4 Steps to Remove Dishwasher Smells

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If your dishwasher smells, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we will give you step-by-step instructions for how to find the cause and then fix it.

A lot of people think that dishwashers clean themselves and that they don’t need to manually clean them. It is true they stay pretty clean inside, but they still require a good clean every now and then to avoid bad smells from developing.

Simply go through each step below to find the cause and then fix it.

Step One – Check Underneath the Dishwasher

The first thing to do is to check underneath the dishwasher for any signs of food debris, dead insects, or rodents. Simply pull it out from its cabinet or the wall, and check if you can see anything underneath. If you do find anything, give the floor underneath a good clean and then put the dishwasher back. You can then see over the next few days if the smell has gone. If there is nothing underneath your dishwasher causing the smell or if cleaning underneath doesn’t solve the problem, move on to step two.

Step Two – Give It a Thorough Clean

The next step is to give your dishwasher a thorough clean. Sometimes food particles and grime can build up in the dishwasher, which you might not be able to see, and this causes a bad smell to develop.

Here’s a good way to clean your dishwasher out:

  1. Start by filling the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser with your normal dish powder or use a cleaning tablet. Alternatively, you can place 2 cups of white vinegar into a bowl and then place it in the top rack of the dishwasher.
  2. Next, place some dishwasher powder or another tablet on the bottom of the dishwasher.
  3. Close the door and turn the dishwasher on a heavy-duty wash cycle with the temperature set to the hottest temperature possible.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, give the seals around the doors a good clean with a strong household cleaning product.
  5. You can now use your dishwasher as normal and check over the next few days if the smell has gone away. If not, move on to step three.

Step Three – Clean the Spray Arms, Filter, and Drain

If putting your dishwasher through a cleaning cycle hasn’t solved the problem, the next thing to do is to clean the spray arms and filter and flush out the drain. Sometimes mold can build up in them, and this can cause a bad smell to develop. Cleaning the components requires a lot more manual cleaning to be done, but it’s still very easy to do.

Here’s the best way to clean the spray arms, filter, and drain:

  1. Remove all of the spray arms from your dishwasher. Depending on your specific make and model of the dishwasher, it could have one or multiple spray arms.
  2. Once removed, give the spray arms a good clean by flushing them out with a cleaning solution, and then wipe them out to ensure all grime has been removed.
  3. Once cleaned, place them all back into your dishwasher.
  4. Remove the filter from the dishwasher. To do this, you’ll need to remove the bottom rack and then twist the upper part of the filter around counterclockwise until it comes out. You should then be able to easily pull the lower part of the filter out.
  5. Once you’ve removed the filter parts, give them a good clean and ensure all food particles have been removed.
  6. Mix up a solution of baking soda and vinegar (about ½ a cup of both), and pour it down the drain. After about 10-15 minutes, pour down hot water to flush the solution out and to clear away any leftover debris.
  7. You can then put the filter back in the dishwasher and use it as normal.
  8. Over the next few days, check if the smell has now gone. If not, you should move on to the next step.

Step Four – Clean the Sink Drain

Sometimes food particles and grime can get pushed up in the sink drain or the garbage disposal, and this causes a bad smell to develop. The easiest way to remove any debris is to give the drain a good clean.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Clean out the garbage disposal if you have one. 
  2. Clean the air gap if you have one. You can clean it by simply removing the cap and then giving it a good clean.
  3. Mix up a solution of baking soda and vinegar (about ½ a cup of both), and pour it down the drain and the garbage disposal. After about 10-15 minutes, pour hot water to flush the solution down the drain further.
  4. Hopefully, at this point, the smell has disappeared!

Bonus: Tips to Keep Your Dishwasher Clean

As we mentioned at the start of this guide, you should give your dishwasher a good clean every few months. Here are some good tips:

  • Make sure you give the dishwasher filters, spray arms, and the drain a regular clean. This will stop grease, grime, and mold from building up and causing a smell to develop.
  • It’s a good idea to always run your food disposal before putting on a load of dishes, as your dishwasher drain most likely uses the same drain as the disposal unit.
  • Make sure that you always wash off large food particles before putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher, so you avoid any loose debris getting stuck in the dishwasher.
  • Make sure that you run the occasional “wash cycle” by running your dishwasher through a full cycle when it’s empty. This should stop mold and grime from building up and causing bad smells to develop.
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