How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher

Do you notice a funky odor every time you open the dishwasher door? Don’t worry, you're not alone. Over time, bits of food and grease can build up inside your dishwasher, causing unpleasant smells.

By following a few simple steps, you can rinse away those odors and keep your dishwasher fresh without the use of specific dishwasher cleaner. Read on to learn how to clean and maintain your dishwasher, ensuring it stays in top condition every time you use your dishwasher using normal household stuff.

Why does a dishwasher start to smell bad?

A dishwasher can start to stink for a few reasons. The primary cause is food buildup. Bits of food waste from dirty dishes can get trapped in the drain filter and crevices of the dishwasher. Over time, these particles rot and cause unpleasant odors.

Grease and oil from dishes can also accumulate inside the dishwasher. This greasy buildup can lead to bacteria growth, contributing to bad smells.

Another common issue is mildew or mold. If water isn't draining properly or if the dishwasher isn't drying completely, moisture can lead to mold growth. Hard water deposits can also clog the dishwasher drain and cause odors.

How to Get Rid of That Bad Dishwasher Smell

Step 1: Clean the Drain Filter and Spray Arms

dirty drain filter

First, remove the drain filter at the bottom of the dishwasher. This filter might have some leftover food, which rots and cause bad smells. Clean the drain filter thoroughly with warm, soapy water to eliminate any trapped food debris. For this use our dishwashing detergent sheet.

Next, check the spray arms. They can also get clogged with debris. Remove the spray arms if possible, and clean them with warm, soapy water. Use a brush or old toothbrush to clear any clogged holes to ensure they spray water effectively. Most of the times this would already solve a stinky dishwasher, but to make sure no smell may linger on let's continue.

clean drain filter

Step 2: Empty the Detergent Dispenser and Clean Door Gaskets

The detergent dispenser can accumulate residue over time. Clear any residue from the dispenser to ensure it works properly during each wash cycle.

Then, wipe down the door gaskets. These rubber seals around the door can trap hidden bits of food and grime. Use a damp cloth to clean them thoroughly, ensuring you remove all hidden debris.

Step 3: Scrub Out the Interior

Use a damp cloth or sponge to scrub the interior surfaces of your dishwasher. Focus on the bottom lip and other hard-to-reach areas where food debris and grime can accumulate. Cleaning these areas will help keep your dishwasher smelling fresh and running efficiently.

How to Keep Your Dishwasher From a Bad Smell: Vinegar and Baking Soda

Now you've done the 3 steps. it's time to run a hot wash cycle. Start by placing a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run a hot cleaning cycle with the dishwasher empty except for the vinegar. This helps break down any lingering grime and eliminates odors.

After the vinegar cycle, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a short cycle with hot water. The combination of vinegar and baking soda will neutralize any remaining odors and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Drying Tips:

  1. Air Dry the Dishwasher: After the final rinse cycle, open the dishwasher door slightly to allow it to air dry. This helps prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and mildew.

  2. Use a Clean, Dry Cloth: Wipe down the interior surfaces, including the door and seals, with a clean, dry cloth. This helps remove any remaining moisture and prevents water spots.

  3. Check and Clean the Drain Hose: Ensure the drain hose is clear and properly positioned. A properly functioning drain hose helps remove excess water during the final rinse, aiding the drying process.

How to Prevent the Odor from Reoccurring

To keep your dishwasher smelling fresh, regular maintenance is essential. Here are some simple tips to help you keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free.

Clean the filter and spray arms monthly. Remove the drain filter and wash it thoroughly to eliminate any trapped food particles. Check the spray arms for debris and clean them as well. This prevents buildup that can cause unpleasant odors.

Run an empty hot cycle with vinegar every few months. Place a cup of white vinegar on the top rack of your empty dishwasher and run a hot cycle. The vinegar helps to clean and deodorize the interior, keeping it fresh.

Ensure the drain hose is clear and properly positioned. A clogged or improperly positioned drain hose can cause water to back up, leading to bad smells. Make sure the drain hose is free of obstructions and correctly installed to avoid this issue.

clean drain pipes

By following these maintenance tips, you can banish bad odors and keep your dishwasher in top condition. Regular cleaning and care will ensure your dishwasher stays fresh and efficient.

How to Make Your Dishwasher Smelling Fresh

vinigar baking soda and lemon to keep a dishwasher fresh

Keeping your dishwasher fresh and clean doesn't have to involve harsh chemicals such as bleach. You can use natural ingredients that are safe and effective. Here’s how to clean your dishwasher naturally:

Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is a natural deodorizer and cleaner. You can use either fresh lemon juice squeezed from lemons or bottled lemon juice. Pour a cup of lemon juice into the bottom of your dishwasher and run a hot wash cycle. The acidity in the lemon juice helps to break down grime and leaves your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Baking Soda: Baking soda is excellent for neutralizing odors. After using lemon juice or vinegar, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Run a short, hot cycle. Baking soda will absorb any remaining smells and give your dishwasher a fresh scent.

Essential Oils: Essential oils not only add a pleasant fragrance but also have antibacterial properties. Add a few drops of essential oil, like lemon or tea tree oil, to the bottom of the dishwasher or mix it with baking soda before running a cycle. This will leave your dishwasher smelling lovely and help kill any lingering bacteria.