Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

Sometimes, your dishes will come out of the dishwasher with a “fishy” odor.

Regardless of the type of automatic dishwashing machine that you use, you are bound to face this problem. 

Over time, tiny leftover food particles either, build up in the filter or within the machine’s crevices and begin emitting odors.

During the drying phase, the dishwasher can transfer the stench to the dishes. The nasty smell will not go away unless you clean the dishwasher regularly.

Common Dishwashers Smells you May Encounter

The most common smells you may experience from the dishwasher include;

  • Sewage
  • Rotten eggs
  • Fish
  • Mildew
  • Plastic and burning smell

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like Sewage?

One of the most common dishwasher smells, once it becomes dirty, is that of sewage.

The sewage or rotten eggs odor is, in most cases, caused by a build-up of food particles within the machine.

A sewer smell while using your dishwasher, is often a clear indication that the machine’s filters should be cleaned.

The stench might also mean there’s an obstruction in the drain pipes within the wall or the vents.

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like Burning Plastic?

A burning smell emanating from your machine might mean the inclusion of plastic dishes that are inappropriate for the dishwasher.

If the smell persists, even after you get rid of the plastic utensils, you are advised to call a professional.

The expert can check out your unit, to be sure that there is no internal problem with the machine. 

A cup in a dishwasher

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell Like Rotten Eggs? 

Your dishwasher might have a strong sulfur-like egg smell.

It is caused by food debris amassed in the door gasket or drain filter. Stagnated leftover wastewater might also cause the same foul odor.

Why Does the Dishwasher Smell Like a Wet Dog?  

Slightly contaminated water in your machine can cause the dishwasher to smell like a wet dog.

Food leftovers or recycled water stagnating in your appliance can also cause the same smell.

As the bacteria from the debris or dirty water dry up, they activate an odd, faint wet-dog smell. 

Why Does a New Dishwasher Smell? 

New dishwasher smells are a result of manufacturing processes that appliances go through.

Most smells related to new appliances are normal occurrences that can be dealt with.

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The processes that they go through while being manufactured may leave them with some new plastic smell.

Such smells may not disappear until the machine undergoes numerous cycles of washing using an appropriate detergent.

How Do I Identify the Source of the Dishwasher Smells?

Odors in dishwashers develop over time as long as the machine is in use.  

There are three areas to check whenever the smell occurs; the filters, vents, and drain pipe. These are the areas where an accumulation of particles is likely to occur.

The filter should be your first stop.

The process of removing the dishwater filters is not complicated.

However, checking out the vents and drain pipes might need more expertise and should be left to a professional.

How Do You Get Rid of a Bad Smell In a Dishwasher?

To effectively fix the dishwasher odor problem, you need to do the following.

1. Clean the Filter Thoroughly

Dismantle the filter from the machine and use a hard scrub brush, together with soap and hot water, to clean it.

The procedures for removing the dishwasher filter differ depending on the make and model of the machine.

It is, therefore, important to read the owner’s manual to ensure that you dismantle and replace the filter properly. 

2. Clean the Entire Machine 

If, after cleaning the filter, the inside of the machine still has a bad smell, clean the entire dishwasher.

Make a simple mixture of dish soap, baking soda, and water and use it to scrub the machine’s interior. These include the walls, shelves, and gaskets.

You can then rinse the paste out of the machine by running an empty cycle at the highest temperature possible. 

3. Check Out Your Water Softener

See to it that your salt levels are within range.

You can consider cycling the salt, or try changing your water softener. Iron-removing salt is normally good in dealing with bad dishwasher smells.

Proper cleaning, coupled with proactive prevention, can go a long way to eliminate dishwasher odors. 

4. Practice Prevention 

Ensure you properly rinse dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.

You can scrape off any big particles of food so that they don’t end up clogging the machine’s drainage system.

Clean the machine’s interior and filter regularly to avoid future odors emanating from a build-up of food particles.

Food particles can be entrapped in the dishwasher crevices whenever the water used in any wash cycle is too little.

Don’t use the kitchen faucet while the dishwasher is filling with water.

It helps to avoid diverting water from the machine when it is in the process of filling. 

A man looking into the dishwasher interior sections

How Do I Clean a Smelly Dishwasher?

The following is a step-by-step procedure on how to correctly clean the dishwasher, systematically. 

a) Begin With the Drain Filter 

Most makes and models of dishwashers come with a drain filter that stops food pieces from clogging up the drain.

A clogged drain is typically the most common source of foul dishwasher smells. 

· Pull out the drain filter from the base of the machine.

· Use hot water and soap to wash the filter in the kitchen sink. If possible, use a stiff bottle brush to reach all inner surfaces. 

· Make sure that you get rid of all food particles and gunk from the drain before you reinstall the drain filter. If necessary, scrape away bigger particles using a sponge. 

b) Move to the Spray Arm

Whenever the spray arm is clogged with debris of food, the dishwasher’s capacity to clean cups, plates, and silverware reduces greatly.

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The food particles are also likely to make the machine smelly. To correctly clean the spray arms:

  • Remove the lower and upper arms
  • Hold them, one at a time, over your kitchen sink. Follow this action by scraping off any food debris using a piece of sponge or cotton swab.
  • Run hot water through each of the spray arms to ascertain that all holes are fully open. 

c) Wipe the Interior of the Dishwasher

Grime tends to gather on the inner surfaces of the dishwasher.

Wiping the interior surfaces thoroughly can get rid of any bad odors. 

  • Dislodge the upper and lower racks and wash them using hot water in your kitchen sink. 
  • Wipe the interior of the machine with a sponge or piece of cloth, dampened with hot water.
  • Scrape down the door gasket too since it is likely to have collected mildew and mold.

d) Check Out the Drain Hose  

There might be stagnant water at the base of the machine at the end of each cycle.

You can fix the problem with a bit of troubleshooting. 

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  • Remove the dishwasher machine out from underneath the counter to examine the hose at the back.
  • Ensure the hose is not constrained or bent, which can inhibit the flow and lead to water stagnating in the machine.
  • The wastewater from the kitchen sink might be flowing back into your appliance. Stop this by elevating the drain hose a bit higher. 

e) Don’t Forget To Clean the Door

While you are in the process of cleaning your appliance’s filter, it’s also advisable to clean the door of the machine.

Food debris often tends to accumulate in this part as well. 

An open dishwasher

f) Check for Blockage 

If you realize that the irritating odor hasn’t completely disappeared, then it is time to check out carefully for any blockage.


You might have a blocked vent on the roof. This makes back pressure resulting from an attempt to put water in the pipe, to slow down the water.

The slow movement will make the pipe begin to clog. For the water to go into the pipe freely, there must be an open vent on the house roof.

Typically, this is a pipe connected to the drains but runs toward the roof. Both air and water occupy volume. Hence, for the water to enter, the air in the pipe is pushed out.

The vent will convey the pressure up the roof at the same velocity as that of the flowing water.

Sometimes the vent or the drain is blocked. In such a case, the water will first force the air together with sewer gas, back into the room.

How to Clean Your Dishwasher with Baking Soda and Vinegar 

Despite being natural and safe, vinegar is a powerful anti-odour agent.

Baking soda is also good at neutralizing odors, without the need to apply chemical cleaners.

Baking soda and vinegar for cleaning

You can utilize both in sterilizing your dishwasher by;

· Make sure the dishwasher doesn’t have any dishes in it.

· Pour one cup of white vinegar into a bowl on the topmost rack of the machine

· Run the machine through the hottest cycle possible. The acidic elements in the vinegar will decompose the deposits on the inside of the dishwasher leaving it with a fresh smell

· Take out the bowl from the machine at the end of the cycle.

· Dash one cup of baking soda on the machine’s bottom

· Shortly run the dishwasher through the hottest cycle available to ensure that all the baking soda gets dissolved. The result is a dishwasher that smells clean and fresh.


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