What to do when your dishwasher smells bad.
Let’s get rid of that funky dishwasher odor.
Let’s face it, washing your family’s dishes in the sink stinks. That’s why they invented the dishwasher. So why is that glorious machine suddenly, well, stinking up the whole kitchen?
And how could something that smells that bad get anything clean?
If you’re stuck with a stinky dishwasher, we’re here to help you get to the bottom of the odor. And not only get rid of it, but make sure it never comes back.
Why does my dishwasher smell?
The cause should be fairly easy to get to, since there are a limited number of usual suspects. Standing water could be causing mold or mildew to grow—especially if the dishwasher door stays closed for a long time…something to think about before you leave for vacation.
Bits of food residue may have built up along the inside walls, or in the drain filter or spray arm. Or you could have a clogged drain or filter.
Whatever the source, the good news is that you should be able to easily get rid of that dishwasher odor with a few tools and a little effort.
First, clean out the dishwasher. Then go to work on the drain filter.
After you’ve removed any dishes, glasses, utensils and cookware, pull out the bottom rack and take out the filter, which should be on the bottom rear of the tub.
Empty out any debris, then clean it in the sink with hot soapy water. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove any stubborn gunk. Before you pop the filter back in place, check to make sure the drain is clean.
Next up: the spray arm.
Dishwasher spray arms can become clogged with small pieces of food and debris. That doesn’t just create a dishwasher odor, it can affect the performance of the machine.
Unscrew and detach the upper arm, then unclip the lower arm and pull it away. With a toothpick, clean out the little outlet nozzles. Then rinse the holes to clear out anything you may have missed, and put them back in place.
Clean the gasket seals.
When a dishwasher smells bad, it’s often because mold and mildew are growing on the gasket seals and create a musty odor. Wipe away any grime you see on the seals with a sponge and warm, soapy water, then dry them completely to make sure there’s no moisture left.
Clean the inside.
Pour two cups of white vinegar in a dishwasher-safe bowl, and put it in the bottom rack, then put the dishwasher on an air-dry or energy-saving dry cycle. The vinegar will mix with the wash water to help kill odors. It’s a simple, effective method of deodorizing a dishwasher.
Don’t stop there.
Cycle after cycle, soap scum and grime accumulate on the dishwasher's walls and the inside of the door of the dishwasher. Regularly scrubbing them down with hot soapy water can make a huge difference. Make sure to wipe down the racks and door gaskets while you’re at it.
Make sure it’s clean inside—and out.
A dirty exterior may not be the cause of your dishwasher odor, but as long as you’re cleaning, why not get rid of the bacteria growing on the control panel?
Dip a small brush in distilled vinegar and scrub around the dials and buttons, then use a sponge to wipe away any residue. Clean the front panel with a stainless steel or appliance cleaner to remove drips and fingerprints.
That stinky dishwasher smell is gone. Now let’s keep it that way.
- With regular cleaning and maintenance, you can reduce or eliminate dishwasher odor for good. Clean the dishwasher filter regularly—at least once a month—to keep food particles from building up.
- Scrape and rinse your dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.
- Don’t overload the racks so water and soap can break down food debris on every item.
- Don’t use other hot water appliances while the dishwasher is running to avoid diverting resources.
- Leave the dishwasher door open slightly after a cycle to make sure the inside dries thoroughly.
At Frontdoor, we aim to simplify homeownership and ensure you’re equipped with the knowledge you need to keep your home running. The Frontdoor app offers live video chat with an Expert who can answer your home repair and maintenance questions in real-time and walk you through next steps.
Want to learn more about how to get rid of dishwasher smell, or any other household tips? Download the app if you haven’t already, and chat with a helpful, friendly Frontdoor Expert.
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