The kitchen is one of the most high-traffic areas of the house and having the area taken over by an offensive smell severely impacts your enjoyment of the living space. If you use your dishwasher often, it is only a matter of time before it starts to smell. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to clean a smelly dishwasher before it becomes a severe problem.
With every load of dishes, food particles and leftover grease fall off your plates and into nooks and crannies. Letting this dirt build up and continually get wet leads to grime and mildew. If you get a whiff of a sewer smell in the kitchen even with an empty dishwasher, this machine is probably the culprit.
Don’t be embarrassed! Dishwasher odor is one of the most common household issues, and as long as you add dishwasher cleaning to your kitchen cleaning checklist, you will be set!
Cleaning a Stinky Dishwasher
The reason your dishwasher smells is likely because there is hidden gunk in the bottom of your dishwasher. Other sections to check for moldy debris are the grooves and rubber within the parts of the machine. This means you have to grab your cleaning supplies and get your hands dirty.
Some recipes use standard ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and Borax. Others include a homemade dishwasher detergent without Borax or baking soda. Try one option to see if it works for you and if you don’t get the results you want, select a different one to see if you have more luck.
1. How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher
While soapy water may do the trick if you clean your dishwasher regularly, if you are already at the point of smelling an unwelcome odor, you may need a more substantial cleaning option, such as this all-purpose kitchen cleaner.
Grab a spray bottle and pour in the baking soda and water. Shake until the baking soda dissolves. Add the dish soap and swirl until mixed. Spray your cleaner directly onto the dishwasher surface and wipe down with a dry cloth or paper towel.
2. Wash Inside of the Dishwasher
No matter which smelly dishwasher remedy you use to clean, make sure to clean the inside of dishwasher. You should be able to reach every part of the inside of the dishwasher, and that means you may have to remove the top and bottom rack.
If you’re able to disassemble your dishwasher racks, give them a good cleaning, as well. The same goes for the door gasket.
A lot of food gets stuck in the flexible rubber, so remove it if you can or make sure you get behind it and give it a good scrub. You can clean dishwasher with bleach or any of the other mixtures on this list.
3. Clean a Dishwasher with Vinegar
Cleaning a stinky dishwasher is easy so long as you have the right ingredients. White vinegar is one of the best household items to use to clean just about anything in your home, and your dishwasher is no exception. Cleaning dishwasher with vinegar is easy, cost-effective, and it sanitizes at the same time.
Clean a dishwasher with vinegar by placing at least a cup of the liquid in a dishwasher-safe cup and putting it in the top rack. Run a full cycle using hot water.
This disinfects the machine and gets rid of any loose particles and soap scum. When the cycle finishes, wipe down the interior of the dishwasher with a paper towel or a clean cloth to remove debris and leftover residue, if any.
4. Cleaning a Stinky Dishwasher with Baking Soda and Vinegar
If your machine is in really bad shape, vinegar alone might not be enough. Clean a dishwasher with vinegar and a little bit of baking soda by placing the dishwasher-safe cup in the top rack. Run it as we mentioned previously.
Grab a cup of baking soda and sprinkle it over the bottom of the dishwasher. Run one more cycle, but one of the shortest this time. The hot water should dissolve the baking soda, allowing the de-odorizing effect to take hold.
5. DIY Dishwasher Cleaner
This DIY dishwasher cleaner is excellent if you can’t wait around while you run cycles. Create these dishwasher balls and then leave them at the bottom of the dishwasher overnight.
Combine the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda in a small bowl until it has a consistency similar to damp sand. Scoop out some of the mixture using a large spoon and form it into a large ball. Place the ball in the bottom of the dishwasher overnight.
In the morning, pour the vinegar and essential oils into a dishwasher-safe cup and put it on the top rack. Place another of the large cleaner balls on the bottom shelf and run it on the hottest cycle. This recipe is bound to get out even the toughest odors.
6. Remove Hard Water Stains and Build-Up
The source of your dishwashing machine smell could be the kind of water you have at your house. Hard water can leave deposits and mineral build-up on the inside walls of your unit.
Instead of putting a cup of vinegar in the top rack, use a small container of lemon juice to deal with this issue. As with the vinegar, run the machine on the hottest cycle. The lemon juice removes the iron build-up to get rid of the hard water spots. If this is a recurring problem, use a water softener to fix the hard water problem.
7. Dishwasher Cleaner for Stainless Steel
Not all ingredients work with stainless steel. To ensure you don’t damage your dishwasher door or any other part of your dishwashing machine, use a cleaner specifically for stainless steel.
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and allow time for the foam to subside before replacing the lid. Spray your stainless steel dishwasher and use a dry cloth to wipe it.
Follow the grain as you wipe. Dry with a towel to avoid streaking.
8. Check the Drain Filter
If you find that no matter how often you clean your dishwasher that the smell continues to come back, there may be a deeper issue. The first thing to check is your dishwasher filter, as it is often the source of the odor.
If there are a lot of decaying food bits stuck in the filter, it is past time to replace it. To prevent this situation, clean your screen periodically. Remove the bottom rack to access the filter and clean it with a sponge and soapy water.
9. Look at the Garbage Disposal
If you’ve cleaned out your dishwasher and followed our other simple steps and find that the problem persists, then check your garbage disposal. Often these two kitchen appliances are connected to the same central hose.
When you use your garbage disposal, the food fragments could be going back up the drain hose into the dishwasher. Detach the hose and clean it using a wire and a damp rag.
10. How to Fix a Smelly Dishwasher
After you’ve gotten rid of that lousy dishwasher smell, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. The odor could be a sign of an underlying cause that requires dishwasher repair. Unfortunately, this means that your problem isn’t going to go away with the right cleaner and a little elbow grease.
The most important places to check, aside from the filter and garbage disposal, are the drain hose and the sprayer arm heating element. It’s possible your machine was installed incorrectly.
To rule this out, double-check that your drain hose is functioning correctly and that you don’t have any waste water. Ensure there are no clogs in the hose that could be causing problems.
You can also check to make sure there is no problem with the electrical connection. If you find an issue with any of the parts mentioned above, your best option is to call an electrician or appliance repair person to fix the problem.
Once you’ve got your dishwasher issues solved, you can get the most out of your unit by following this guide for cleaning baseball caps in your machine. You can learn more great DIY tips by learning how to make your own homemade dishwasher tabs, too.
With the smelly odor gone, you can get your dirty dishes out of the kitchen sink and back into your dishwasher! Before you know it, your dishwasher and your home will be back to normal again.
We hope you were able to learn about dishwasher cleaning methods with our easy-to-follow guide. If you found our appliance cleaning tips helpful, then please share how to clean a smelly dishwasher with your friends and family online!