A dishwasher takes in the dirtiest of dishware and brings them out spotty clean. However, after a while, you will notice smell4 coming out of the interior of the washer

The smell in the dishwasher can come from burnt plastic, mold growth, the drain and hose being clogged, or even dirty filters. It is essential to understand why dishwasher smells to get rid of it and prevent it from happening again.

Food Residue Buildup: Remove food scraps from dishes before loading them into the dishwasher to prevent odor-causing bacteria growth.
Hard Water Deposits: Use vinegar or a dishwasher cleaner to remove mineral deposits and eliminate unpleasant odors caused by hard water buildup.
Mold and Mildew: Keep the dishwasher door and seals dry between uses to discourage mold and mildew growth.
Clogged Drain: Regularly clean the dishwasher filter and check for clogs in the drain to prevent stagnant water and foul odors.

Why Dishwasher Smells? 

Dishwashers are convenient cleaning tools. The last thing you want is an unpleasant odor coming out of it.

Before you go off and start blaming the company or call out technicians, understand why and where the odor is coming from.

Here are some possible reasons why your dishwasher smells bad:

Leaking Drain Hose

The drain hose is what gets rid of the nasty water after a wash cycle. As the dishwasher keeps cleaning the dishware, the residue left in the water gets drained by the hose.

Leaking Drain Hose
Leaking Drain Hose

The drain itself accumulates the residue and for some reason if there is a leak you will. The smell of the residue escapes through the leak.


Check the drainage pipe for signs of leakage, or runny water coming out of it and you will know where the problem is. 

Clogged Dishwasher Filter

The dishwasher filter prevents the big chunks left on the plates and bowls from going into the spray arms and the water pump. These food chunks leave residue on the filter that needs to be cleaned out regularly.

Some of that residue gets absorbed by the wall of the filter and starts accumulating. If you do not change out the filter after a while it gets clogged with all the nasty stuff that comes out of the dishes.


Moist Environment

The warm and humid environment inside the dishwasher is ideal for bacteria to reproduce. Just like how your socks and shoes smell, bacteria can cause the interior of the dishwasher to smell.

This environment is also mold-friendly. If you keep your dishwasher in this state constantly, there will be mold and mildew growth. These will cover the rubber seals, around the door and hidden in every corner.


Grease Buildup

Grease and oil from the dishware can stay jammed up in the dishwasher wall, pipes, and other hard-to-reach parts of it. Over time the grease starts to oxidize and throw a bad smell out in the air.

This grease not only has a bad odor but is bad for the overall efficiency of the dishwasher as well. This oil can even accumulate on the dishwasher compartment door.

Standing Water

This is the most common cause of bad dishwasher odor. If there is standing water, the dishwasher smells after a wash cycle. You may have to dig deep to find out what is causing the water to stand.

The dishwasher’s pump, drain valve, and hose are the main culprits behind leaving standing water inside and washing the dishes.

After the wash is complete, it must drain the bad water before the spray arms can get ready for a new cycle. This water is what causes the bad smell from the dishwasher.


How to Get Rid of Dishwasher Smell?

Now you know why the dishwasher stinks. But there is still a step left. There are quite a few ways to get rid of the dishwasher odor.

Getting rid of the smell is important so that it does not affect the dishware. If the odor persists it will make your dishes smell as well and you will not be able to use them with the stench.

Follow these steps to make sure the smell is gone:

Thorough Cleaning

  1. Many dishwashers like the Electromenager, and Midea have self-cleaning features. All you need to do is push a button to turn it on and it will do a self-cleaning cycle.
  2. For the manual ones you will have to thoroughly clean every nook and cranny to get the smell out. Start with changing out the filters if they are damaged. If not, hold it under running water to clean it and place it back in the dishwasher.
  3. Remove the spray arms and clean any debris along the joints so they can move freely. Wipe down the whole interior with Finish dishwasher cleaners. Make sure to clean the door gasket as well.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar works wonders on dishwasher cleaning. It is a natural remedy to get rid of the smell coming from grease and other food particles that get clogged in different parts of the dishwasher.

It helps break them down and slowly drain them using the drain line. Put a cup full of vinegar on the top rack and then do an empty hot water wash cycle.


After running a vinegar cycle sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a short cycle. Use about a cup full and it should freshen it up.

Dishwasher Salt

If the smell is coming from lime scale buildup or other debris because of hard water you will have to replenish the dishwasher salt.

It helps soften the water and reduce the amount of minerals in it. These minerals stay latched onto the surfaces and create a cloudy mark. The smell comes from this accumulation.

Read “Is dishwasher salt necessary” to get a better idea of how it works.


After each wash cycle, leave the door open for moisture to escape. If you have water standing in the compartment, drain it through the hose.

Ventilation reduces the moist environment so bacteria and other germs cannot reproduce and develop the smell inside the dishwasher.

Preventive Measures for Dishwasher Odor

Dishwasher odor can get on anyone’s nerves. You should always be proactive and prevent anything that can cause dishwasher smells.

Here are some tips to keep your dishwasher odor-free:

  • Rinse off big food chunks left in the dishware before you put it in to clean.
  • Take the time to clean the dishwasher filter every other week or at least once a month so the food debris does not accumulate.
  • Avoid overloading the dishwasher. Overloading can restrict the flow of water inside the compartment and cause the water to stand.
  • If the dishwasher has a self-cleaning feature run it preemptively to avoid having to deal with the smell.
  • Regularly check the drainage system for leakage of any sort.
  • If the smell persists, contact a technician to check out the whole system for faults.

Why Dishwasher Smells – (FAQs)

Why do dishes smell bad after dishwasher cleaning?

The most common reason behind smelly dishes is a dirty dishwasher and the water filter not working. 

How do you clean the hose of a smelly dishwasher?

Mix baking soda with vinegar and pour it down the drain. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes and then run a rinse cycle. It will clear out the drain pipe.

What is a good dishwasher that does not smell?

There are quite a few in the market with front loading that pulls in fresh air to dry the tub. A good example of that would be the GE UltraFresh.

How to clean the dishwasher if I do not have vinegar or soda?

Quite a few people prefer using citric acid solutions to clean their dishwasher instead of vinegar or baking soda. Put a tablespoon or two full citric inside the detergent compartment and run an empty cycle.

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