How to Clean a Smelly Dishwasher Properly

Register Appliance
July 31, 2023
Dishwasher Repair

A smelly dishwasher not only stinks your house out but also means your dishes won’t come out clean after a wash cycle. But no need to stress; simply follow our step-by-step instructions in this guide, and your dishwasher will be smelling great in no time. To help you prevent bad odors from developing in the future, we have also included some tips for keeping your dishwasher clean.

Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Empty the Dishwasher

Start by removing all dishes from your dishwasher and the lower rack so you can access the drain filter.

Step 2 – Clean the Drain Filter and Bottom Cover

Once the dishes and rack have been removed, the next step is to remove the drain filter so you can clean it. The filter can be found at the bottom of your dishwasher and can usually be removed by turning it slightly and then pulling it out. Once removed, throw any debris into the trash and clean the filter under running water. 

If your dishwasher has a removable cover at the bottom, you need to remove it and clean it with hot soapy water. Once clean, rinse it out and let it drip dry. Once the filter and cover are nice and clean, place them back into the dishwasher.

Step 3 – Clean the Spray Arms

The next step is to remove and clean the spray arms. Depending on the make and model, your dishwasher will have one or multiple spray arms. Spray arms can be removed by gently lifting them out of their slots. Once you remove all spray arms, give each of them a thorough clean with hot soapy water. You can rinse them under warm water, ensuring nothing is stuck in the small holes. When the spray arms are clean, place them back into your dishwasher.

Step 4 – Clean the Inside of Your Dishwasher

The next step in our guide for how to clean a smelly dishwasher properly is to give the inside of the appliance a clean. This will allow you to remove any grime and baked-on stains. The most efficient way to clean the interior of your dishwasher is to remove the racks and then scrub all surfaces with a sponge or non-scratch pad soaked in hot soapy water. Once clean, give it a quick wipe out with a clean cloth.

Step 5 – Clean the Door Gasket

Once the inside of the dishwasher is clean, give the door gasket/seal a thorough clean. The easiest method to clean the gasket is to use a small brush to scrub it and then a clean cloth to wipe it dry. Make sure you get into all the hard-to-reach spots, as these are the areas where bacteria and mold love to grow.

Step 6 – Run Your Dishwasher Through a Cycle

Once your dishwasher has been manually cleaned, putting it on a cleaning cycle without any dishes is a good idea. This will help to sterilize your dishwasher and give it an extra clean.

Here’s how to run your dishwasher through a cleaning cycle:

  • Ensure there are no dirty dishes in your dishwasher.
  • Fill up a container with one cup of white vinegar. Place the container on the top rack. Make sure it sits on the rack in a stable position.
  • Set your dishwasher to the hottest setting and run your dishwasher through a short wash cycle.
  • Once the cycle is complete, remove the empty container and sprinkle 1 to 1 ½ cups of baking soda onto the bottom of your dishwasher. 
  • Run your dishwasher through a short wash on the hottest setting possible.
  • Once the cycle ends, open the dishwasher door and leave it to air dry for a few hours before using it again.

Step 7 – Check the Drainage

While cleaning your dishwasher, checking the drainage system to ensure no leaks is a good idea. If the drain hose leaks, you will have dirty water under or around your dishwasher, creating foul odors. Checking the drain hose requires you to locate it at the back of the dishwasher and then carefully inspect it for damage. If damaged, the hose will need to be replaced. You should also check that the hose is connected correctly to the sink or drain.

Tips to Keep Your Dishwasher Clean

To keep your dishwasher smelling fresh, follow these tips:

  • Give your dishwasher a regular clean. Establish a regular cleaning routine for your dishwasher to prevent grime buildup. Aim to clean it once a month or as needed, depending on your usage.
  • Remove food debris. Before placing dirty dishes in the dishwasher, remove all large food particles and other debris. This will prevent food from clogging up the filter and bad smells from developing.
  • Use rinse aid. Rinse aid helps to prevent water spots and enhance drying performance. This will reduce moisture in your dishwasher at the end of each cycle.
  • Clean the filter. Removing the filter regularly and emptying it out is a good idea. If food particles remain in the filter for too long, they emit foul odors.
  • Use suitable detergent. It’s essential to use the dishwasher detergent recommended for your dishwasher. Using the wrong type or too much detergent can lead to residue buildup, which can cause mold to grow.
  • Look out for leaks. If you notice water leaking out of your dishwasher at any time, make sure you get the leak fixed ASAP. Leaking water can get underneath your dishwasher; if it comes from the drain hose, it will likely smell bad.
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