Why Is My Dishwasher Smelly?

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Have you ever opened your freshly run dishwasher to a foul, “fishy” smell? The good news is that this is not uncommon. Many people believe that their dishwasher is a self-cleaning machine, but, just like other appliances, it requires maintenance. As you run your dishwasher time after time, leftover food builds up in the filter and in the corners of the machine you would never think to clean. So, before you blame it on your detergent, take a scrub brush to these main areas of your dishwasher which could be the cause of the odor.

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The Filter:

Cleaning your filter regularly can help prevent a stinky leftover smell. Manually remove the filter to your machine and scrub it with a stiff scrub brush, soap, and hot water. Each make and model of dishwasher is different, so be sure to check the manual before the removal and replacement of the filter.

The Machine:

If you have already tried to clean the filter manually, try to clean the machine itself. You can clean it by hand using a combination of baking soda, dish soap and water to manually scrub the interior of the machine. Afterward, rinse the mixture out by running the machine on an empty cycle at the hottest possible temperature.

Another method of cleaning your machine is by using vinegar and baking soda. First, put a cup (8 oz.) of distilled white vinegar in the top rack of the machine and run a full cycle. Make sure the dishwasher is empty when you clean it this way. Then, sprinkle a cup of baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher and run another cycle, but this one on the shortest cycle available at the hottest temperature.

The Door Gasket:

This part of the machine can easily get overlooked, as it is the black rubber tubing that lines the opening of the dishwasher. Inside of this tubing is a a magnetic strip that keeps the dishwasher door closed and keeps water from leaking out. During the wash cycle, food particles that are left on the plates can get stuck inside of the gasket, which can be the source of the smell. Be sure to wipe it down every once in a while with a damp cloth.

The Garbage Disposal:

Surprise! The machine that you put unwanted food into is connected to the same central hose as the dishwasher. If you use your garbage disposal often, debris can end up flowing back up the dishwasher drain hose. There are several temporary ways to deodorize the disposal, but the best way is to temporarily remove the hose and clean it out using a still wire and a thin, damp cloth. This can get a bit messy, but it will be worth it to get rid of the odor.

Preventative Measures:

Be sure to rinse heavily soiled dishes before putting them in the machine. Also, clean the filter and the inside of the machine occasionally to prevent food from building up and causing odors in the future. Stay ahead of that fishy smell before it creeps up on you!


Written By: Madison Jezioro

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