How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher: 5 Simple Steps to Cleanliness

by | Last updated Oct 21, 2023

Oh, the nostalgia! Remember when you’d enter grandma’s kitchen and get hit with that fresh, lemony scent? Not a hint of bad smell, even from her hardworking dishwasher. It’s funny how some memories stick, isn’t it? Today, as I opened my own dishwasher, I was greeted not by a pleasant aroma but by an unpleasant odor that made me think, “Uh-oh, what’s happening in there?”

That got me on a mission, and guess what? I found the secret sauce on “How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher” Oh yes! No more crinkling noses or wondering if the dishes are spotless. Now, if you’ve ever had that moment where your dishwasher gave off a funky smell, this is for you!

Like any other corner of our home, dishwashers need some tender loving care. And I promise, by the end of this guide, you’ll know how to get rid of that pesky smell and keep it fresh for ages. So, why wait? Dive right in, and let’s transform your dishwasher from smelly to smelling awesome! Remember, a clean dishwasher means cleaner dishes and cleaner dishes mean happier meals. Let’s embark on this cleaning adventure together!

The Smelly Truth!

Did you know? 85% of households rarely clean their dishwasher, leading to unwanted kitchen odors! Time to make a change!

Why Does My Dishwasher Produce Unpleasant Odors?

Understanding a problem is the first step to successfully resolving it. Therefore, before we delve into our 5 Simple Steps to Cleanliness, let’s shed some light on the question that might have led you here: “Why does my dishwasher produce unpleasant odors?” It’s not a result of faulty manufacturing or a sign that your dishwasher is on its last leg. Often, it’s due to a few common factors that can be quickly addressed:

Food Residue Buildup

Tiny food particles can linger on dishes and collect in your dishwasher, particularly around the filter. This can lead to bacterial growth and mold, causing unpleasant odors and impacting the machine’s efficiency. Regular cleaning can help prevent this buildup and keep your dishwasher fresh and compelling.

Bacterial Growth in Moist Environment

After cycles, your dishwasher remains damp, creating the perfect conditions for bacteria and mold. Proper ventilation and allowing your dishwasher to dry after each cycle can help mitigate this problem, ensuring a fresher and healthier dishwasher.

Clogged Filters and Drains

A significant contributor to foul odors is clogged filters and drains. These areas can become a hub for decaying food particles and other debris, releasing bad smells over time. Regularly inspecting and cleaning these components prevents odors and ensures your dishwasher operates more efficiently.

Improper Loading of Dishware

Overcrowded or incorrectly positioned items might not get thoroughly cleaned, leaving bits of food that decay and cause odor. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for loading your dishwasher, ensuring proper water flow and optimal cleaning for every item is essential.

Lack of Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Over time, hard water deposits, food residue, and even detergents can build up in various parts of the appliance, leading to unpleasant smells. Thus, cleaning your dishwasher routinely, including its filters, spray arms, and drain, is vital to keep it fresh and high-functioning.

Efficiency is Key!

Here’s a fun fact: A clean dishwasher can boost its efficiency by 15%! Cleaner dishes and saving energy? Win-win!

5 Simple Steps to Cleanliness

Step # 01: Emptying and Preparing

The first step in reclaiming your fresh-smelling dishwasher is all about preparation. Begin by emptying your dishwasher completely and removing any dishes, cutlery, or other items. Once empty, check the dishwasher for any large pieces of food or debris that might be lodged in the corners or under the racks, removing them manually if necessary. Inspect the drain for any blockages, and clean the under-sink filter if applicable. Preparing your dishwasher properly not only aids in a thorough cleaning but also sets the stage for the following steps. Remember, a good start is half the job done!

Step # 02: Filter Cleaning

Filter cleaning is a critical step towards a fresher, cleaner dishwasher. The filter is the gatekeeper of your appliance, catching food particles to prevent them from redepositing on your dishes or clogging the drain. Start by removing the filter — refer to your dishwasher’s manual if you’re unsure how. Rinely it under warm water, and gently scrub away any food particles or grime using a soft-bristled brush. After cleaning, ensure to reinstall the filter properly. A clean filter is your best defense against odors and is key to a more efficient dishwasher. Keep in mind a clean filter equals a happier dishwasher!

Step # 03: Interior Cleaning

A sparkling clean interior is an essential step towards a fresher dishwasher. The magic happens in the interior – your dishes go from grimy to gleaming. But sometimes, this space can become home to lingering food particles and grime. To clean:

  • Fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with white vinegar and place it on the top rack. The vinegar’s acidity effectively breaks down any residue and neutralizes any odors.
  • Run a hot-water cycle for a thorough clean.
  • For an added touch, sprinkle baking soda at the bottom of the dishwasher and run a short, hot water cycle.

The baking soda acts as a scrubber and deodorizer, helping to eliminate any stubborn grime or smells. You’ll be left with a sparkling clean and fresh-smelling interior, ready to take on your next load of dirty dishes. Remember, a clean interior means clean dishes!

Step # 04: Addressing Standing Water

Addressing standing water is an often overlooked but crucial step in maintaining a fresh and odor-free dishwasher. Standing water can become a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to unpleasant smells and indicating a potential drainage issue. Check the bottom of your dishwasher after each cycle. If you notice any standing water, it may be time to investigate. Check for blockages in the drainage pipe and the filter, and remove any food debris or buildup that could be causing the problem. Cleaning the drain ensures your dishwasher runs efficiently and stays odor-free. After all, clear water paths make for efficient and odor-free dishwashing operations!

Step # 05: Freshening and Maintenance

Last but certainly not least, freshening and maintenance are a step towards a clean and odor-free dishwasher. Start by running an empty hot-water cycle with a bowl of white vinegar on the bottom rack. This will work to neutralize odors and break down any lingering residue.

Next, run a short hot-water cycle with a cup of baking soda at the bottom of your dishwasher. This not only enhances the cleaning process but also helps in deodorizing your dishwasher.

In addition, make sure to routinely inspect and clean your dishwasher’s seals, sprayer arms, and trap. Sticking to these practices will ensure your dishwasher stays fresh, clean, and running efficiently, taking your kitchen hygiene to the next level.

How Often Should You Repeat the Process?

The frequency of your dishwasher’s deep cleaning schedule can depend on how often it’s used. However, to maintain a consistently clean and odor-free environment, following the ‘5 Simple Steps to Cleanliness’ is recommended once a month.

Making it a regular part of your household chores ensures that your dishwasher remains efficient, hygienic, and ready to serve. Remember, the cleanliness of your dishes is directly linked to the cleanliness of your dishwasher. So, keep it clean and fresh, and let it serve you in the best way possible!

Ewww, Bacteria Party!

Did you know? A neglected dishwasher can host thousands of bacteria per square inch! Time to kick those germs out!

Keeping Your Dishwasher Fresh: Your Smell-Free Future

Say goodbye to the days of a stinky dishwasher! With the proper cleaning routine, your dishwasher can become an asset to your kitchen’s freshness rather than a source of unwanted odors.

Following the steps outlined, ensure your appliance stays clean and smells fresh. Regular cleaning, filter maintenance, and smart dish-loading techniques preserve your dishwasher’s efficiency and extend its lifespan. And let’s remember that maintaining a clean dishwasher leads to cleaner, more clean dishes.

Your smell-free future is more than achievable—just a few simple steps away! So, dive into this routine, uphold the freshness of your dishwasher, and enjoy the pleasant, clean aroma every time you open its door. It’s not just about doing dishes; it’s about embracing a lifestyle that prioritizes cleanliness and hygiene. Your sparkling, odor-free dishwasher awaits!

Common Mistakes to Avoid for a Fresh and Odor-Free Dishwasher

Aiming for a fresh and odor-free dishwasher? Then it’s essential to steer clear of common pitfalls. Remember, the nose knows best, so let’s keep things fresh!

Neglecting Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is the backbone of a smell-free dishwasher. Don’t put it off and let laziness lurk—like a good workout, consistency is key!

Leaving Dishes Pre-rinsed

Think you’re giving your dishwasher a hand by pre-rinsing? Think again! This can lead to a less effective wash cycle, leaving behind sneaky food particles that throw odor parties. Just knock off those big food chunks and trust your dishwasher’s magic.

Overloading the Dishwasher

Piling dishes high might seem like a space-saving move, but overcrowding is like throwing a wrench in your dishwasher’s groove. It stops water and soap from grooving with every dish, leaving food leftovers that can throw stink bombs.

Ignoring the Filter

Imagine a net catching all those food particles. That’s your filter! If left unattended, it becomes a mini compost heap. Regular checks keep odors at bay and make your filter a true food-catcher superhero.

Using the Wrong Detergent

When it comes to selecting a detergent, it’s essential to be mindful and avoid choosing randomly. Certain detergents may not work effectively, leaving behind residues or failing to dissolve. Selecting a high-quality detergent that will keep your dishes and dishwasher clean and fresh is recommended.

Avoiding these common mistakes will help ensure that your dishwasher remains a fresh and clean asset in your kitchen. A bit of care and attention can go a long way in maintaining the pleasant atmosphere of your kitchen space.

Final Thoughts on How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

Wow, isn’t it exciting to know there’s a simple way to bring back those fresh, lemony scents to your kitchen? We’ve just dived deep into “How to clean a smelly dishwasher” It’s easy, folks! Just like a fun game, there are 5 simple steps to play.

Remember, our dishwashers need love too. And by giving them a good scrub every now and then, you make sure every plate, spoon, and glass shines bright and smells great. Now, here’s the magic trick: don’t wait! Bring that fresh, clean vibe back to your kitchen. 

At WashDryDazzle, our primary goal is to equip you with invaluable knowledge to simplify your day-to-day tasks; to explore more, check out our central hub of Dishwasher Guides.

Frequently ASked Questions (FAQs)

Why is there a foul smell coming from my dishwasher? 

Factors like trapped food particles, bacterial growth in moist environments, clogged filters, and lack of regular cleaning can cause unpleasant odors in your dishwasher.

How often should I clean my dishwasher to avoid unpleasant odors? 

As a rule of thumb, give your dishwasher a thorough cleaning once a month to maintain freshness and efficiency. However, the filter and drain should be checked bi-weekly, mainly if the dishwasher is used heavily.

Can I use household products to clean my dishwasher? 

Yes, household items like vinegar and baking soda effectively clean and deodorize your dishwasher. They are non-toxic, affordable, and readily available.

How can I prevent food residue buildup in my dishwasher? 

Always scrape off food particles from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Regularly check and clean the drain and filter to prevent debris buildup

Why is standing water a problem for dishwashers? 

Standing water can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, leading to unpleasant odors. It’s essential to address this issue promptly to maintain the hygiene of your dishwasher.

How can I keep my dishwasher smelling fresh between cleanings? 

Consider using a rinse aid or a dishwasher cleaner monthly. Leave the dishwasher door slightly open after each load to allow the interior to dry out completely, helping to prevent the formation of odors.

Are there any common mistakes I should avoid for a fresh and odor-free dishwasher? 

Yes, common mistakes include neglecting regular cleaning, overloading the dishwasher, ignoring the filter, and using the wrong detergent. Avoiding these can help keep your dishwasher fresh and odor-free.

What are good cleaning agents for my dishwasher?

There are many! Vinegar and baking soda are good choices for your kitchen. But there are also special dishwasher cleaners at the store that do a great job.

How do I know which dishwasher detergent is effective?

Look for ones that say “high-quality” or “completely clean” on the label. Also, you can read reviews or ask friends what they use. If dishes come out clean with no spots, that’s a good dishwasher detergent.



Home Appliances Expert

A. Ditta, a highly regarded authority in home appliances, contributes his expertise to With 15 years of global experience, Ditta's writings stand out for their quality, accuracy, and user-centric approach. Recognized as a reliable source for washing and drying products, his in-depth knowledge and commitment to providing clear, accurate advice make him a trusted guide for readers worldwide. Ditta’s work is a testimony to his profound expertise in the industry.