Smelly Dishwasher

open dishwasher with clean glasses and dishes

How To Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

Gone are the days when dishwashers were regarded as luxury items. Today, these appliances are a must-have in your kitchen, similar to ovens and refrigerators. Some realtors even admit that homes with dishwashing equipment fetch better prices in the real estate market, further highlighting its importance in modern times. Cleaning dirty dishes is among the top chores most people would rather skip; a dishwasher handles these tasks efficiently. However, like other kitchen appliances, a dishwasher needs a clean up every once in a while. Food leftovers, when not properly dealt with, can leave you with a stinky dishwasher.


Read on to discover our tips on how to keep your dishwasher odor-free and in prime working condition.

  • Why Does Your Dishwasher Stink?



It seems ironic how a dishwasher could get smelly, yet it frequently encounters hot and soapy water every time you clean your utensils. Even with water and detergent constantly running through the appliance, not all food leftovers are washed away. Oil, grease and bits of food that wash off utensils at times get stuck in the appliance and over time contribute to a foul-smelling dishwasher.


The smells become more pungent if the bits are from flavorful dishes such as fish. The inside of the door, drain filter and arm ports are the most common areas where food bits get stuck in your dishwasher. Other possible reasons for a smelly dishwasher include leaving the dishwasher door closed for a long period, like when you are away on vacation and standing water in your dishwasher.


  • What You Need to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher


Luckily, cleaning this appliance is not as complicated as it sounds. Even better, most of the materials you need for the clean up are readily available in your home. To neutralize the odor from your dishwasher, you will require the following items:
• Vinegar
• Baking soda
• Scrubbing brush with soft bristles
• Water bowl or dish
• Toothpick or flexible wire
• Hot water
• Soap or detergent



The drain filter in your dishwashing appliance is meant to prevent clogging of food bits which is the major cause of foul smells. For most modern appliances, the screen filter will be located at the bottom of your dishwasher. Though you can clean it while still in place, it’s always advisable to detach it and clean it separately. Refer to the user manual on how to detach the drainage filter.






Place the filter in your kitchen sink, then add hot soapy water. Using your scrubbing brush, gently scrape off debris from all the notches in the filter. Repeat until the filter is gunk-free; then rinse with clean water and wipe it clean before reinserting it in your appliance.


  • Washing the Spray Arms


A dishwasher’s cleaning efficiently diminishes significantly when the upper and lower spray arms become clogged by food debris. To clean, remove the upper dish rack to access the top and bottom spray arms and spread them over the kitchen sink. Using the toothpick or flexible wire, carefully pick out any grime. After that, run hot water through the spray holes until they are clear. Rinse the arms and reinstall them in their usual position.



  • Cleaning the Inner Portions of your Dishwasher


Over time, your dishwasher’s door and interior walls get coated with oil, grime and soap scum leading to unpleasant smells. To clean, open the door all the way, then using a brush or soapy microfiber cloth, remove any grime that may have accumulated between the door and washing basin. Also, inspect your door gaskets for any soapy scum or mold. Wipe away all the grime in your interior wall lining for a sparkling clean dishwasher.


  • Getting Rid of Odor Using Vinegar and Baking Soda


Vinegar is one of the most capable odor-removing agents available in our homes. When used with baking soda, vinegar effectively neutralizes foul smells without causing chemical damage to dishwasher components. For better results, empty your dishwashing equipment, fill your washing bowl with one cup full of white vinegar and place it in the upper dish rack. Next, without adding any soap or detergent, set your dishwasher to run the hottest cleaning cycle. The acidic nature of vinegar enables it to easily break down any grime that accumulates on the inner components leaving your dishwasher clean and free of odor.



Remember to remove your bowl after a full cleaning cycle. Lastly, spread one cup of baking soda evenly on the dishwasher basin. Repeat the high-heat cleaning cycle without using soap or detergent. Using a combination of white vinegar and baking soda is a good way to eliminate any mineral deposits arising from constantly using hard water for utensil cleaning.


  • Best Practices on How to Avoid a Smelly Dishwasher


The best way to avoid embarrassing smells from your dishwasher is through regular deep cleaning. Below are some tips on how to go about it:
• Thoroughly scrape off any oil and food debris from your utensils before loading them into the appliance. This act reduces the possibility of clogging in the drain filter.
• Clean the arm sprays, filters and interior wall linings at least once a month to avoid grime build-up.
• Regularly run heat cycles using baking soda and vinegar for best results.



At Cleanzen, we understand the trouble that homeowners endure when it comes to dishwasher cleanup. Our Chicago service professionals are well trained on how to handle both old and new generation dishwashers. We operate with efficiency and use eco-friendly products for all our dishwashing engagements. Give us a call today, and let us take care of your dishwasher odor problem.


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