water

Water that remains trapped in the dishwasher’s nooks and crannies can become stagnant and emit unpleasant odors.

3. Mold and Mildew Growth

Dark and damp environments like dishwashers are perfect breeding grounds for mold and mildew.

4. Grease and Soap Scum

Over time, a buildup of grease and soap scum can contribute to a foul-smelling dishwasher.

Preventive Maintenance Steps

To keep your dishwasher smelling fresh, follow these preventive maintenance steps:

1. Scrape and Rinse Dishes

Before loading your dishwasher, scrape off excess food and rinse dishes to minimize food residue buildup.

2. Regular Cleaning

Clean the dishwasher’s interior, including the filter and spray arms, every few months. Use a dishwasher-safe cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.

3. Empty the Drain

Inspect and clean the dishwasher’s drain regularly to prevent standing water.

4. Leave the Door Ajar

After a cycle, leave the dishwasher door slightly ajar to allow proper ventilation and prevent mold growth.

5. Use a Rinse Aid

Rinse aids can help prevent the buildup of soap scum and mineral deposits, which can contribute to odors.

Dealing with Existing Odors

If your dishwasher already has a lingering smell, here’s how to tackle it:

1. Vinegar Wash

Place a bowl filled with white vinegar on the top rack and run a hot water cycle. Vinegar is excellent at neutralizing odors.

2. Baking Soda Freshener

Sprinkle baking soda on the dishwasher floor and run a short cycle. Baking soda will help absorb and eliminate odors.

3. Check the Drain Hose

Ensure the drain hose is correctly installed and not kinked, as this can lead to standing water and odor.


A fresh-smelling dishwasher is key to maintaining a clean and hygienic kitchen. By following these preventative maintenance steps and dealing with existing odors promptly, you can enjoy the convenience of your dishwasher without any unpleasant surprises.


1. How often should I clean my dishwasher?

Regularly clean your dishwasher every two to three months to prevent odors and maintain its efficiency.

2. Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

It’s not recommended to use bleach in your dishwasher, as it can damage the machine’s rubber components. Stick to dishwasher-safe cleaners or natural alternatives like vinegar and baking soda.

3. Why does my dishwasher smell like fish?

A fishy smell may indicate the presence of decaying food particles. Ensure you scrape and rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.

4. Is it necessary to use a rinse aid?

While not mandatory, using a rinse aid can help maintain your dishwasher’s cleanliness and prevent odors.

5. Can I use lemon juice to freshen my dishwasher?

Yes, you can add a cup of lemon juice to an empty dishwasher and run a cycle to help freshen it up naturally.

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