How to Remove Bad Smell from Dishwasher

Dishwashers have become an indispensable appliance in modern kitchens, making our lives more convenient and efficient. However, if you notice an unpleasant odor emanating from your dishwasher, it can quickly become a nuisance. In this article, we will explore effective methods to remove bad smells from dishwashers and ensure your kitchen stays fresh and clean.

A dishwasher’s primary function is to clean and sanitize your dishes, but over time, it may develop a foul smell. This can be attributed to various factors, including the accumulation of food particles, mold and mildew growth, and clogged filters. Fortunately, there are several simple and effective solutions to combat these odors and restore freshness to your dishwasher.

Understanding the Causes of Bad Smell in Dishwashers

  • Accumulation of Food Particles
  • Mold and Mildew Growth
  • Clogged Filters

Accumulation of Food Particles

One common cause of a bad smell in dishwashers is the accumulation of food particles. When dishes are not properly rinsed before being loaded into the dishwasher, small food remnants can cling to the interior surfaces and filter system. Over time, these particles can decompose, leading to unpleasant odors.

Mold and Mildew Growth

Moist and warm environments provide ideal conditions for mold and mildew to thrive. If your dishwasher doesn’t dry completely between cycles or if the door is closed immediately after use, moisture can accumulate inside, creating a breeding ground for these fungi. The resulting musty odor can be unpleasant and can even transfer to your clean dishes.

Clogged Filters

Dishwashers are equipped with filters that prevent food particles from recirculating during the cleaning process. However, these filters can become clogged over time, impeding water flow and causing stagnant water to collect. This standing water can emit a foul smell and compromise the dishwasher’s performance.

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Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

To eliminate bad smells from your dishwasher, regular cleaning and maintenance are essential. By following these steps, you can keep your dishwasher fresh and odor-free.

  • Cleaning the Interior of the Dishwasher
  • Cleaning the Filters
  • Running Vinegar or Baking Soda Cycles

Cleaning the Interior of the Dishwasher

  1. Start by emptying the dishwasher completely and removing any large food debris from the bottom.
  2. Mix a solution of warm water and mild dish soap.
  3. Use a soft cloth or sponge to clean the interior surfaces, including the door, walls, and racks.
  4. Pay special attention to the corners and crevices where food particles may accumulate.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.

Cleaning the Filters

  1. Locate the dishwasher’s filters, usually located at the bottom or back of the appliance.
  2. Remove the filters carefully and rinse them under running water.
  3. Use a small brush, such as an old toothbrush, to remove any stubborn debris.
  4. Ensure the filters are completely clean before placing them back into the dishwasher.

Running Vinegar or Baking Soda Cycles

  1. Vinegar and baking soda are natural cleaning agents that can help neutralize odors in your dishwasher.
  2. For a vinegar cycle, place a cup of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack. Run a hot water cycle without any dishes.
  3. For a baking soda cycle, sprinkle a cup of baking soda across the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle without any dishes.
  4. Both vinegar and baking soda will help eliminate odors and sanitize the interior of the dishwasher.

Natural Remedies for Odor Removal

If you prefer to use natural remedies to remove bad smells from your dishwasher, here are a few options that can be easily implemented.

  • Lemon and Citric Acid
  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda

Lemon and Citric Acid

Lemons are known for their refreshing scent and natural cleaning properties. Cut a lemon in half and rub the cut sides on the interior surfaces of the dishwasher. Alternatively, you can use citric acid, which is available in powdered form. Dissolve a tablespoon of citric acid in a cup of water and apply it to the interior surfaces. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a versatile household ingredient that can effectively combat dishwasher odors. Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with one cup of white vinegar and place it on the top rack of the empty dishwasher. Run a hot water cycle to distribute the vinegar and eliminate unpleasant smells.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another powerful natural deodorizer. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run a hot water cycle. Baking soda will help absorb odors and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Using Commercial Dishwasher Cleaners

If natural remedies don’t eliminate the bad smell from your dishwasher, you may consider using commercial dishwasher cleaners. These products are specifically formulated to tackle tough odors and remove buildup inside your dishwasher. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure safe and effective use.

Tips for Preventing Bad Smells

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to dishwasher odors. By following these simple tips, you can minimize the chances of your dishwasher developing unpleasant smells.

  • Scraping Plates Before Loading
  • Using Hot Water for Cleaning
  • Leaving the Door Open

Scraping Plates Before Loading

Before placing your dishes in the dishwasher, scrape off excess food particles into the trash or compost bin. This reduces the amount of debris that can accumulate and cause odors.

Using Hot Water for Cleaning

Run your dishwasher on the hottest water setting available. Hot water helps dissolve grease and food remnants more effectively, reducing the likelihood of odor-causing residue.

Leaving the Door Open

After completing a dishwasher cycle, leave the door slightly ajar to allow air circulation and moisture to evaporate. This prevents the buildup of moisture and discourages the growth of mold and mildew.

How do I get the smell out of my dishwasher and sink?

To get rid of bad smells in your dishwasher and sink, start by giving them a thorough cleaning. Start by emptying out the dishwasher and wiping down the inside with a damp cloth to remove any food particles or residue. For the sink, use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to scrub away any built up grime. Once you’ve given both surfaces a good scrub, you can go about freshening them up.

One option is to place an open box of baking soda in the dishwasher and sink overnight to absorb any odors. You can also add a few drops of essential oil like lemon or orange for an extra pleasant scent. To keep your dishwasher smelling fresh between washes, try adding some white vinegar to the rinse cycle every few weeks. This will help remove soap residue and bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors.

Can you use baking soda to deodorize dishwasher?

Yes, you can use baking soda to deodorize your dishwasher. Baking soda is an effective and natural way to remove odors from the dishwasher and other household appliances. To use baking soda in the dishwasher, first empty the appliance of any dishes or debris. Then sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the bottom of the dishwasher. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before running a hot cycle with no detergent. The baking soda will help absorb any odors and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean. Additionally, using baking soda regularly can help prevent future odors from developing in the dishwasher.

Can I use bleach to remove bad smells from my dishwasher?

It is generally not recommended to use bleach in your dishwasher, as it can damage the rubber seals and stainless steel components. Stick to natural remedies or commercial dishwasher cleaners.

How often should I clean the filters in my dishwasher?

It is recommended to clean the dishwasher filters once a month or as needed, depending on your usage and the level of debris accumulation.

What should I do if the bad smell persists after cleaning?

If the odor persists after cleaning, it may be a sign of a more significant issue. Consider contacting a professional appliance repair technician to inspect and diagnose the problem.

Can I use regular dish soap to clean the interior of my dishwasher?

Regular dish soap is not suitable for cleaning the interior of your dishwasher. It can create excessive suds and potentially damage the dishwasher. Use a mild dish soap or specialized dishwasher cleaner.

Are dishwasher deodorizers effective in eliminating bad smells?

Dishwasher deodorizers can be effective in reducing bad smells and leaving a fresh scent. However, they are not a substitute for regular cleaning and maintenance. Use them as a supplementary measure, if desired.


Removing bad smells from your dishwasher is crucial to maintaining a fresh and clean kitchen environment. By understanding the causes of these odors and following proper cleaning and maintenance routines, you can ensure your dishwasher remains odor-free. Whether you choose natural remedies or commercial cleaners, regular care and prevention will keep your dishwasher smelling pleasant for years to come.

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