How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

Make it simple yet effective!

It can be very off-putting to have a smelly dishwasher. However effective it is, you simply won’t feel comfortable using utensils that were cleaned in a dishwasher that stinks! In general terms, it is important to have a routine of regularly cleaning the dishwasher, so as to maintain its optimal efficiency and ensure that it is always fresh-smelling.

However, now that you already have a dishwasher that smells bad, you have to deal with the present problem – before starting to think of what to do to prevent its recurrence in the long run. Here are the steps to follow, in order to rid your dishwasher of a bad smell:

Identify the Source of the Smell

Before setting out to clean the smelly dishwasher, it is important for you to first identify the likely root cause of the foul odor. One factor that often causes dishwashers to become smelly is accumulation of food debris.

At some point, these may start rotting inside the machine, and as you would expect, the end result won’t be a pleasant fragrance.

Read more: How To Clean Water Filter

The buildup of grease is another factor that can potentially cause a dishwasher to become smelly. On another note, if fungi (in the form of mold and mildew) get a foothold inside the dishwasher, they too can make it start stinking.

So, you need to identify the specific source(s) of the unpleasant smell coming out of your dishwasher.

Gather Necessary Cleaning Supplies

Whatever the source of the foul odor coming out of your dishwasher, there are certain items you will need to have in order to get rid of it. Those include:

  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • A Toothbrush (Or Any Other Soft Brush)
  • A Sponge or Soft Absorbent Piece of Cloth
  • A Pair of Gloves
  • Dish Soap

Cleaning the Filter and Drain

Before you can clean the filter, you will need to remove it first. That will entail emptying the dishwasher completely and removing the appliance’s bottom rack. There, you will find something that appears like a cylindrical tube. That is the filter, and the way to unlock it is by twisting.

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Once it is unlocked, it needs to be gently pulled from the dishwasher. Now that you have removed it, you may proceed to clean it (ideally in your kitchen sink) using hot soapy water and a brush to get rid of any bits of food that are still clinging onto it.

The dishwasher’s drain area too needs to be cleaned using hot soapy water and a brush.

Cleaning the Interior

The next step in ridding a dishwasher of a bad smell is that of cleaning its interior. Here, you will need to use baking soda and vinegar (separately).

So, what you should do is fill a small bowl with the white vinegar. Then, place this bowl on the machine’s top rack. Thereafter just run a cycle.

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Next, you will have to pour baking soda (a cupful of it) onto the bottom of the dishwasher. Then run another normal cycle.

By the end of the second cycle, most of the bad odor that was coming out of your dishwasher should have been gotten rid of.

Cleaning the Door and Seals

Accumulation of food particles and grime on the dishwasher’s door and seals can over time lead to the dishwasher smelling bad. Therefore it is important to clean these areas thoroughly as well. You should specifically clean the door and seals using a soft brush, and dish soap.

Regular Maintenance Tips

Now that you have gotten rid of the bad smell that is coming out of your dishwasher, you need to take steps to prevent its recurrence. To that end, you need to:

  • Develop a habit of always scrapping dishes before you load them into the dishwasher.
  • At least on a monthly basis, clean the filter.
  • Run plain hot water cycles from time to time.


To ensure that your dishwasher remains fresh and efficient at all times, you need to prioritize its regular cleaning. And should you happen to detect an unpleasant smell coming out of the machine, all you would have to do is follow the steps we have outlined above. Then the end result would be a smell-free dishwasher.

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