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Why does my dishwasher smell?

Do you have an odour coming from your dishwasher? Find out why your dishwasher smells and how you can stop it.


Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Cleanipedia Team

dishes in a dishwasher
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At one time or another, most of us have opened the dishwasher and been greeted by an unpleasant, even ‘fishy’ smell on our dishes. Though our first instinct might be to point the finger at our dishwasher products, the more likely culprit for those stinky dishes is either hard water, or a dishwasher that’s in need of a good scrubbing.

Over time, food particles build up in the dishwasher’s filter, or in the machine’s small crevices, which can produce an off smell. When that happens, the smell gets passed along to the dishes during the drying cycle. Unless the machine is cleaned out once in a while, the smell will stick around.

But don’t worry, these easy steps will help you fight back:

How to stop a dishwasher smelling bad

  1. Clean the filter

    Start by taking out your dishwasher’s filter and scrubbing it with a stiff brush dipped in hot soapy water. If you’re unsure how to remove the filter, your dishwasher’s manual should have instructions so that you remove and replace it correctly. If you can’t track down the paper manual, you can find it online.

  2. Clean the machine

    If the fishy smell persists even after you’ve cleaned the filter, your next step should be to clean the inside of the dishwasher, using a quick and effective paste made with baking soda, a mild washing-up liquid and hot water. Scrub all around the dishwasher’s interior, making sure to get the gaskets, shelves, and walls. To rinse, run the dishwasher empty on the hottest setting.

  3. Practise prevention

    To help avoid food build up, give your dishes a good rinse before loading the dishwasher, making sure to remove any large chunks of food so they don’t get stuck in the drain and make a stink. We also recommend cleaning out the filter, as well as the inside of the machine, to help avoid food build up. Finally, a limited water supply increases the chances of food debris getting stuck, so try to avoid using other water sources while the dishwasher is filling up so that you don’t inadvertently steal the machine’s pressure.

  4. Check your salt reservoir

    A final step is to give your water softener a peek to see if your salt levels are acceptable. You can also try cycling the salt, or even switching to an iron-removing salt, which can help diminish unwanted odours.

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With some regular cleaning and thoughtful prevention, you should be able to say goodbye to those dishwasher smells for good.

The Poll

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Originally published