Dishwasher Smells Bad? Here’s How to Clean It

If your dishwasher smells bad, you're likely dealing with rotten food particles, mold and mildew growth, a dirty and/or clogged filter drain, or a combination of these issues. Here's how to thoroughly and effectively clean your dishwasher to get rid of awful smells.

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Step 1: Remove Stuck Food Particles 

Old food is one of the biggest culprits of foul dishwasher smells. If the dishwasher smells like, say, rotten eggs, it's probably just that. Removing old food from the dishwasher is the best way to get rid of nasty smells coming from the machine. 

Empty the dishwasher of all dishes and utensils. Then, pull out the bottom rack and check for old food that may have gotten stuck at the bottom of the dishwasher or drainage strainer. 

Remove old food with a soft-bristled brush dipped in vinegar. Clean the strainer/filter with soap and water. 

Afterward, scrub the bottom of the dishwasher with a sponge or paper towel. 

While at it, wipe down the racks and gaskets seals to remove accumulated mold and mildew.  

Step 2: Run the Dishwasher With Vinegar and Baking Soda

Pour one to two cups of distilled white vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher. Add several drops of essential oil to the vinegar to add a nice aroma to the dishwasher. 

Run the dishwasher through a single cycle, making sure the water is in its hottest setting. Once the cycle is complete, pour a cup of baking soda into the bottom of the dishwasher and run a second cycle.  

Leave the door open for at least an hour to let the machine dry out completely. If you leave the door closed, it could trigger the growth of mildew—another source of the unwanted stench. 

Step 3: Clean the Dishwasher Door 

Wipe the door with a microfiber cloth dipped in cleaner formulated for your dishwasher's surface. You can use an all-purpose cleaner, but I don't recommend it as it can leave an unsightly streaky finish. You can also use a DIY cleaning mixture of dish soap, white vinegar, and water. 

Once done, rinse out the cloth and make a pass over the surface for a sparkly, fingerprint-free finish. 

And there you have it—you've successfully cleaned your dishwasher of nasty smells! Now it's as good as new. 

How to Prevent Future Dishwasher Smells 

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Keep your dishwasher smell-free by following these tips: 

  • Scrape your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher so food doesn't accumulate in the machine. 
  • Run your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda at least once every month to eliminate odors before they develop. 
  • Try not to run other hot water appliances while using the dishwasher to ensure the water is as piping hot as possible. You want the water extremely hot to kill the growth of bacteria and mold. 
  • Clean the inside of your dishwasher every three to four months.

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