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What Causes The Bad Smell In My Dishwasher?


The kitchen is usually the freshest and cleanest place in your apartment. However, when you cook, unpleasant odours can arise, such as from leftovers that weren’t disposed of in time or unwashed dishes left in the sink. One particularly unpleasant smell that can surpass all others in the kitchen is that of the dishwasher. 

Sometimes, the smell can be so strong that it feels like the dishwasher is throwing a real stink bomb in your face every time you open the door and the best way to eliminate the problem is to clean the unit.

How to maintain your dishwasher

hot to maintain dishwasher

Jacob Dillard, an engineer at Appliance Repair Expert, is here to take the worry away and tell you everything you want to know about some common causes of dishwasher odours. Moreover, he will provide some effective tips and solutions to eliminate the foul smell.

Сommon Сause – Food Trap

Imagine a situation where someone has placed a mouse trap somewhere in their apartment and forgotten about it over time. The next thing that will make the landlord or landlady remember about it might be a stinking smell if the trap is triggered and the poor mouse has been left there for a while. Unfortunately, the same thing happens with food scraps stuck in some parts of the dishwasher, namely the filter.

dishwasher filter

The filter captures large food particles that are washed away from dirty dishes. However, these particles may be too large to pass through the dishwasher’s internal hoses or drain so you will have to remove them manually. If you forget about it, the food will start to decompose, and eventually, you will get a disgusting smell that will spread throughout the apartment.

The solution to this problem is quite simple – all you need to do is clean the filter. You can find the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher, right above the drain hole. If your dishwasher filter is not removable, simply put on rubber gloves and scrape it off as best you can. If it is removable, pull it out, scrape the smelly dirt into the waste bin and rinse it thoroughly with warm tap water to get rid of any small particles.

What Is an Air Gap?

If you’ve never heard of an air gap, don’t worry since some dishwashers are not equipped with it. The air gap prevents water from overflowing in the dishwasher but directs excess water to the kitchen sink. It also prevents any waste that may come from the kitchen sink from entering the dishwasher. So, if your dishwasher does not have an air gap, food residue from the sink can become a source of unpleasant odours in your machine.

dishwasher air gap

If you constantly experience issues with a smelly dishwasher, you may want to install an air gap in your sanitary ware. We recommend you hire a trained installation specialist. Then, you can be sure that everything is done perfectly well.

How To Clean A Dishwasher?

When you’ve already tried both remedies mentioned above but still get that nasty smell from your dishwasher, you’ll have to clean it all! Just like in the case of everything else we have in our possession, a good cleaning routine will help you get rid of any unwanted smells.

Although a dishwasher uses strong detergents for cleaning, it also needs to be cleaned. The reason is that the chemicals used for dishwashing are designed exclusively for this type of cleaning. They are not able to clean all the insides of the appliance. Moreover, the detergents we use for washing dishes are quickly rinsed off with hot water at the end of the cycle, leaving small food residues in the internal hoses and cavities of the dishwasher. These can be a source of unpleasant odours and require more effort to remove.

cleaning dishwasher hose

There are many solutions to that issue. You can try commercial dishwasher cleansers or such popular alternatives as vinegar, citric acid, or baking soda.

cleaning dishwasher with vinegar

All it takes is to place your dishwasher cleanser inside your machine. If you are going to use a liquid cleanser, pour a bit of it onto the bottom of your machine. Now, run a regular cycle and check the results. If the smell persists, a few more cycles may help. If not, try some different solutions. To keep your machine clean and fresh, we recommend you run a dishwasher cleaning cycle once a month.

TypeHow to UseFrequency
Dishwasher cleanerPour cleaner into the bottom of empty dishwasher. Run hottest wash cycle.Every 1-2 months
Dishwasher powder/tabsPlace tab or powder in the detergent compartment before starting wash cycle.Every wash
Rinse aidFill rinse aid reservoir when low. Helps dishes dry without spots.Refill when low
Dishwasher saltFill salt reservoir when low. Softens water to improve cleaning.Refill when low
Dishwasher filtersRemove and clean filters regularly. Ensures debris doesn’t clog.Monthly
Dishwasher descalerPour the descaling solution into the bottom of empty dishwasher. Run the hottest cycle.Every 6 months in hard water
BleachPlace 1⁄4 cup bleach into bottom of empty dishwasher. Run empty hottest cycle.When dishwasher has odor issues
White vinegarPour 2 cups vinegar into bottom of empty dishwasher. Run empty hottest cycle.When dishwasher has odor issues
Baking sodaSprinkle baking soda along the bottom of empty dishwasher. Run the hottest cycle. Helps deodorize.Monthly

That’s it. We’ve told you about three different approaches to dishwasher cleaning, which should help you resolve your problems with bad kitchen odours. If you’ve tried all of them and still have that nasty smell, check your drainage system. This is where the specialist from Appliance Repair Expert can help!

Author: Jacob Dillard
My name is Jacob Dillard, and I am the author of articles at Appliance Repair Expert. Since childhood, I have been fascinated by technology and spent much time reading different books and trying to repair my first CD player. Then, I graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Applied Science and Engineering. In a year, I got my first job as a technician at an appliance repair company. After years of practice and working with professionals, I decided it was time to share my knowledge and experience here at Appliance Repair Expert. I want to help you understand everything related to appliance repair, maintenance and installation in the simplest way possible. It will be fun, believe me!

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