How to Clean a Stinky Dishwasher

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Nothing makes your dishes seem dirtier than a weird smell every time you open the dishwasher—because how could something that smells so bad get your dishes clean? The final step of the instructions below—using vinegar and baking soda to get rid of dishwasher smells—can provide a quick fix, but we recommend a deep-cleaning to tackle the root cause. Here’s how to clean a dishwasher thoroughly and effectively.

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

Before we get to the instructions, consider the possible reasons why your dishwasher smells. First, standing water could be causing mold to grow inside the dishwasher. This can also happen if you leave the dishwasher door closed for an extended time, such as while you’re away on vacation.

Food particles could also accumulate in the drain filter, drain hose, spray arm, or elsewhere in the dishwasher. The odor could be especially rancid if the particles are comprised of fish, eggs, or other strong-smelling foods.

Fortunately, you can clean your stinky dishwasher in a few easy steps.

Clean the Drain Filter

The most common cause of dishwasher smells is a clogged drain filter. If your dishwasher has one, it’s probably located on the bottom rear of the tub.

Remove the filter and clean it in your kitchen sink with hot soapy water, using a bottle brush to reach all the crevices. Check that the drain is free of food particles before reinserting the filter. If you find any gunk, wipe it away with a sponge.

Clean the Spray Arm

If the holes in the top or bottom spray arm become clogged, your dishwasher won’t work as well. The clogs could also be a source of unpleasant dishwasher smells.

To clean them, simply remove the arms, hold them over the kitchen sink one at a time, and dislodge food particles with a toothpick. Run water through the holes to make sure they’re clear, and reinstall the arms in the dishwasher.

Clean the Inside of the Dishwasher

Over time, soap scum and grime can accumulate on the walls and door of the dishwasher. Simply scrubbing them down with hot soapy water and a cloth or scrub brush can make a huge difference. While you’re at it, wipe down the racks and door gaskets, which can also accumulate mold and mildew.

Run Empty Dishwasher Cycles with Vinegar and Baking Soda

These natural yet potent cleaners can work wonders on your smelly dishwasher. As the final step in the deep-cleaning process, run two separate cycles—one with vinegar, and another with baking soda—to eliminate any lingering odors.

For the first cycle, place a bowl filled with distilled white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher, and run a normal cycle. Then, pour a cup of baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher and run a second cycle. Now your dishwasher should be odor-free!

Prevent Future Dishwasher Smells

Once your dishwasher is fresh and clean, keep it that way with these preventative tips:

  • Scrape and rinse dishes before loading them.
  • Clean the drain filter periodically.
  • Run occasional vinegar and/or baking soda cycles to eliminate odors before they form.
  • Don’t use other hot water appliances while the dishwasher runs to avoid diverting resources.

Schedule Household Cleaning Services with Molly Maid

Turn to Molly Maid for help with all your household chores. We’ll get your kitchen looking spic and span! Contact your local Molly Maid to request a free in-home estimate for house cleaning services near you.