Guides and Tips

Why does my dishwasher smell?

October 31, 2022
Why does my dishwasher smell

Your dishwasher may smell unpleasant because of a dirty filter, a clogged spray arm, soap-scum buildup, or other reasons.

Lucky for you, dealing with them is a piece of cake, and you most likely have all the things you need at home, like a brush, baking soda, or vinegar. And so, you won’t need to hire a dishwashing pro at all.

In this guide, we will elaborate more on the causes of a stinky dishwasher and how you can fix it yourself step by step.

1) Dirty Filter

Dirty Filter

Most of the time, a bad-smelling dishwasher can be attributed to a dirty filter.

In the process of cleaning greasy and food-stained plates, some residues can get trapped in the filter. And because they are trapped tightly within the filter, running the dishwasher normally often fails to get them out.

What to Do 🧽 

If you’ve pinpointed the dishwasher odor issue comes from a dirty filter, follow the steps below to fix it:

Step 1: Consult the product manual to know how to remove the filter.

Step 2: Take out the lower rack of your dishwasher to access the filter in question.

Step 3: Unscrew the filter and remove it.

Step 4: Rinse the filter with warm water.

Step 5: Return the filter to the dishwasher.

2) Clogged Spray Arm

Clogged Spray Arm

The spray arm is a rotor blade or fan-shaped part of the dishwasher. It distributes the water around the unit to wash the plates, utensils, glasses, and the like.

This component usually has holes on its top and bottom. When it’s in motion, food particles can come in contact with it and collect in these recesses.

This could not only affect the performance of the spray arm but also make it carry unpleasant odors.

What to Do 🧽 

Here are the steps for cleaning your dishwasher’s blocked spray arm:

Step 1: Detach the arms from the dishwasher.

Step 2: Hold each one over the bathroom or kitchen sink.

Step 3: Use a small brush or toothpick to get the food particles out of the holes.

Step 4: Rinse the holes under running water to clean them thoroughly.

Step 5: Return the spray arms to their respective locations in the unit.

3) Faulty Drain Hose

Faulty Drain Hose

The drain hose performs a vital role with regard to the unit. It works to remove dirty water and food residues from the dishwasher and transport them toward the garbage disposal system.

It’s therefore easy to see that a problematic drain hose can leave pungent unpleasant odors in your dishwasher.

A faulty drain house may be repaired DIY or by a professional plumber or dishwasher tradesman.

What to Do 🧽 

That said, a minor drain hose issue in the dishwasher can often be solved by simply straightening it out. Follow the steps below for that:

Step 1: Pull the dishwasher away from the wall.

Step 2: Inspect the drain hose and see if it’s bent or crooked.

Step 3: If it is, try to straighten the drain hose.

4) Soap-Scum and Food Buildup

Soap-Scum and Food Buildup

Similar to the shower, soap scum can build up in your dishwasher over time. This can cause a blockage in the drain while also trapping food particles, which, in turn, causes your unit to smell bad.

Usually, the foul smell can dissipate on its own if you regularly clean the appliance. If it remains, you can just run the appliance on one cleaning cycle with white vinegar.

White vinegar is an excellent natural cleaning solution containing 4 to 7 percent of acetic acid. Its acidity will help to break down food waste and soap scum and get rid of bad odors too.

What to Do 🧽 

If your dishwasher has soap scum and food buildup, here are the steps to clear them:

Step 1: Pour two cups of white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl or container. 

Step 2: Run the empty dishwasher on one cleaning cycle.

Step 3: Then, punch the air-dry button on the dishwasher for even room-temperature air drying.

5) Funky Gasket

Funky Gasket

Another inconspicuous culprit of a smelly dishwasher is the gasket seal. That is because it can have mold and mildew if left wet over a given period; these may leave a musty smell.

The appliance may be broken, causing the water to splash onto the gasket seals while it’s in use.

However, some dishwasher models are designed like this. And if yours is, this is how you should clean it; otherwise, you can hire a dishwasher specialist to repair the system and/or its gasket.

What to Do 🧽 

Step 1: Clean the gasket crevices with a damp cloth and soap.

Step 2: Wipe them dry with a new clean cloth.

How do I prevent my dishwasher from reeking in the future?

How do I prevent my dishwasher from reeking in the future

You can keep your dishwasher from having a foul smell and working inefficiently in the future by changing some of your cleaning habits.

  • Clean the dishwasher’s filter regularly to prevent food debris blockages.
  • Scrub off large or sticky food residues before placing them in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t overstuff the dishwasher with tableware and other items to allow water and soap to pass and wash through them normally.
  • Run the empty dishwasher periodically on a single cleaning cycle with baking soda or white vinegar to break down food debris and take out bad odors.

FAQs about Smelly Dishwashers

FAQs about Smelly Dishwashers
  1. Why does the dishwasher smell like burning plastic?

If your dishwasher smells like burning plastic, it may be because you have put plastic items or packaging inside the appliance and they have fallen to rest on the heating element.

It’s not safe to do this because this produces chemicals that may contaminate the cutlery, glassware, and other things you are washing inside the dishwasher.

  1. Why does my dishwasher smell like gas?

The dishwasher doesn’t run on gas, so the smell must be coming from the food residues and grease inside it. Periodically cleaning your unit should entirely get rid of this lingering gas odor.

Or, it may have come from standing water used to wash through these very same food particles caused by a damaged drain hose or drain. For this, you would have to get a plumbing or dishwashing professional who can replace or fix this part for you.

  1. Why does my new dishwasher smell?

Your new dishwasher can have that “factory scent,” but it’s nothing to worry about. The production process just results in this “newness” odor.

The production odor will just go away on its own as you use the dishwasher. It usually takes about two weeks for it to be gone completely.

But if you’re really bothered by it, then you can just run the dishwasher on several cycles with dish soap, which should do the trick.

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