5 Reasons Your Dishwasher Smells Bad

September 6, 2022
Dishwasher Repair

If you’ve ever experienced a smelly dishwasher, you know just how unpleasant it can be. Not only does it make your kitchen smell bad, but it can also make your dishes and utensils dirty all over again. So why does this happen, and what can you do about it? Here are five reasons your dishwasher might smell bad—and how to fix the problem.

1. A filthy filter

Have you ever had your dishwasher start to smell bad, even after you’ve just cleaned it? One of the most common causes of this problem is a dirty filter. Your dishwasher’s filter helps to trap food particles and other debris, keeping them from recirculating through the dirty water. 

Over time, however, the filter can become clogged, allowing the particles to build up and start to decay. This can not only cause an unpleasant smell, but it can also lead to bacteria growth. To prevent this problem, it’s important to clean your dishwasher’s filter on a regular basis.

Solution: Clean the filter

Fortunately, cleaning your filter is a quick and easy process that only takes a few minutes. Start by removing the filter from your dishwasher. Most filters are located either in the bottom of the dishwasher tub or under the lower spray arm. Once you have located the filter, remove any covers and the filter itself. Rinse it off with warm water to remove any loose debris. 

Next, scrub the filter with a soft-bristled brush and a mild detergent. Be sure to pay special attention to the nooks and crannies where grease and grime can build up. Finally, rinse the filter thoroughly with clean water and allow it to air dry before putting it back in place. 

By taking a few minutes to clean your dishwasher filter on a regular basis, you can keep your dishwasher running efficiently for years to come.

2. Leftover food

Have you ever noticed a foul smell emanating from your dishwasher? If so, it is likely that the utensil basket is to blame. Over time, bits of food and grease can build up in the basket, eventually clogging the spray arms and causing the dishwasher to smell bad.

You can help avoid this by pre-rinsing your dishes and thoroughly scraping all food off before running them through the dishwasher.

Solution: Clean the utensil basket, dish racks and spray arms

The good news is that this problem is relatively easy to fix. Simply remove the utensil basket and clean it with hot, soapy water. Be sure to rinse away all traces of soap before putting the basket back in the dishwasher. 

You may also need to clean the spray arms themselves if they are visibly dirty. With a little effort, you can get rid of that unpleasant smell and keep your dishwasher running smoothly.

3. The dishwasher’s water filter failing

If your dishwasher is generally clean and well maintained, but still beginning to smell, it may be an issue with the dishwasher’s internal water filter. Not all dishwashers have an internal filter, but after time they do break down. This can allow hard water, calcium and lime deposits to build up inside the dishwasher. It can also clog the spray arms and filter if left for too long.

Solution: Vinegar rinse

A dishwasher’s internal water filter can be replaced, but in the meantime, a bit of vinegar works wonders. Simply fill a cup with vinegar and place it securely on the top rack of the dishwasher. Then run a normal cycle. 

If the filter or spray arms have become clogged with hard water deposits, vinegar can save the day again. Remove the spray arms and let them soak in a solution of vinegar and water for about 30 minutes.

Important note:

Never mix vinegar with chlorine—this can create toxic fumes. While you may not intentionally use the two at once, they could accidentally interact if there’s still some liquid dishwashing detergent left over in the tray from a recent cycle.

Read your detergent label to see if the solution contains chlorine. If so, wipe out the detergent tray with a damp paper towel before you start the machine. Not only will this help to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh, but it will also prevent any harmful chemicals from being released into the air.

4. A bad hose

If you’ve recently installed your dishwasher, or done DIY repair, and it has begun to smell, a bad connection could be the cause. A poorly connected drain hose could cause dirty water to flow back into the dishwasher, leaving a bad smell behind. If you think this may be the issue, and need assistance, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

5. A leak

One of the most common issues that can make a dishwasher smell bad is a water leak. Even a small leak can cause mold and mildew to grow, and as the problem worsens, the musty smell will become more pronounced. In addition, leaks can also cause other parts of the dishwasher to rust and break down. 

As a result, it’s important to address any leaks as soon as possible to avoid larger repair bills down the road. It’s best to call a professional to assess and fix any leaks.

The bottom line 

If your dishwasher smells bad, it could be due to a number of issues, including grease build-up, a water filter failure or a leak. To fix the problem, you may need to clean the utensil basket and spray arms, replace the water filter or fix a leak. However, if you’re not sure what’s causing the problem or the above solutions don’t help, it’s best to call a professional for assistance.


Leave a Reply