How to Get the Smell Out of Your Dishwasher: A Comprehensive Guide [April-2023]

A dishwasher is a convenient and efficient appliance that saves time and effort when it comes to cleaning dishes. However, sometimes dishwashers can emit unpleasant odors that make your kitchen smell less than fresh. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes of dishwasher smells and provide a step-by-step guide on how to get the smell out of your dishwasher. Follow these simple tips and tricks to ensure your dishwasher smells fresh and clean every time you use it.

Identify the Source of the Smell

Before you can get rid of the smell in your dishwasher, it’s crucial to identify the source of the odor. Common causes of dishwasher smells include:

  • Food debris trapped in the dishwasher
  • Mold or mildew growth
  • A clogged drain or filter
  • A malfunctioning dishwasher component

Clean the Dishwasher Filter

A clogged filter is one of the primary causes of dishwasher odors. To clean the filter:

  • Locate the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher (consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure where it is)
  • Remove the filter and rinse it under warm running water
  • Use a soft brush to remove any stubborn debris
  • Replace the filter and make sure it’s properly secured

Remove Food Debris

Food debris can accumulate in various parts of your dishwasher, causing unpleasant odors. To remove food debris:

  • Inspect the dishwasher’s interior, including the racks and spray arms, for any visible food particles
  • Remove any large debris by hand
  • Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe away any remaining residue

Unclog the Dishwasher Drain

A clogged drain can cause water to pool at the bottom of the dishwasher, leading to unpleasant smells. To unclog the dishwasher drain:

  • Remove the bottom rack and locate the drain (usually in the center of the dishwasher floor)
  • Remove any visible debris from the drain
  • Use a long, flexible brush or pipe cleaner to clean the drain and remove any hidden debris

Clean the Dishwasher with Vinegar

Vinegar is an effective, natural cleaning solution that can help neutralize odors in your dishwasher. To clean your dishwasher with vinegar:

  • Fill a dishwasher-safe container with white vinegar (approximately 2 cups)
  • Place the container on the top rack of your dishwasher
  • Run a full cleaning cycle on the hottest setting available

Use Baking Soda to Freshen Up Your Dishwasher

Baking soda is another excellent natural deodorizer that can help remove stubborn odors. To freshen up your dishwasher with baking soda:

  • Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda across the bottom of the dishwasher
  • Leave the baking soda in the dishwasher overnight to absorb odors
  • Run a short, hot cleaning cycle the next day to rinse away the baking soda

Inspect and Clean the Dishwasher Door Seal

The door seal is responsible for keeping water and debris inside the dishwasher during a cleaning cycle. Over time, the seal can accumulate debris and become a source of odor. To clean the dishwasher door seal:

  • Examine the door seal for any visible debris or damage
  • Wipe the seal with a damp cloth or sponge to remove any buildup
  • If the seal is damaged, consider replacing it to prevent leaks and odors

Check and Clean the Spray Arms

The spray arms in your dishwasher distribute water during the wash cycle. Over time, food particles and mineral deposits can accumulate in the spray arm nozzles, which may contribute to unpleasant odors. To clean the spray arms:

  • Remove the spray arms from your dishwasher (consult your owner’s manual for instructions)
  • Soak the spray arms in warm, soapy water for about 15 minutes to loosen any debris
  • Use a toothbrush or pipe cleaner to remove any remaining particles from the spray arm nozzles
  • Rinse the spray arms thoroughly under running water
  • Reattach the spray arms to the dishwasher, ensuring they are properly secured

Use a Dishwasher Cleaner

How to Get the Smell Out of Your Dishwasher

Commercial dishwasher cleaners are specifically formulated to remove buildup and odors from your appliance. These cleaners can be an effective way to maintain a fresh-smelling dishwasher. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using a dishwasher cleaner, and use it regularly to keep your dishwasher in top condition.

Regular Maintenance to Get the Smell Out of Your Dishwasher

To prevent odors from returning, it’s essential to perform regular dishwasher maintenance, including:

  • Running a vinegar or baking soda cleaning cycle at least once a month
  • Regularly checking and cleaning the filter, drain, door seal, and spray arms
  • Ensuring dishes are adequately rinsed before loading them into the dishwasher

Address any Malfunctioning Components

If you’ve tried all of the above steps and the smell persists, it may be due to a malfunctioning component in your dishwasher. Some possible issues include:

  • A faulty pump: A damaged or worn-out pump can cause water to pool at the bottom of the dishwasher, leading to unpleasant odors. Consult your owner’s manual or a professional technician to assess and replace the pump if necessary.
  • Damaged hoses: Cracked or leaking hoses can also cause water to accumulate and create a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Inspect your dishwasher’s hoses for any signs of damage and replace them if needed.
  • Heater problems: A malfunctioning heater may not be adequately sanitizing your dishes and can contribute to lingering odors. If you suspect a heater issue, contact a professional technician for an assessment and repair.

Use a Dishwasher Freshener or Deodorizer

If you’ve addressed the source of the smell and cleaned your dishwasher thoroughly, but the odor persists or returns frequently, consider using a dishwasher freshener or deodorizer. These products are specifically designed to neutralize dishwasher odors and can help maintain a fresh-smelling appliance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and placement.

Proper Loading Technique

Improper loading of your dishwasher can also contribute to unpleasant odors. Make sure you follow these best practices when loading your dishwasher:

  • Scrape off large food particles before placing dishes in the dishwasher
  • Avoid overcrowding, as this can prevent adequate water circulation and cleaning
  • Place dishes with heavy soil face down or toward the center of the dishwasher, where water pressure is highest
  • Make sure cups, glasses, and bowls are placed upside down to prevent water from pooling


Proper ventilation can help prevent odors in your dishwasher. Always ensure that your dishwasher door is closed tightly during a cycle, but leave it slightly ajar when not in use to allow air circulation and prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Check for Food Traps

Some dishwashers have additional food traps or screens that can collect debris and contribute to odors. Consult your owner’s manual to locate and clean any food traps in your dishwasher.

Clean Your Garbage Disposal

If your dishwasher is connected to a garbage disposal, a dirty disposal can also cause unpleasant smells to emanate from your dishwasher. To clean your garbage disposal:

  • Run cold water down the disposal for 30 seconds
  • Pour half a cup of baking soda down the disposal, followed by one cup of white vinegar
  • Allow the mixture to fizz for a few minutes
  • Run cold water down the disposal again for 30 seconds to rinse away any remaining debris

Inspect the Plumbing and Drainage System

Sometimes, the smell in your dishwasher may not be coming from the appliance itself but rather from the plumbing or drainage system it’s connected to. If you’ve tried all the previous steps and the odor persists, it’s a good idea to check the plumbing and drainage system.

  • Inspect the sink drain and garbage disposal for any blockages or buildup that could be causing the smell
  • Check the dishwasher drain hose for any kinks, clogs, or damage that could be affecting proper drainage
  • Make sure the dishwasher’s air gap (if present) is clean and functioning correctly to prevent water from backing up into the dishwasher

Change Dishwashing Detergent

The dishwashing detergent you’re using could also contribute to unpleasant odors in your dishwasher. If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t get rid of the smell, consider trying a different dishwashing detergent. Look for a detergent that’s specifically formulated to eliminate odors, or try a combination of powder and liquid detergents to see if that makes a difference.

Use Hot Water

Using hot water when running your dishwasher can help remove stuck-on food particles, grease, and soap scum that can contribute to unpleasant smells. Make sure your water heater is set to a temperature of at least 120°F (49°C) to ensure proper cleaning and sanitation.

Inspect Your Dishwasher for Damage

If you’ve tried all of these steps and still can’t get rid of the smell, it’s possible that your dishwasher has sustained damage that’s causing the issue. Inspect your dishwasher for any visible signs of damage, such as cracks, leaks, or broken components. If you find any damage, consult your owner’s manual or contact a professional technician to assess and repair the issue.

Prevention is Key

Once you’ve successfully eliminated the smell from your dishwasher, it’s important to take steps to prevent the issue from recurring. Implement the following habits to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh:

  • Regularly clean and maintain your dishwasher, including the filter, drain, spray arms, and door seal
  • Use a dishwasher cleaner or vinegar and baking soda cleaning cycles regularly
  • Avoid overloading the dishwasher and ensure proper loading technique
  • Keep the dishwasher door slightly ajar when not in use to promote air circulation
  • Inspect and clean your garbage disposal and sink drain as needed

By following this comprehensive guide and implementing these tips, you can enjoy a fresh, odor-free dishwasher and a pleasant-smelling kitchen. Keep up with regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure your dishwasher continues to perform at its best and provides you with years of efficient, hassle-free dishwashing.


A smelly dishwasher can be a frustrating and embarrassing problem, but with a little effort and regular maintenance, you can keep your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean. By identifying the source of the odor, cleaning the dishwasher thoroughly, and addressing any underlying issues, you can eliminate unpleasant smells and enjoy a fresh, hygienic kitchen. Remember to perform regular maintenance and consider using a dishwasher freshener or deodorizer to help maintain a pleasant-smelling appliance.

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