Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

Are you accosted by the stench of sewage every time you run a load of dishes? Yuck! The kitchen is no place for unpleasant odors — especially when that smell is coming from a cleaning appliance. 

Dishwashers are a staple appliance in the modern household, and most homeowners rely on them to make cleanup a breeze at the end of a long day. But if your dishwasher smells bad, you might think twice about using it to clean your dishes. 

Are you tired of washing dishes by hand? Don’t want a smelly dishwasher to stink up your kitchen any longer? Keep reading to discover why your dishwasher smells bad and learn four simple steps you can take to eliminate these foul odors once and for all. 

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Bad?

Trapped food particles or grease is the most common cause of dishwasher odors. Bits of food that get stuck in the nooks and crannies of your dishwasher — like the drain hose, spray arm, or filters — will begin to smell over time. This fishy or funky stench can even transfer to your dishes and silverware. 

Worse yet, it means your dishwasher has become a breeding ground for bacteria and mildew. 

To identify where this smell is coming from, check the following parts of your dishwasher:

  1. Filter
  2. Drain hose
  3. Spray arm
  4. Garbage disposal

Top 4 Ways to Eliminate Dishwasher Odors

Now that you know why your dishwasher smells bad, it’s time to learn how to clean it. Fortunately, to clean a dishwasher, all you need are some household items and a bit of time. 

Dishwasher filter being pulled out of drain.

Clean the Filter

Let’s start with the most likely culprit. To find the filter, remove the bottom dish rack and look around the dishwasher tub. Filters are usually located in either one of the back corners or around the base of the bottom spray arm. If you’re having trouble locating the dishwasher filter, check the owner’s manual. 

Remove the filter and wash it in your kitchen sink with soap and hot water. Gently scrub it down with an old toothbrush to clean all the crevices. Before replacing the filter, check to see if there are any food particles stuck in the dishwasher drain. A clogged drain and filter is the number one cause of foul odors!

Dishwasher spray arm.

Clean the Spray Arm

The little holes found on your dishwasher’s spray arm can also get clogged with food and grease. This makes your dishwasher not only smell bad but work ineffectively as well. If the spray arm is full of debris, there’s less water and detergent reaching your dishes.

The best way to clean the dishwasher spray arm is to remove it from the unit, soak it in hot soapy water, and use a toothpick to dislodge any trapped food particles. You can also soak the spray arm in white vinegar if there is a buildup of mineral deposits from hard water.

Clean the Inside of the Dishwasher

Although the main components of your dishwasher are now clean, let’s not stop there. Give the whole unit a good scrub using hot soapy water and a cloth to get rid of any soap scum and grime that may have accumulated on the dishwasher door and walls. 

Run an Empty Dishwasher Cycle With Vinegar and Baking Soda

Finish off the deep cleaning process by using vinegar and baking soda — two natural yet potent cleaners — to eliminate any lingering odors. 

Place a bowl of distilled white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher and run a normal cycle. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to leave your unit smelling fresh and clean. Then, pour one cup of baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher and run a second cycle. This process may take a bit more time than other cleaning methods, but it’s a great way to remove unpleasant odors. 

Keep Your Dishwasher in Mint Condition With Appliance Doctors

A smelly dishwasher can make home life inconvenient — not to mention your kitchen a little gross. If you’re wondering why your dishwasher smells bad or frantically searching for homemade dishwasher cleaners, turn to Appliance Doctors. We have experience installing and repairing dishwashers of all makes and models. 

Better yet, schedule regular dishwasher maintenance to keep your unit in mint condition and avoid additional problems down the road. Give us a call today!