How do I get rid of a bad smell in my dishwasher?

How do I get rid of a bad smell in my dishwasher?

A bad smell in your dishwasher can be frustrating and unpleasant. It’s a problem many homeowners in Canada face, but fortunately, there are solutions. In this article, we’ll discuss the common causes of bad smells in dishwashers and provide practical tips and DIY remedies for eliminating them.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bad smells in your dishwasher can be caused by leftover food debris, clogged filters, and bacterial growth.
  • Regular cleaning and maintenance routines are essential for preventing and eliminating bad smells.
  • DIY remedies like using baking soda, vinegar, or lemon juice can help neutralize odours.
  • Preventive measures like rinsing dishes before loading and avoiding overloading can help keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.
  • Consider hiring professional dishwasher cleaning services if persistent bad smells persist despite your best efforts.

Common Causes of a Bad Smell in Your Dishwasher

A bad smell in your dishwasher can be caused by a variety of factors. Understanding the root cause of the problem is essential in effectively combating the odour. Below are some common causes of a bad smell in your dishwasher:

Leftover Food Debris

One of the most common causes of a foul odour is leftover food debris. Food particles can accumulate in hard-to-reach areas of the dishwasher, such as the spray arm, filters, and crevices. Over time, the food particles can decompose, producing a bad smell.

Bacterial Growth

Another common cause of a bad smell is the growth of bacteria in your dishwasher. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments and can accumulate in your dishwasher if left uncleaned. The bacteria can produce a bad smell that can be difficult to eliminate without proper cleaning.

Clogged Filters

Filters play an essential role in trapping food particles and preventing them from entering the dishwasher’s plumbing system. Over time, filters can become clogged, restricting water flow and allowing food debris to accumulate, contributing to the bad smell.

Hard Water

Hard water can also contribute to a bad smell in your dishwasher. The minerals in hard water can build up in your dishwasher’s interior, leaving a white film and an unpleasant odour.

Pro Tip: If your dishwasher smells like rotten eggs, it could be a sign of a gas leak and requires immediate attention from a professional.

Proper Cleaning and Maintenance Routines

Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential in preventing and eliminating bad smells in your dishwasher. Follow these tips to ensure your dishwasher is kept fresh and odour-free:

  • Clean the filter: Remove the filter and wash away any accumulated food debris with warm soapy water. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific cleaning recommendations.
  • Scrub the interior: Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to scrub the interior of the dishwasher, paying particular attention to areas where food particles tend to accumulate. Rinse with water and wipe dry with a clean cloth.
  • Use dishwasher-safe cleaning agents: Avoid using regular dish soap or household cleaners in your dishwasher, as they can cause damage and leave behind residue. Instead, opt for dishwasher-safe cleaning agents specifically formulated for use in dishwashers.
  • Wipe down the door and seals: Wipe down the dishwasher door and rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove any accumulated grime or dirt.
  • Run a maintenance cycle: Many dishwashers come with a maintenance cycle option that helps to clean and sanitize the interior of the appliance. Run this cycle regularly to keep your dishwasher in good working order.

By incorporating these cleaning and maintenance routines into your household chores, you’ll be able to prevent and eliminate bad smells in your dishwasher. Not only will this make your dishes cleaner and fresher, but it will also extend the lifespan of your dishwasher and save you money on costly repairs.

DIY remedies to remove bad smells

If you’re tired of a bad smell lingering in your dishwasher and want to try some cost-effective and natural options, look no further. These DIY remedies can help remove bad smells and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

1. Baking soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can help eliminate bad smells in your dishwasher. Simply sprinkle a cup of baking soda at the bottom of your dishwasher and run it on a hot cycle. The baking soda will absorb the bad odours and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh. You can repeat this process regularly for maintenance.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar is another natural option for removing bad smells from your dishwasher. Fill a dishwasher-safe cup with white vinegar and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run the dishwasher on a hot cycle, and the vinegar will help remove any lingering odours. You can also wipe down the dishwasher’s interior with a cloth soaked in vinegar for added cleaning benefits.

3. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a natural acidic solution that can help eliminate bad smells and bacteria in your dishwasher. Simply cut a lemon in half and place it face down on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run your dishwasher on a hot cycle, and the lemon juice will help disinfect and deodorize the dishwasher’s interior. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice to your dishwasher detergent for added cleaning benefits.

Remember to remove any leftover food debris from your dishwasher and clean the filter regularly to prevent bad smells from building up. These simple and natural DIY remedies can help remove bad smells and keep your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Cleaning the Dishwasher Interior

Regular cleaning of the dishwasher interior is crucial to prevent bad smells from developing. The interior of a dishwasher can collect food particles, grease, and soap scum, resulting in odour buildup. Here are some step-by-step instructions on how to clean the interior of your dishwasher:

  1. Empty the dishwasher: Make sure the dishwasher is empty before starting the cleaning process.
  2. Remove the bottom rack: Take out the bottom rack to access the dishwasher’s interior.
  3. Wipe down the interior: Use a damp cloth to wipe down the interior of the dishwasher, paying close attention to the sides, door, and hinges.
  4. Scrub the spray arms: Remove the spray arms, and scrub them with a non-abrasive brush to remove any buildup or debris that may be clogging the spray holes.
  5. Clean the dishwasher filter: Locate the dishwasher filter, which is usually located at the bottom of the machine. Remove the filter, and clean it thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
  6. Deodorize with baking soda: Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for several hours. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can help neutralize bad smells.
  7. Run a cleaning cycle: Run a cleaning cycle using dishwasher-safe cleaning agents to sanitize the dishwasher’s interior and kill any remaining bacteria or odours. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended usage and dosage.
  8. Replace the bottom rack: Once the interior is clean and dry, replace the bottom rack.

Regular cleaning of the dishwasher interior can help eliminate bad smells and ensure a fresh-smelling dishwasher.

Addressing Clogged Filters and Drains

If you have tried cleaning your dishwasher and the bad smell lingers, then your filters or drains may be clogged. Your dishwasher’s filters and drains play an essential role in removing food particles and debris from the water. However, over time, they can become blocked, allowing bacteria to thrive and produce foul smells. Here’s what you can do to restore your dishwasher’s optimal performance:

Identifying clogged filters

Filters are usually located at the bottom of a dishwasher’s tub, behind the spray arm. Remove the filters and examine them for any visible debris or clogs. If you have a hard time removing the filter or any other component from your dishwasher, consult the manufacturer’s instructions manual for guidance.

Cleaning the filters

Soak the filters in hot, soapy water for about 10 minutes before scrubbing them with a soft-bristle brush. Rinse them thoroughly to remove any remaining debris and allow them to dry before re-installing them in the dishwasher.

Clearing clogged drains

If your dishwasher’s drains are clogged, they may need to be manually cleared. You can use a wire hanger or a toothbrush to remove any debris or food particles stuck in the drain. You can also use a dishwasher-safe drain cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to check that any cleaners used are safe for the type of dishwasher you own.

Regularly cleaning and maintaining your dishwasher’s filters and drains helps prevent bad smells and maintain optimal performance. It’s essential to check and clear them periodically to avoid breakdowns and ensure efficient operation.

Preventive measures to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh

Ensuring a fresh-smelling dishwasher involves more than just addressing the root cause of the problem. It requires regular preventive measures to keep odours at bay and maintain a hygienic environment. Here are some practical tips to help you maintain a fresh-smelling dishwasher:

  • Rinse dishes before loading: Scrapping off excess food and giving your dishes a quick rinse before loading them in the dishwasher can help prevent food buildup and reduce the chances of foul odours.
  • Avoid overloading: Overcrowding the dishwasher can hinder adequate water flow and prevent proper cleaning and drying. It can also lead to leftover food debris and contribute to odour buildup.
  • Run maintenance cycles: Running a maintenance cycle on your dishwasher every few months can help eliminate any hidden odour sources and keep the interior clean and fresh. Follow your dishwasher’s manual to ensure you are running the appropriate cycle.
  • Keep dishwasher dry: After completing a cycle, leave the door ajar for a while to allow the dishwasher’s interior to air-dry. This prevents moisture buildup and inhibits bacterial growth.

Remember, preventive measures are key to keeping your dishwasher smelling fresh and clean. Implementing these tips can not only prevent odors but also prolong your dishwasher’s lifespan and improve its efficiency.

Professional Dishwasher Cleaning Services

If you are struggling to get rid of bad smells in your dishwasher despite following our tips, you may want to consider hiring a professional dishwasher cleaning service. Not only can they eliminate persistent odours, but they can also improve the overall performance of your dishwasher.

Professional cleaning services have the expertise and equipment necessary to deep clean your dishwasher. They will disassemble the unit and clean each component thoroughly, including hard-to-reach areas like the spray arms and pumps. They will also remove any clogs in the filters and drains, ensuring that your dishwasher runs efficiently.

Additionally, professional cleaners use specialized cleaning agents that are safe for your dishwasher and effective at removing bad smells. These products are not always available to the general public and can be expensive to purchase.

While hiring a professional cleaning service may seem costly, it can save you money in the long run by preventing damage to your dishwasher and prolonging its lifespan. Plus, the peace of mind of having a fresh-smelling, properly functioning dishwasher is priceless.

Tip: Before hiring a professional dishwasher cleaning service, be sure to do your research and choose a reliable and experienced provider. Check online reviews and ask for recommendations from friends and family.

Troubleshooting persistent bad smells

If you still notice a bad smell in your dishwasher after trying the previous methods, there might be an underlying issue that requires further investigation. Follow these additional troubleshooting steps to get to the root of the problem:

  1. Check the water supply: Ensure that the water supply to your dishwasher is clean and not contaminated. If you suspect the water supply might be causing the smell, contact a plumber to inspect and resolve the issue.
  2. Examine the dishwasher’s components: Inspect the dishwasher’s components, including spray arms, gaskets, and seals, for any signs of damage or wear. Replace any damaged parts that might be causing the bad smell.
  3. Seek professional help: If all else fails, consider contacting a professional dishwasher repair technician to diagnose and resolve the issue. They have the expertise and tools to identify the root cause of the problem and restore your dishwasher to optimal performance.

Remember, it’s essential to troubleshoot and address persistent bad smells promptly. Persistent bad smells not only affect the quality of your dishes but also your health and wellbeing. Don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance if necessary.

troubleshooting persistent bad smells


Eliminating bad smells from your dishwasher can be frustrating, but with the right approach, it’s a problem that can be solved. Regular cleaning, maintenance, and preventive measures are essential to keeping your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Remember to remove food particles, clean filters and drains, and use dishwasher-safe cleaning agents to combat odour buildup. Additionally, practicing rinsing dishes before loading, avoiding overloading, and running regular maintenance cycles can prevent bad smells from recurring.

If your best efforts fail, persistently bad smells could indicate a more significant issue. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from professional cleaning services or troubleshooting guides to get to the root of the problem.

By following the tips outlined in this article, you can take control of the bad smells in your dishwasher and enjoy a clean, fresh-smelling appliance.

Max Appliance Repair

Written by Max | An appliance repair technician with more than 15 years experience in appliance repair services in Toronto and the GTA.

Disclaimer: This post "How do I get rid of a bad smell in my dishwasher?" is for information purposes only. If you need specific help, please contact Max Appliance Repair at