How to Remove the Smell from Dishwasher: A Complete Guide

When it comes to household chores, doing the dishes is a task we all have to tackle. But what happens when the dishwasher itself starts emitting unpleasant odors? A smelly dishwasher can quickly become a nuisance, and no one wants their freshly cleaned dishes to smell bad. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to remove that pesky smell from your dishwasher and ensure your dishes come out fresh and odor-free.

Why Does Your Dishwasher Smell?

Before we delve into the solutions, let’s understand why your dishwasher might emit unpleasant odors. Several factors contribute to the smell:

1. Food Residue

Leftover food particles can get trapped in the dishwasher’s nooks and crannies, leading to bacterial growth and foul odors.

2. Clogged Filters

Dishwashers have filters that can become clogged over time. This can cause water to stagnate, creating a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.

3. Mold and Mildew

Moist environments in dishwashers can foster the growth of mold and mildew, which are notorious for their musty odors.

4. Hard Water Deposits

Mineral buildup from hard water can accumulate in the dishwasher, giving rise to unpleasant smells.

Removing Dishwasher Smells: Step by Step

Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Before you begin, make sure you have the following supplies ready:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • A soft brush or toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth

Empty the Dishwasher

Start by removing all dishes, utensils, and racks from the dishwasher. A clear workspace will make the cleaning process easier.

Clean the Filter

Locate the dishwasher’s filter, which is usually at the bottom of the tub. Remove it and clean any debris or food particles trapped inside. Rinse it thoroughly under running water.

Wipe Down the Interior

Use a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water to wipe down the interior of the dishwasher. Pay special attention to the corners, door seals, and spray arms. Vinegar is excellent at eliminating odors and dissolving mineral deposits.

Check for Mold

Inspect the dishwasher for any signs of mold or mildew. If you spot any, mix a solution of water and bleach (1:1) and use a toothbrush to scrub away the mold. Be sure to wear gloves and open windows for ventilation when using bleach.

Run a Cleaning Cycle

With the dishwasher empty, run a cleaning cycle using a dishwasher-safe cleaner or a cup of white vinegar placed on the top rack. This will help remove any lingering smells and residue.

Maintain Regularly

To prevent future odors, make it a habit to clean the filter and wipe down the dishwasher’s interior every month. Additionally, run an empty load with vinegar once a month to maintain freshness.


A smelly dishwasher doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. By following these steps and maintaining regular cleaning habits, you can ensure your dishwasher smells fresh and your dishes come out sparkling clean every time.


1. Can I use lemon juice instead of vinegar for cleaning?

While lemon juice has natural cleaning properties, it may not be as effective as vinegar for removing tough odors and mineral deposits in the dishwasher. Vinegar is recommended for best results.

2. How often should I clean my dishwasher?

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

3. Is it safe to use bleach inside the dishwasher?

Yes, but be cautious when using bleach. Always dilute it with water (1:1 ratio) and wear protective gloves. Ensure the dishwasher is well-ventilated during the cleaning process.

4. What if the smell persists after cleaning?

If the odor lingers after following these steps, there might be an underlying issue with your dishwasher’s plumbing or drainage. It’s best to consult a professional technician in such cases.

5. Can I use commercial dishwasher cleaners?

Yes, you can use commercial dishwasher cleaners as an alternative to vinegar. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

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